Years ago, I worked as a freelance writer producing my content exclusively. These days, I still write articles for the websites I run, but I also employ several writers to create content for me on topics outside my areas of expertise.
To scale a content website, you need to publish more articles and blog posts, and it's impossible to write them all yourself.
When you dive into a niche, you'll quickly find many untapped keywords, topics, and ideas on which you should publish content to scale up your traffic and hopefully increase your revenue.
Your options include hiring freelance writers using a service like Upwork or perhaps advertising on the ProBlogger Jobs board, or outsourcing to a content agency.
One agency that I've used for my content websites is called wordagents.com.
For context, at the time of recording this interview, you could order 1,000 words, about the length of a standard article, for $114 and 10,000 words for $810. The more you order, the greater the discount.
If you're running a website and need content on topics you're not an expert in, I'd encourage you to consider using an agency like WordAgents.
I wanted to understand a little more about how they produce content and help writers understand what it's like working for a company like WordAgents.
So this week, I caught up with David Peterson. He's based in Boston and is the Chief Operating Officer of WordAgents.
In this episode, we discuss:
Website: WordAgentsSupport the show
David: You know, you just kinda gotta put a little bit of elbow grease into the process in order to find clients as a freelance writer. If your mind is in the right place and you have the mindset and mentality to go out and attract clients or get clients, I mean, you can do it. Build a portfolio and take that and showcase that work that you’ve created to the clients and, sooner or later, you’ll land clients.
Welcome to the Become a Writer Today Podcast with Bryan Collins. Here, you’ll find practical advice and interviews for all kinds of writers.
Bryan: What does it take to think like a content publisher? The answer, of course, is more content. Hi, there. My name is Bryan Collins and welcome to the Become a Writer Today channel.
Years ago, I worked as a freelance writer, as I’ve talked about before on the Become a Writer Today Podcast. These days, I still produce and write articles for the content websites that I run, including Become a Writer Today, but I also employs a number of writers who produce articles about topics that I know less about. I employ these writers on a contract or a freelance basis. Sometimes, for some of the other sites that I run, I will work with an agency to source content in bulk. Because if you want to scale a content website, that means publishing more articles and blog posts. And to be honest, it’s impossible to write all of them yourself. When you dive into a niche or niche, as they say in the United States, you’ll quickly find lots of untapped keywords, lots of untapped topics, and lots of ideas that you should publish content on but what you’re never going to get around to. The only way to get around to doing that and, thus, scaling up your traffic and hopefully increasing your revenue and profits over time is by investing in content. And the answer of course to that is either hire some freelance writers using a service like Upwork or perhaps advertising on the ProBlogger Jobs board, both of which I’ve done, or if it’s a short-term project or a once-off project or you’re not quite ready to hire but you still want to scale, you could outsource content production to an agency.
One agency that I’ve used for my content websites is called wordagents.com. It can be a little bit weird outsourcing content for the first time but you’ll quickly get into a natural cadence, especially when your traffic starts to increase. So, for context, at the time of recording this interview, and bear in mind prices are subject to change, you can order 1,000 words, which is about the length of a standard article, for $114. You can order 10,000 words for $810. And you can order more and pay less from there, i.e., the more you order, the more discounts you get. So if you’re running a website and you have some topics that you’d like to publish content on but they’re not really topics you’re an expert with, I encourage you to consider using an agency like WordAgents. I’ve used them a lot in the past and I wanted to understand a little bit about how they produce content and also to help understand what writers should know about what it’s like to work for a company like WordAgents too. So this week, I caught up with David Petterson, he’s based in Boston, and he’s the CCO our WordAgents. He explains what exactly WordAgents does, how they work, how many writers work for WordAgents, and I found this figure astonishing, and he also talks a little bit about the query, “Is content publishing going to be replaced by AI?” which is a theme that comes up regularly with content publishers.
Hope you enjoy this week’s interview with David Petterson. If you do, please consider leaving a short review on the iTunes Store or hit the Star button or share it with another writer, because your reviews, stars, and ratings really do help the show grow and help more writers find the Become a Writer Today Podcast.
Now, with all of that said, let’s go over to this week’s interview with David Petterson.
Bryan: Welcome to the show, David.
David: Hey, Bryan, thanks for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Bryan: I’m sure you can do a much better description of what WordAgents does than mine. Would you be able to elaborate?
David: Yeah. So, WordAgents is — we create search engine-optimized human friendly content in seven days. So, in layman’s terms or more simplistic terms, we develop content for all types of different clients, people that manage their own individual websites, blogs. We create content for agencies, as you alluded to in the intro, and that’s pretty much our jam at this point. We’re growing and scaling our business to be able to provide more and more content on a regular basis. We deliver millions of words on a weekly and monthly basis.
