I hired content writers from 17 different websites, and most of them were scammers.

I've been wanting to publish more content on my site. So I decided to hire a writer to help.

It turns out that there are tons of places to hire writers online:

  • Freelance marketplaces like Upwork.
  • Content mills like Textbroker.
  • Higher-priced content services and agencies.
  • And plenty of job boards for writers.

So I thought:

Why not waste a bunch of money and turn this into a big experiment?

So I tested 17 different websites for hiring writers and outsourcing content. I spent an embarrassing amount of money. And by the end of it, I'd reviewed 359 articles from hundreds of writers.

The results were a minefield.

  • 34% of the articles were plagiarized or "spun" (stolen, but with slight tweaks to make it harder to catch).

  • 18% were AI-written nonsense.

  • And many writers included irrelevant links to low-quality sites. Probably in order to charge other clients for link-building services.

Surprisingly, these issues came up at practically every pricing tier. Whether the fee was under $0.01/word or over $0.50.

Whether through a job board, a freelance platform or a content-writing service.

Some sites even reinforced bad behavior.

For example, I wouldn't recommend any site that offers article spinning as a service.

Or any platform that lets writers hide unfavorable client reviews. (I'm looking at you, Verblio. Both Verblio writers I tested sent me plagiarized articles.)

Luckily, a few sites were much, much better.

Here were my favorites:

Best writing service: Express Writers
It's more expensive than a content mill — but a bargain for the quality.

$600 got me a 2k-word article at their "authority content" tier.

It was clear and concise. Well-structured and well-researched. And backed up with good examples and links to relevant resources. I gave it a 4 out of 5 for content quality.

Best inexpensive and fast writers: WriterAccess

At $0.15 per word for their most expensive tier, I didn't expect WriterAccess to be very good.

It isn't as good as Express Writers. But it might have the best price-to-quality ratio of any option out there. I gave it a 3.5 out of 5 for writing quality.

And it only took 4 days to get a 1,600-word article.

Best budget content mill: iWriter

iWriter's pricing ranges from under $0.01 to $0.07 per word.

I spent $145 for a 2k-word blog post.

The writing won't blow your socks off.

But from my testing, the quality coming out of iWriter beats every other budget content mill.

I only gave it at 1.5 out of 5 for writing quality. But that's good enough for low-competition affiliate blogs. Or anyone who thinks quantity > quality.

Best writing jobs board: ProBlogger Jobs

I bet half the pro writers in the world have applied to jobs on ProBlogger.

You can use it to find freelancers for one-off or ongoing projects. Or to recruit full-timers.

A $75 job listing gets you dozens and dozens of applicants. If not 100+.

Alternatively, another great — and free — writing job board is reddit's r/HireaWriter subreddit.

My listing there brought me 85 applications within a week.

When using any job board, I recommend setting up a Google Form for your application process instead of using their application management system. (Because when you're dealing with that many applicants, you need to be able to quickly glance through them.)

Best freelance platform: Upwork

The haters are wrong. I've hired 60 Upwork freelancers over the years.

But with so many low-quality freelancers there, it can be like finding a needle in a haystack. The key is having the right hiring process. Otherwise you'll waste a lot of time.

For this experiment, I hired two different writers on Upwork. One interesting thing about Upwork is that you don't always get what you pay for.

The first writer charged me $0.40/word, and I would give her writing quality a 2 out of 5. Not good.

The second writer charged $0.10/word, and his writing was a 3.5 out of 5. Pretty decent! Good enough for most blogs, and great for the price.

(Note: People Per Hour is a good alternative to Upwork if you don't mind British English. But I don't recommend their Fiverr-style individual services. Just stick to the freelance marketplace side.)

I published lots more details about this experiment in a blog post yesterday.

That post includes:

  • A job post template
  • Who should use a content service vs freelance site vs writing job board
  • What to include in your Google Forms application form
  • And a hiring process that filters out plagiarizers and bad applicants, so you don't have to waste as much money as I did. 🤪

Plus more detailed reviews of all 17 sites, with writing excerpts of the work I received.

Check it out if you're curious: https://growthbadger.com/hire-a-writer/

  1. 13

    One person I know scours for great topical writers on sites like Medium/Substack/Quora and offers them a contract. The pros are:

    • You know the quality (that person prob. wrote several articles)
    • The person is familiar on your topic
    • Most importantly, they're the type of person with self-initiative.

    Some people do this exact thing in software; they look for "failed tech founders" and offer them a job. This is the writing equivalent; you're looking for people who wrote a few good blog posts on your topic but didn't get much exposure.

    1. 2

      In my experience this is the only method that really works.

      On traditional job boards you either get:

      • garbage
      • SEO optimized garbage

    2. 1

      Great points.
      That's been strategy as well, but on the other side. I have received work because of my writing on Twitter and my blog.
      I tried getting gigs on Upwork and could never make any progress there.
      Now, most of my gigs are inbound, and it's good quality work. Though it's not predictable😅

  2. 3

    Amazing experiment. Totally worth reading. Saved.

    1. 2

      Thanks, Atul - glad you liked it.

  3. 3

    How were the writers you hired with time management? Before plagiarism or bad quality I always, alllways had issues with writers never meeting their deadlines. And I'm talking about "their" deadlines.

    This was true for both expensive and cheaper services.

    1. 1

      I've run into that issue in the past too. In this case, it wasn't a problem except with one person I hired on Fiverr.

      But that kind of makes sense because most people will try to hit their deadline on the first assignment, then start slacking a little after that (if they're going to).

  4. 3

    Really interesting - thanks for posting this up. I've always thought about it and never thought I'd be able to find anything decent so this in some way vindicates that. But it's good to see there are options.

    1. 1

      No problem! It was a challenge but I'm glad I ended up finding some good options.

  5. 3

    You know, I'm really fascinated by what you've written here, Kyle. I'm friendly with writer and people who do it for a living. It seems a bit crazy to me to hear that most of these people are plagiarizing work and passing it off as their own - is this really happening at the top and bottom of the pay scale? Or is this just the cheap ones who literally copy and paste articles and don't both to make any changes at all.

    One person I know who writes great articles (really essays) is @mariogabriele. What are your thoughts here, Mario? Do you see blatant plagiarism in the writing world?

    1. 1

      I definitely had some writers who charged $0.40+/word try to pass off plagiarized work as their own. I think the most expensive plagiarizer charged $1/word.

      At the higher tiers it's never directly copy and pasted, but instead "spun" to make it harder to detect. Manually Googling different phrases is often the only way to detect it. So most clients don't catch it.

      So yeah, plagiarism happens at every tier but I did find it to be more common among at the lower tiers. Especially under $0.20/word.

      You can see an example of the type of "spun" content I'm talking about in my Verblio review here - https://growthbadger.com/hire-a-writer/#9_Verblio

  6. 3

    "Why not waste a bunch of money and turn this into a big experiment?" 😆

    Great stuff, thanks for sharing.

    1. 1

      No prob, glad you liked it!

  7. 2

    This is great what you did

    1. 1

      Thanks! It was a lot of work so I'm glad to see people getting value out of it.

  8. 2

    Thanks for posting these. I have been writing all my blogs for https://retroteam.app/ and its been taxing doing that and also coding. I will definitely look into these alternatives.

    1. 1

      You're very welcome. Glad you found it useful. And I feel your pain!

      Retro Team looks cool btw.

  9. 0

    BORING! 20 minutes wasted reading critique! ⚡And, there goes the shameless plug ; /

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