You know how it seems like whenever you think, "That job's so easy, anyone can do it!" it actually turns out that the reality is anything but? Believe it or not, that's even true of content writing. It's more difficult than it looks, and a good content writer actually needs to be the master of a large number of different skills.
The fact that being a content writer is seen as an "entry level" job for freelancers these days really doesn't decrease the difficulty of the task. Mostly, it just means a lot of wannabes will get weeded out as savvy content-buyers find their star writers.
If you're in the market for a content writer, these are our "seven virtues" for a great writer. If you find someone who combines all of these, well, you've got yourselves a keeper. (And if you, yourself, are a writer, ask yourself if you meet all these!)
The Seven Attributes of a Highly Successful Content Writer
Good Writing: It seems like this should go without saying, but it can't be left off the list. Above all else, an SEO writer needs to have strong composition skills and a firm grasp of proper English grammar. However, they also need to know how to write informally and how to utilize vernacular to reach out to your audience.
Strong Research Skills: If your writer lacks Google-Fu, his skills will be weak. A successful content writer must be a generalist, someone who has a broad knowledge base as well as the ability to quickly research and comprehend new ideas. I sometimes compare writing on a new topic to having to cram a month's worth of college research into a single afternoon.
Punctuality: A large number of content creators are independent operators, working from home. Those who can't meet deadlines get weeded out quickly, and with good reason. Your writer should rarely, if ever, fail to deliver their articles on time.
Able to Follow Directions: If you send your writer a topic, keyword, and outline, they should be able to deliver what you ask for with few questions or deviations. Obviously, there will be unclear instructions from time to time, but on the whole, they need to be able to follow your directions for themselves.
Works With You: Unfortunately, some content writers can develop a bit too much of an ego and become resistant to revising their documents or changing their strategies to meet your needs. Your writer needs to understand that, fundamentally, YOU are the boss and that while some respectful disagreement may occur, they need to be giving you what you're asking for.
Understands SEO / Marketing: Some basic writers can get by without understanding online marketing, but to be a great content writer, they need to be grounded in online marketing strategies. In essence, your content writer sometimes needs to be Peggy Olson and Don Draper rolled into one, to borrow a couple characters from Mad Men.
Independent Problem-Solver: This one's the real X-factor. There are going to be times your writer will have a choice of directions to take an article, or they will be unclear on what your market wants. The best writers can work this out for themselves and deliver what you need without you even having to specify.
However, of course, such writers are also going to be more likely to offer suggestions above their pay grade. It'll be at your discretion how seriously you take those suggestions, but just remember that if a writer is serious about starting a career in SEO, he's going to want to start getting his hands a little dirty. Find one whose instincts match your general strategies, and you'll have a great partnership.
Looking over this list, it's a little surprising there are as many successful content writers as there are!
What qualities do YOU most value in your content creators?