Bryan: You do indeed. So I was gonna ask you about some of the packages that you have in a few moments. When was WordAgents set up and do you have many writers on the team?
David: Yeah. So WordAgents was started by our CEO and founder, Vin D’Eletto, approximately six and a half years ago. Next year will be seven years that WordAgents has been around. Right now, we have — we’re close to 400 or 500 writers on our team right now. I think probably closer to 500 by the end of the month, and it’s growing literally on a weekly basis, we’re adding to our team, so, yeah, it’s tremendous. A lot of moving pieces. Again, a great growing team. And because of that, we’re also growing our internal team to manage that vast amount of writers that we have.
Bryan: I can imagine. Five hundred writers must be a huge amount of people to manage.
David: Huge endeavor.
Bryan: How many editors do you have within the 500 writers?
David: I believe we have 50 plus right now. So pretty significant. They each manage a grouping of writers at this point. And, yeah, it’s about, like I said, about 50 plus. We’re adding editors on a regular basis, just to make sure that we have the capacity to, you know, handle the amount of writing that our writing team puts out. But, for the most part, it’s anywhere between — it’s like a 10:1 ratio for writer to editor at this point.
Bryan: That’s a good ratio. That’s what I found works too.
David: Yeah, yeah.
Bryan: Do the writers that you work with or that work for WordAgents, are they specialists, as in, you know, they know everything there is to know about food and drinks, or are they generalists and that they can cover multiple niches or niches?
David: They are generalists. They are most definitely generalist at this point but we found that there are a subset of writers that are niche, right? So depending on the client, we’ve noticed that certain writers will gravitate towards certain content topics and they’ll go ahead and pick them up when they flow into our system. So we’ve identified them. We don’t necessarily classify them as specialists at this point, but I do think as WordAgents continues to grow and evolve, it’s probably not a bad idea for us to do that so that we have certain groupings of writers that we can just assign to specific clients to handle the type of content that the clients are looking for.
Bryan: In terms of pricing, so you have a bronze offering which is 1,000 words and then you have a platinum offering which is 60,000 words, and I know there are bulk offerings where you can order quite a bit more. What would be your most popular offering? Where should somebody start?
David: So a lot of people just come in on the bronze package just to try WordAgents out. So if you’ve seen any of the marketing or advertising campaigns that we’ve run recently, a lot of the focus pushes the client to just trying out, you know, 1,000 words, a blog article, if you will, or, you know, two 500-word blog articles with that type of package. But I think the sweet spot really, for us, is an amalgamation of silver and gold and it’s where clients come in and kind of get a bit of a custom package, right? So what we offer on our website is great but we do offer custom packages to clients. So I would say it’s really a meld between silver and gold so like 15,000 words is — I think that’s the sweet spot, based on the data that I’ve analyzed at this point. And then, you know, if we’re talking agency specific clients, I mean, it varies. We have clients that come in and purchase 500,000 to a million plus words at a time, but they’re managing, I would say, anywhere between 50 to 100 different domains or websites on the web. So there are some heavy hitters but, again, I think the sweet spot is anywhere between 10,000 and 15,000 words, depending on what you’re doing as an agency owner or a webmaster.
Bryan: Yeah, I’ve used the silver and gold package for 10,000 to 15,000 to 20,000 words. Had good experiences with the quality of the content on those packages. I’m just curious about the people who are already in millions of words per month, how many articles does that break down into?
David: It varies. It depends. So anywhere between — I’m just trying to think off the top of my head here because we have one client in particular that I’m thinking about, the average article length is I think like 2,500 words with this one particular client so if you do the math, a million words into 2,500 is like 400 articles. And, yeah, we’re able to crank through that pretty quickly and efficiently, you know, with our existing team inclusive of all of the other clients that are placing orders. And we have a couple other — we call them sort of like whales in the ecosystem of WordAgents because they’re purchasing such a voluminous amount of words from us. But, on average, you know, 500,000 to a million words, anywhere between 200 and 400 articles.
Bryan: That’s insane.
David: It is.
Bryan: I’d love to know how somebody creates briefs for that many articles. So, I mean, for context, for listeners, it would take me about 10 or 15 minutes to create a brief for an article and if I have multiple articles that are similar, I can do that quicker, but I couldn’t imagine doing it for 400 or 500 articles in one go.
