How to advertise a job for writers (and get results)

by Rachel Smith
17 February 2024

  1. Advertise where writers hang out
  2. Figure out what you need before you post
  3. Reduce the ‘laundry list’ of requirements
  4. Structure your ad in the right way
  5. Include these following must-haves
  6. Ask a professional to write your job ad

You need a staff member or freelancer, fast. So how can you advertise a job or gig in a way that’s going to bring lovely, experienced, perfect-for-the-job applicants to your inbox? And hopefully, less of those unsuitable candidates that take so much time to sift through?

I’ve been running Rachel’s List for a over a decade and in that time I’ve seen a LOT of bad job ads. I’ve written a lot of ads for job-posters. And I’ve done surveys on job ads and know what works.

Here are some essential steps that’ll make it far easier to get those candidates flooding into your inbox.

It sounds simple, but I hear from a lot of job-posters who advertise a job on Seek or LinkedIn and get smashed with unsuitable applicants, and not enough of the kind of applicants they’re looking for.

Illustration of a freelance community by Amy Nolan

And here’s the thing: a specialist jobs board is a fast-track to finding your people. (And often far more effective than those faceless job sites.)

For example, if you’re looking for a casework manager at a refuge, or a people and culture manager at a social enterprise, you might go to Ethicaljobs.com.au. If you’re looking for an events manager or exhibitions coordinator, you’d probably try posting on ArtsHub. But for experienced writers – journalists, copywriters, content people, editors and even writers starting out – you want a specialist jobs board like Rachel’s List.

Step 2: Figure out what you’re looking for before you post

So often I’ll be talking to an employer on the phone who isn’t quite sure what they need. If you’re a brand who needs a content strategy and regular blog posts, do you need a content writer? What about if you need a heap of case studies involving interviews with SEOs, or a white paper written – can a journalist take that on? And how about if you have a brochure job that needs doing? Is that a copywriter’s job?

These are all great questions and trust me: doing a bit of legwork (and talking to someone like me who knows the market, and what different types of writers can do) can save you a HEAP of time before you advertise a job or gig. No judgement at all – I answer questions like this all the time.

It’s best not to rush this step, because if you post something that’s not quite right and then radically change the live ad, freelancers get jittery. They’ll circle your job ad like reluctant sharks, refusing to bite because they suspect you don’t really know what you want (and that indecision will filter into the job itself, or the project). Trust me, it’s so much better to get it right BEFORE you post.

Step 3. Ditch the long, scary laundry list of skills and experience

If you haven’t heard the term ‘looking for a unicorn’, be aware that it is bandied about quite a bit in job-seeking circles. It means the job advert is so unrealistic, so crazy long, and so packed full of skills and requirements, that it would need a whole team of people to do the role properly.

If you’re an employer or HR who writes these types of unicorn ads (perhaps unknowingly, or because other stakeholders or team members are tweaking and adding to the ad as well), please know that you’re scaring off the very people you want to attract.

If you advertise a job please cut down on the list of requirements
A screenshot of just ONE section in this very long advert

This is the kind of ad people screen-shot and post in writers’ Facebook groups, along with the scared eye emoji. 😳 If you’re not able to read the image, it requires the person (in a department of one, no less) to be:

  • a sales person
  • a project manager
  • an analyst
  • a partnerships manager
  • a high level branded content producer
  • oh, and to represent the company at networking events.

Just… nooooooooooo.

Gif of a cricket chirping
No one wants to hear crickets after posting a job ad

If you want to advertise a job or gig for a writer, our advice is to make sure the job or project is realistic in the skills and experience you’re asking for. If you need a copywriter, don’t shoehorn in a requirement that they be a designer and social media strategist as well. You’ll get crickets.

Step 4. Keep it structured and simple

There’s a bit of an art to writing an ad that gets job-seekers and freelancers clicking and applying. Here’s one example that is quite short, and because it paid well, was clear about the experience level, offered writers the chance to work remotely and didn’t bombard them with waaaaay too much info, it went nuts.

I think it got about 63 applications in 2 days and the job-poster closed the ad early because they had quite enough great people to consider, and didn’t need more.

If you advertise a job keep it short like this advert - it gets more attention
A popular ad on Rachel’s List recently

Not all ads need to be that short, though. Some are longer which have also received fabulous responses, like this one – it got 44 applications from strong, talented writers. Pretty much a dream for an editor, right?

A popular ad for freelance writers on rachel's list
See the structure? Easy to scan and apply for

Notice the similar structure – easy to read, simple sub-heads, short sentences and bullet points. Very clear on how to apply. It’s off-site too, which is often the clincher.

The only downside with this ad is that it didn’t clearly state any kind of pay rate (we always recommend being transparent with your rates when you advertise a job or gig).

Step 5: Take the time to write your ad and include these must-haves

In short, a job-seeker or freelancer looking at your ad wants to see:

  • A clear, straightforward description of the work or the job. Separate info into sections with sub-heads, short paras and a few bullet-points. People skim; keep it as short as possible.
  • A succinct explanation of what you need, eg: ‘We need a content writer with a background writing for health and medical clients’. (Resist using words like wizard, guru, rockstar, ninja etc…)
Please don't use words like 'wizard' or 'rockstar' when you advertise a job
  • A realistic job spec. Reduce the laundry list and more people will stop and look (and possibly apply).
  • A decent salary or freelance rate that fits the ad’s skills and experience; eg, if it’s senior, don’t pay junior rates. Our free pay rates report has a heap of suggested freelance rates to get you started.
  • Separate lists of ‘must-have’ and ‘nice to have‘. It makes people feel they can still have a crack even if they don’t have all of the skills listed.
  • Benefits and perks – One of the most valuable is offering flexibility / hybrid. Freelance projects are generally off-site / remote.
  • A bare-bones company description. Ditch your mission statement, values, company history – it’s irrelevant and makes the ad too long.

Step 6. If you want to advertise a job but can’t write as well as you’d like, get someone (like us) to do it

Writing an ad that gets results isn’t easy – like I said, there’s a bit of a knack to it. So feel free to handball this task to us if it’s not your zone of genuis.

Man banging his head on the desk
“Don’t make me write that job ad”

Writing or editing ads is not something all jobs boards offer, but we’ve been doing it for years and we know what’ll move the needle (and we’ll also give you a bit of tough love if we feel like your ad is NOT going to get a great response, and why).

Always ask if you need help (or just send over a list of bullet points and I’ll get to work). You’ll always get to check out the ad and approve it before we go live with it, too.

Got a question about how to advertise a job or gig, or about posting specifically on our jobs board? Feel free to post a comment below or drop us a line at hello @ rachelslist.com.au – we’ll come right back to you.

Rachel Smith

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