What I Learned From Spending Over $5,000 Outsourcing Articles

Over the past couple of years I’ve spent well over $5,000 on articles for myself and customers.

I’ve outsourced this article work to a mixture of sources, ranging from others who offer a service similar to my own article service, to iWriter, to Odesk.

Right now, I’ve got a “team” of close to 20 dedicated writers and one manager/copyeditor helping it run smoothly.

I’m telling you this so that you’ll know my “pedigree” when it comes to article outsourcing. In today’s article, I’m sharing the various things I’ve learned about hiring and managing writers.

On Hiring/Using Services

I actually started out using iWriter and iNeedArticles for my own articles. The advantage of using big services like these is that you can get a fast turnaround.

On top of that, iwriter lets you reject an article or ask for a rewrite without paying for anything, which helps keep the quality high.

The downside is that you don’t get to choose your writers (unless you have been around a while and know which ones you like), so it can take a number of tries before you get something good.

Steve Rendell blogged about this here in his comparison of different services.

Ultimately I stopped using iwriter because I was spending a lot of time reading through junk and when you are selling over 100 articles a week, you need higher quality first time.

Plus, you can get better rates on Odesk.

Odesk (now called Upwork).

I don’t really recommend Odesk for beginners because it can be a bit of a learning curve, and there’s less protection from duplicate content. I got burned on a few article batches that were basically copied and pasted from elsewhere.

Iwriter makes this a lot harder to do.

If you do go with Odesk though, I recommend you hire for a few small projects first, and hire a couple of different writers to see which ones you might like to continue with.

You could probably find someone good for $5-10 for 500-1000 articles, though it often involves weeding through dozens of candidates.

Jon Haver’s “hire fast, fire fast” strategy works quite well, but doing this means you may waste some of your article budget. Luckily for me I have a proofreader to tidy up any junk articles and ultimately she makes the decision on which writers we keep and which ones go.

If you have more time, don’t need to hire 5-10 writers at once, and only need to get a few articles done, then be less gung-ho with your hiring.

Here’s a tip for spotting duplicate or spun content that beats copyscape:

A lot of writers know that you will use copyscape to check if their content is unique or not. To beat this, they use something like the “Thesaurus Tool” in Microsoft Word to replace a bunch of words and make a “unique” article. The problem is, this often creates weird text.

I once had somebody submit an article to me about “gushing TV’s”. She’d used a thesaurus tool to replace the word “streaming” and beat copyscape.

Generally, copying and pasting some of their article into Google will show you whether or not it is unique, and also typing the keyword and seeing if there are a lot of similarities with what is already out there.

In many cases, it is just plain obvious when they’ve done this. If they keep using “acquire” instead of “find”, or similar oddities, that’s a massive red flag.

On Giving Instructions

If only we could plug our brains into our writers’ brains, the process of outsourcing would be much smoother. Communication is definitely important, or you’ll end up with some surprises.

You’ll probably get surprises anyway, but with practice, you’ll be able to pre-empt them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told writers not to keyword stuff or bold/underline their keywords. Come on, it’s not 2010 anymore.

A lot of writers have worked with certain types of SEO’s before and assume every client wants the same spammy crap, so it’s not necessarily their fault.

My biggest tip here would be to tell you to be clear in your mind what kind of article you’re expecting. This includes the structure, format, and content itself. The slant a writer takes is important too.

I’ve had writers give a positive review to a scam before, simply because I forgot to tell them I didn’t want a promotional post.

On Pricing

Don’t be too cheap. Yes you can find writers for $3, but their English won’t be up to standards, you’ll have to edit a lot of it, and your site visitors will be bored by the content.

I blogged before about how cheap writers can actually do more harm than good, even if you think you’re getting a great deal.

I’ve paid anywhere from $5 to $100 before and been happy with both sets of results. If you want to find the cheapest, check out these guides by fellow bloggers.

1.) http://authoritywebsiteincome.com/cheap-article-writing/

2.) http://www.cloudincome.com/find-awesome-content-writer-for-less/

3.) http://dumbpassiveincome.com/outsourcing-content-for-cheap/

I think the key is to find writers who provide value and interesting content. At the end of the day, you’re outsourcing to save time, but you want quality too.

On Managing Writers

From time to time writers will vanish, suddenly take ages to reply to you, or have a decrease in their quality.

When this happens, you’ve got to inquire why. Sometimes life gets in the way and things happen, but it should be very easy for someone to let you know and keep you updated.

I’ve found that there are simply going to be people who go MIA. It’s as if working online gives them the anonymity to just mess you around.

Cut them loose if they start being too inconsistent in their deadlines or quality. You’ll thank yourself in the long run.