David: So from what I understand, a lot of our larger clients have a bunch of VAs that work from them, fairly large amount of VAs. One of our clients I think has like 15 or 20 VAs that works for them to, you know, help produce those content briefs, just because of the insane amount of work that goes into doing that. Then there are other clients that have a template, standardized way of creating briefs and submitting them to us, basically in a spreadsheet format, so sometimes I’ll get a spreadsheet that gets uploaded into our system that’s 400 line items deep going down and, you know, another 15 or 20 across. So it’s like, hey, we’re gonna do some serious arithmetic here. Sometimes, I feel like we’re getting into quantum mechanics or quantum physics with the way these guys present these briefs to us in Excel documents.
Bryan: Yeah, I’ve seen many versions of briefs for the different companies that I’ve worked for and different services I’ve used. So, from your point of view, what makes a good brief? If I’m ordering some content, what should I consider?
David: Well, it’s actually funny that you bring that up. We’re working on a briefing service right now. It’s not public. I believe by the time that we publish the podcast, our briefing service hopefully will be launched. So we have a proprietary way of creating briefs because, again, we’re very SEO focused and I think that a lot of people listening are potentially SEO focused. I mean, that’s one of the prime reasons why you create content, but, for us, you know, things like we wanna focus on the keywords, we focus on a lot of competitive links, and, again, this is very technical from my perspective. I think the most important thing that I found is the outline of the brief, really. You have to have a concise and succinct outline for your writers to be able to follow. We’ve gotten briefs that, you know, have been so barebones that our writers will take what the client provides to us and we’ll, you know, create a draft of the article, send it to the client, the client, you know, will come back and say, “Hey, it’s completely off base,” and we’ll have to go back to them and say, “Well, you didn’t really provide much direction in the brief,” so you’re kind of leaving it up to chance, more or less, with having our writers interpret what it is you’re looking for. So, I think, just from a pragmatic standpoint, the outline is probably more important than anything else, at least from my perspective, right? And I’m not a professional writer in the content space, right? I’m more of an academic writer, like that’s most of my writings where they’ve come from, right? In academia. So I can just tell you from my perspective that’s just one of the things that I look at when I’ve looked at all the different variants of briefs that have come in to us since I’ve joined WordAgents. And I just think that having a very structured outline helps in the final deliverable product that the writer is gonna be able to get out to the client
Bryan: And how can I be assured, as somebody who’s using a service like yours, that the content I’m getting is original and that it’s accurate? Particularly if I’m ordering a lot of articles, because editing for me could become an overhead.
David: Sure, sure. So we — I mean, we do a bunch of different things, pretty standard things, right? We use tools like Copyscape. We have certain quality thresholds that we guarantee to clients in terms of Copyscape. We conduct plagiarism checks, our editing team does that. In terms of facts, if the client doesn’t provide us the resources that they want us to cite, we’re relying on our writing team to conduct the research necessary. So, I mean, I think that the clients, at least the larger clients on our end, they rely heavily on their VAs to go through the content, just to make sure that it’s accurate in their mind. They have specific sort of guides that one of our larger clients uses with their VAs to go through and check facts. But, I mean, for the most part, I haven’t seen a lot of clients complaining about any of the research that our writing team does. I mean, I think we have a pretty solid team of writers here that is able to conduct research that fits within the guidelines of what the client is looking for. So I mean, I just would tell anybody that, you know, is looking at WordAgents, you know, I mean, we just have a competent team of writers more than anything. They know how to conduct research, they know how to cite, you know, the resources they’re using appropriately in some of these articles, and we just kind of rely heavily on our writing and our editing team to make sure that the quality is there, not only in terms of the actual written content itself but the underlying facts that back up whatever it is they’re presenting in the articles.
Bryan: So it sounds like a content publisher needs two things: budget for writing articles, obviously, and, secondly, they need to do some SEO keyword research.
David: They do.
Bryan: That’s really the skills that they would have before they can use a service like yours.
David: Yeah, they do, 100 percent. Once we launch the briefing service, I think that we may be able to eliminate some of the keyword research that the client is going to need because we’ve built into our process for creating these briefs a specific set of steps that allows our brief creators to actually conduct that research for the client. So the clients, more or less, is gonna come to us with a topic, a topic, maybe a little summary of what it is they’re trying to get at, and then we can kind of take all of that and run it through this proprietary brief creation process that we’ve put together to literally spit out what it is that we think the client is looking for in terms of the brief and then we’ll present them the brief and let them take a look at it and let us know if that’s the direction that they’re looking for. It involves a bit of technology. We have a couple of different tools that we’ve, you know, embedded in this brief creation tool that we’re in the process of finishing up and launching in beta in the next I believe month or so.
Bryan: Interesting. I’ll look out for that. Speaking of technology, you also support using content optimization tools like Surfer SEO, MarketMuse, Clearscope and Frase.
