This week I’ve interviewed 20 editors, reviewed over 80 writer CV’s and listened to a lot of professionals talk about how to commission great content.

I know that many of you are charged with growing your own content team, so I thought it would be helpful to share three truths we’ve uncovered in the process of recruiting hundreds of writers and editors over the years.

1. Professional editors have a process for generating ideas

I suspect this is true of all creatives. While all will say that the process varies by client/project/magazine, the true pros will be able to go into real depth as to how they cultivate ideas. They never wait for their inherent creativity to appear magically.

2. With writers, the first article they submit will be their best for months to come

The first article a new writer produces for you will, I promise you, be the best work they submit in the first six months. The simple explanation is that they’re trying really hard when they want the gig. A more nuanced explanation combines that desire with their objectivity and freshness. Whatever the reason, the message is this: Have a really high bar for the first article you receive, because things will get worse before they get better.

3. The love of a good brief

The best editors and writers talk about a good brief with the ‘oh-my-god-did-you-see-that!’ tone usually reserved for Lionel Messi free kicks (for non-football fans, they’re really good). They’ll talk about the nuances of briefing different writers, of content formats, of spending as much time on the brief as is spent writing the article, on leaving space for creativity. I noticed this week an almost spiritual reverence for a good brief. This is a good thing. Look out for it.

Finally, it’s worth noting that the market has changed. Content marketing has been a core strategy for almost a decade now. When we started Future Content in 2012, we were looking for writing talent to educate about content marketing. Today there’s an abundance of creative talent with marketing acumen.

There is a recognition among them that creating content for businesses doesn’t have to mean ‘going over to the dark side’. If we can provide a platform for them, the space to be creative and the tools they need, our content can only improve and our businesses will fly.