When it comes to them asking for a pay rise, you have to decide for yourself. I had someone write one batch of mediocre articles for me, then tell me she was top quality and deserved a pay rise (she asked for double).

I’m not sure why she applied for a job at a certain budget and then demanded that it was doubled after one job, but I never hired her again. Her articles were among the worst.

I’ve had other writers who have asked for a pay rise after doing great work for me week in, week out, and I was more than happy to oblige. It would be worth keeping them around, and they earned it.

At the end of the day though, there are a lot of writers out there and if someone is great but expects a fee you can’t pay for, you might have to just let them go and hire someone else. It really depends on you and your circumstances.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, my advice to anybody would be to jump in with a small budget. You don’t have to break the bank in order to outsource your first article.

It’s going to be a learning curve no matter what you do, so embrace it and get on with it. You’ll find that outsourcing stuff is very addictive.

And of course, if you think this is all a bit too much work, then my team are more than happy to handle your article demands for you.

Let me know your questions, thoughts, and suggestions below.

  • Tony Ridgeway

    As someone on the other side of the fence who frequently struggles with finding writing gigs, I would like to offer a couple of tips when it comes to finding quality writers for less.

    1. Always Ask For Samples- As writers, we expect you to have questions before offering us a job. I know that when I find people who want me to write for them and don’t ask for either a single article trial or a sample, then I often wonder if I’m going to have difficulty getting my pay at the end.

    An example of this is someone who contacted me recently for one of my Fiverr gigs. They wanted me to look up products for “an online electronics store” but wouldn’t provide any competitors or the products that they were considering.

    They wanted no samples but wanted to pay me upfront for the entire job at $2 per product. The red flags were waving higher than the Space Needle on that one.

    2. Establish A Clear Payment Schedule – Hey, we have bills too and all too often we will find out that we are getting paid for several weeks after completing a project. I know I have been in this situation in previous years, and it’s very frustrating to think “Hey, I will have $75 coming in for this project for my power bill Monday.” Only to then learn that I won’t be seeing money for 6 weeks.

    That is a bit of an extreme situation, but it’s happened to me before. My fault for not asking about pay in the first place, but you live and learn, right?

    3. If You Find A Good Writer Agree To A Contract – I know that I have happily lowered my rates by a little bit per article in the past in order to obtain solid work. Nothing is more frightening to me personally then when I know how much money I need to earn in a week, and then log into empty writing queues.

    For that reason, I will happily take small per article pay cuts if I know that someone is going to be ordering at least 50 articles a month, or whatever that number may be.

    Above all else, please remember that when you get burned by crappy writers online, that all of us aren’t like that. Scammers exist not only in the world of online marketing, but also in the freelance writing world as well. I can promise you that there are some of us out there who really care about your business and your content and strive to deliver high quality every single time.

    • Some great tips here Tony, and it’s good to see the writer’s perspective as well. I imagine there are a lot of tire kickers and people who are shopping around.

      • Tony Ridgeway

        There certainly are Dom, and unfortunately we all too often find ourselves being ripped off just as badly as some marketers do. I will never forget my very first private gig back in 2004.

        I did a 10 pack of articles for someone to use on Ezinearticles, and they responded saying that they were crap and demanded a re-write. I happily obliged and they never said another word.

        2 weeks later I noticed all 20 articles popping up and had never received payment.

        The saddest thing about this is that they were “trained by a guru” to complete this exact process for article outsourcing as I later found a product that “taught” this method for getting free articles.

  • I spent $70 AUD on articles over the weekend with TextBroker, and made the fatal mistake of dialing down the quality, to increase the quantity. I’ve paid $5 for an article that’s total junk basically.

    • Had forgotten about TextBroker because I never used them. I heard that the quality was decent though. So do you not get to review/reject articles before paying?

      • I’ve had amazing quality, well researched…but it costs you double basically. I paid for high school quality essentially and that’s what I got. No clear message, no argument, no closing statement. It’s a glorified blog post…and was my bad, at the end of the day.

        You do review and then request modification, you don’t have to accept.

        And they have some cool SEO features, like asking the writer to hit certain keyword density targets.

        • A lot of sites have that feature too but I find it never really produces good results, you end of getting them writing awkward sentences to try and meet a keyword count.

  • Dominic thanks for the head start on this process for me….I don’t mind paying you a few extra bucks to get it right consistently….many of us IM folks have FT jobs and do not have time for all the crap that comes with finding good writers. I also love your service because you respond to emails promptly! I look forward to using your service for many niche sites…

    • Thanks Scott, that’s the idea behind our service really. We cost a little bit more, but we save you a lot of aggravation and make sure you don’t get junk at the end of the day.