Bryan: Do many clients use those tools?
David: I would say maybe 25 percent of the clients use them. We’re actually relaunching our SEO add-on, again, in about a month or so just to kind of highlight the benefits of utilizing it. But, yeah, for the most part, I would say maybe 25 percent of the client base use this at this point, and I just think it’s something that falls by the wayside. I think that, as a business, we — I don’t think we promote it as much as we probably should, and, like I said, in the next month or so, we’re gonna kinda put a renewed focus on that to kind of just bring attention to it as an add-on service that the company offers.
Bryan: And are these tools, are they necessary or are they overkill?
David: I mean, it depends. I think it depends on what the intent of the content is, more or less. Yeah, and that could also be why, you know, our usage is hovering around 25 percent of all orders at this point, just maybe because it could be construed as overkill. I mean, I think it’s important, again, just depending on what the specific intent of the content is that you’re creating. It could go either way, you know? Not to give you a loaded answer, but I think it really could go either way.
Bryan: I found if it’s a term or a keyword that’s not competitive, it’s probably overkill to use a content optimization tool where if it’s a topic that’s well covered, sometimes they can help with the brief creation process.
David: Sure, sure. Yeah, it’s case specific. Again, I think that a lot of the content that we create, it varies far and wide. Hundreds of different topics — if not hundreds, thousands of different types of topics that we create. The written content itself is pretty much the same in that we’re creating blog posts. I think 90 percent of our content is literally blog posts. So, again, to your point, I think that it just really depends on the client, the use cases that they have for their specific web properties or the clients that they’re serving, you know, so, again, I think you summed it up pretty well with that viewpoint there.
Bryan: I’m fascinated that you have 500 writers. So I currently employ maybe 10 writers. So, are all those 500 writers based around the world or are they all in a couple of countries?
David: No, no, they’re actually all North America, between the United States and Canada.
Bryan: Oh, wow.
David: That’s kind of our — one of our unique selling points that they’re all here, at least in North America.
Bryan: It’s a remote team though.
David: Completely remote. Yep. Yep, completely remote. We’ve not expanded into the global writer space yet. Although I can’t say that, you know, we won’t at some point. But for the most part, I mean, we’ve done a pretty good job of attracting talent right here in the US and Canada.
Bryan: I always love hearing about workflows for writers. Does your team use Google Docs to collaborate?
David: We use Google Docs too — Google Docs is basically where all the content is written, but we actually utilize a platform called SPP, Service Provider Pro. That’s where we’ve pretty much built in all of our custom workflows for writers, editors. So we have a pretty good relationship with those guys. But, yeah, Google is just where the documents are created, sit in Google Drive. We built some custom automations into Google, specifically G Suite, to be able to automatically deliver content to our clients directly within Google. Essentially our backend is all SPP in conjunction with basically a customized Google Drive, if you will, to be able to manage all the clients and their specific articles.
Bryan: Okay, makes sense, makes sense. It is an argument that AI at some point will replace content writers. Do you guys have any thoughts on the quality of content produced by AI versus content produced by an expert writer?
David: So we’ve talked about it. We’ve had conversations about AI. It’s not — let’s just say when I joined WordAgents, you know, it was something that I actually had initially brought up to them just, you know, thinking forward looking, like, “Hey, you know, this is something maybe we need to keep our eye on,” but as my sort of tenure here progressed, it’s become less and less of an issue for us to kind of think about. I think that, you know, some of the AI tools could be utilized, but, for the most part, I mean, for us, we achieve scale through our writers more than anything, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. I just think that AI is more or less going to become a tool that writers could use to, I don’t know, supplement the work that they’re doing and then they would have to take, you know, whatever content is self generated from AI and tweak it and make it their own. That’s really the only use case that I could see for it here within our business at this point. I don’t think that AI is at the level yet where — I just don’t think it’s sophisticated enough to be able to generate the types of content that our writers are doing, or at least anybody who’s a human is doing. I still think that we're maybe a good, I don’t know, three to four, maybe five years off of having the technology at a place where it mimics human writing. I just don’t see it yet. And I’ve played with tons of different tools that exist out there.
Bryan: Yeah, I’ve used multiple tools and that’s been my experience. It’s helpful for headlines, SEO descriptions, maybe some YouTube descriptions —
Bryan: — you know, kind of low-value content, but anything beyond that, you really need an editor to go in and rework the content or just write it from scratch.
David: Yeah, no, 100 percent. I don’t think it’s there yet, you know? It’s gonna take a long time, with any AI outside of writing. It’s the nature of the technology. It has to go through a ton of iterations before it can start to mimic human behavior or human thought process, in my mind.
