Creating good content is a must for any business that wants to improve its online presence. But actually finding good writers to create that content can be like searching for a needle in a haystack.

There’s no shortage of so-called “content mills” to choose from these days, and each one seems increasingly more crowded with freelancers clamoring to bid on your projects. On the one hand, it’s easier than ever to find freelancers willing to write your content. On the other hand, not all of those freelancers are actual writers, let alone professional ones.

Some online businesses don’t mind paying for dirt-cheap content that’s riddled with errors and gobbledygook. But for businesses that want the highest-quality content, finding a good writer requires a little more homework.

Here’s how to do it:

1) Be skeptical of tiered pricing

Would you choose a car mechanic who offered a cheaper rate for unsatisfactory repairs? Of course not. And yet, this kind of tiered pricing would also make you skeptical about their higher-priced repairs too, wouldn’t it? Why would any business sell a product or service that they knew would be unsatisfactory?

Content mills and bulk freelancer sites can get away with offering those pricing tiers because they know that some online businesses don’t actually need professional content writers. They only need to fill keywords on a page.

But if your business is focused on high-quality content writing, it’s a safer bet to stick with providers that don’t offer a lesser-quality  product at all.

2) Ask for samples (and actually read them)

A writer’s previous work can provide the clearest sign of the quality of their writing.

Don’t be fooled by the visual quality of the sample. A professionally designed website can still be filled with gibberish — and we’ve often found that to be the case when interviewing writers.

Take the time to actually read the writing samples. Not just the headlines and subheads — all of it. Without reading the content in full, from start to finish, you’ll never be able to determine the skill of the writer.

3) Check writer ratings and client reviews

When applicable, check how the writer has been rated by previous clients. Even just one bad review can be a troubling sign — but you won’t know for sure unless you dig into the full review. Take the time.

Keep in mind, however, that even the best writers can’t meet every client’s expectations. And even those “5-star” writers may not be the right fit for your project. This is also where good project management can be helpful. A good project manager can ensure that the right writer is tasked with your project and that the writer has a solid understanding of what you’re looking for.

4) Watch for red flags

The initial communication between you and your content writer can reveal a lot. If your writer’s emails are littered with typos and grammatical errors, then there’s a good chance those issues will pop up in your content, too.

“But it’s just an email — it’s more laid back than the project…” Sure, that may be true. But remember, your job is to find professional content writers. Professionalism is the key. If a writer presents themselves professionally at every interaction with you, including the initial back-and-forth emails, then that’s a good sign for what you can expect throughout the entire project.

5) Look for versatility

Is it better to hire a freelance writer who specializes in your industry or one who has a broad portfolio of professional writing samples?

There are certainly advantages to both. After all, it can seem safer to hire a writer who has already written about your industry. But remember, you’re ultimately looking for quality. Just because a writer has experience in your field (even if it’s a ton of experience) doesn’t guarantee the writing will be any good.

In our experience, having worked with hundreds of freelancers across the United States, the best writers are those who can jump from industry to industry without missing a beat. Good writers, in our opinion, can write anything and can educate themselves on any industry.

6) Verify experience: how long have they been writing?

We’ve touched on the importance of checking what your freelancer has written. But it can’t hurt to also ask: how much?

A few good samples might be all you need to make a decision. Sometimes, you just know a good writer when you find one. But what if you’re choosing between two writers who both have great samples, but one has significantly more experience? In that case, some businesses may prefer to go with the more experienced freelancer. But ultimately, only you can decide the right fit for your content needs.

7) Be realistic about turnaround time

The best writers can usually work quickly, too —  but they’re also in higher demand, which can mean a longer turnaround time for your project. You may not have a very flexible deadline, so you’ll need to determine what’s best for your timeline.

The key here is to be realistic with your expectations. The content mills might be able to offer a 3,000-word blog post delivered the same day — but that’s only because there’s no thought or skill going into it. Longer content naturally takes more time to write and more time to research. (Note, this is also why good writers often don’t offer a discount on larger orders. Unlike manufacturing, where higher quantities become cheaper to produce, writing content doesn’t become any faster or easier: it takes longer.)

Professional content writers will usually need a few days to complete your project, especially when they’re already booked with other clients. But if a writer needs a month to finish a single blog post, then you’re probably better off choosing another freelancer.

Some additional ways to ensure quality

Even when you’re already working with the best content writers, not every project will be perfect on the first draft. But there are a few additional things you can do to ensure the writing is the highest quality possible:

– Confirm revision process: What is the writer’s policy for handling revisions? Are they unlimited? Are they free? How many times can you request them before additional costs kick in? Writers should be flexible about making the revisions you need, but as the client, you should also make sure your requests are reasonable, particularly if the project direction changed between drafts.

– Ask about the QA process & number of proofreaders: This is where it pays to use a content marketing provider, rather than an individual freelancer. Some providers guarantee that all content is overlooked by an additional proofreader (or more) before it’s delivered, to ensure that drafts are error-free. For example, at Copy Army, many projects are proofread by as many as 3 writers before delivery: 1) the lead writer, 2) the account management writer, and 3) an additional proofreader. This level of quality assurance is indispensable for many of our clients, and it’s something that an individual freelancer usually doesn’t have the resources to offer.

– Have writers look at your finalized content: Often, by the time the writer’s content is published online or mocked up in the designed piece, it has undergone additional changes that the original writer doesn’t see. Additional stakeholders, designers and other third parties weigh in and make changes, and mistakes are often added during this process. Why not ask the original writer to proof the finalized version? Most writers will be able to do this for no additional charge, and it will ensure that a content professional gets one last look to make your project perfect.