Bryan: So working as a freelance writer can be a tough gig. I struggled for a few years to find work. Where does WordAgents source its writers?
David: So, we use a bunch of different places. I don’t know if you’ve seen, we advertise on ProBlogger, we advertise —
Bryan: ProBlogger Jobs board, that’s where I’ve advertised as well.
David: ProBlogger, we work remotely. And in terms of where I would direct writers to go and look for freelance work, as I mentioned, we use a vast amount of platforms to recruit, Indeed being one of them that actually has panned out pretty well. I don’t know if Indeed has jobs globally. I think it may, but we’ve had a ton of candidates come through Indeed and I’ve noticed that there actually are a bunch of content agencies and other companies hiring writers on Indeed, so if you go type writer in Indeed or freelance writer, there are a ton of gigs that pop up at this point. You know, writers can utilize gig sites like Upwork, PeoplePerHour. I’ve even myself hired some writers off of the website Fiverr, but you have to be super, super specific in the criterion that you set when you’re hiring writers on websites like Upwork, or PeoplePerHour or Fiverr. You know, you have to sift through a ton of applicants, that’s one of the things that we really put a concerted effort behind is really going through these writers. Even though they are freelance, you know, we just wanna attract and hire the highest caliber people that we can. But in terms of writers looking for gig work, again, I would say that turn to websites like Upwork, turn to websites like Fiverr, go on ProBlogger, go on Reddit, look at some of the threads that exist. I found a ton of threads on Reddit where there are companies looking for writers and, you know, written content creators. You know, you just kinda gotta put a little bit of elbow grease into the process in order to find clients as a freelance writer. I think it’s, you know, if your mind is in the right place and you have the mindset and mentality to go out and attract clients or get clients, I mean, you can do it. Build a portfolio and take that and showcase that work that you’ve created to the clients and, sooner or later, you’ll land clients.
Bryan: So is a portfolio more expensive — or more valuable than perhaps having a traditional writing education like, for example, a degree in English or journalism?
David: I would say so. I definitely think, you know, having a good body of work — again, although I’m torn on this because I’m very much an academic myself, I would say that, in today’s current climate, having the body of work probably trumps the degree, more so than anything, because the prospective client, prospective employer is gonna be able to take a look at that body of work and evaluate it for what it is, you know, face value. They’re gonna be able to look at, you know, everything you’ve produced and kind of make their decision a lot quicker, I think, other than just saying, “Hey, you know, you’ve got a degree in English,” you know, I mean, that doesn’t — for me, it doesn’t tell me all that much, right? It tells me that you were dedicated to go through your studies and earn the degree but does it really tell me that you’re gonna be a quality writer? Sure, you may understand all the mechanics that go into writing, all the different writing conventions that exist, but, beyond that, I mean, the portfolio, again, I think trumps the degree.
Bryan: Good advice for writers, David. Any final advice for a content publisher or a website owner who’s ready to order their first piece of content with WordAgents?
David: Yeah, I would say they just reach out and talk to our team. We have solutions available to kind of fit almost any client. Again, I have a good group of people here that are just willing and ready to work and, you know, work out something that, again, best fits both companies, like I think we try to create partnerships with each and every client that we work with. It may sound crazy, because we have tons of clients that we work with, but I think that every client that we do work with, there is some synergy between us. Whether you’re ordering 10 articles a month or 500, we have something for, you know, almost any client that is looking for written content. And we just launched a money back guarantee so we’re delivering content now in seven days or less. If we don’t deliver it in seven days, we’re giving the clients the money back and still providing the content to them. So kind of putting our money where our mouth is.
Bryan: Oh, nice. Nice. I wasn’t aware of that guarantee.
David: Yep. Yep. We just launched it. Yeah, yeah. It’s actually worked out pretty well. A little bit of pressure on us but, yeah, like I said, it’s working out pretty well. And for the most part, we’ve done a really good job of turning around content to our clients so as much of a marketing piece that sort of guarantee is, it just keeps everybody on track and everybody focused more or less.
Bryan: All at wordagents.com Thanks for your time, David.
David: Thanks, Bryan. Appreciate it very much.
Bryan: I hope you enjoyed this week’s episode. If you did, please consider leaving a short review on the iTunes Store or sharing the show on Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you’re listening. More reviews, more ratings, and more shares will help more people find the Become a Writer Today Podcast. And did you know, for just a couple of dollars a month, you could become a Patreon for the show? Visit patreon.com/becomeawritertoday or look for the Support button in the show notes. Your support will help me record, produce, and publish more episodes each month. And if you become a Patreon, I’ll give you my writing books and discounts on writing software and on my writing courses.