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How To Hire A Freelance Writer

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Searching for a freelancer seems like a simple task. After all, there are thousands of freelance writers available. 
While this seems like a simple task, if you do it wrong, it can be a huge time suck. You could end up with a freelancer who misses deadlines, doesn’t communicate well, provides low quality work, and possibly just disappears in the middle of a project, never to be heard from again. (Yes, this actually happens!)

 

Ready to learn how to hire a freelance writer?

Before you start, crush this illusion!

Let’s get real. Before they hire a freelance writer, some people are under the illusion that they can buy one blog post and suddenly droves of hungry buyers will magically show up. The post will go viral and money will start flowing in. Yeah, this scenario is all unicorns and rainbows.While this may seem far fetched, I know of many times when people have purchased one article and when it doesn’t magically suck up traffic faster than a Mega Maid, they assume it’s the writer’s fault and they move on to the next cheap writer. All the while, they are missing the point. You could have Ernest Hemingway write content for your site, but if you don’t have a strategy in place, it will be hit or miss and the reader may or may not engage with the content.

Start with a goal

What is your goal for this content? Are you trying to get people to sign up for your email list or webinar (you do have an email list, right)?Are you trying to move people closer to the sale?What types of content do you need?If you are only looking for a blog post, a better choice is to have a content strategy in place where you’re working toward a goal (i.e. more readers, more email signups, more sales). Let’s assume you need more than basic blog posts. You might consider finding a writer that can also handle content for long-term lead generation like white papers, guides, landing pages, email series, and newsletters.

 

How much content will you need?

How much additional content will you need? Not every industry is the same. For example, if you’re in a B2B technology industry, you probably need more content than a lawn service company. If your competitors are regularly publishing content for their readers, you should have a similar schedule (or better yet, outdo them!).

 

How to hire a freelance writer

Defining your needs

Too often, I’ve received freelance job requests with little to no information. If all you want is a basic blog post with little to no benefit to your business, then a basic topic is enough. However, if you want the content to have a positive impact on your business (that’s why we’re doing this, right?), you need to understand your needs. Here are some questions you need answered before you run out and hire a writer:
  • What types of content do you need to have written? 
  • Are you looking for blog posts, a white paper, website content, social media posts, or all of the above?
  • How difficult or technical is the topic? 
  • Is the writer going to need to interview subject matter experts before he or she will be able to write? 
  • Will there be industry terminology that the writer will need to understand?
  • What are the results you expect?
  • How much content will you need in order to meet this goal?
  • What is the budget for content per month? 
  • Who will manage the relationship and edit the work as it comes in?
  • Will you provide content ideas for the writer or ask them to pitch ideas?
Once you have answered these questions, you will have a better understanding of the type of writer (or writers) you will need.
I interviewed Blake Puryear with enginecommerce.com about some of his experiences with finding and hiring 24 freelance writers. “We wanted to go with freelance writers because we felt we could build a better core of writers from across the country rather than just our area. This would allow us to create a much more well rounded site. Our writers were spread across both coasts and the flyover states. It let us build a dynamic brand voice, as many of these experts couldn’t be sourced where we are. These writers also weren’t full-time as building a 24 person full time writing team was not within our funding ability.”
“We wanted to go with freelance writers because we felt we could build a better core of writers from across the country rather than just our area. This would allow us to create a much more well rounded site,” says Blake Puryear with enginecommerce.io.

What about a guest writer?

You might think, “Why should I pay for a writer when I can get guest contributors for free?”Since there are so many writers that want to have their work promoted, guest posts can be an easy way to do this.One of the problems, however, is getting a steady stream of content that is high quality for your site. Especially if you’re running a new blog, it can be difficult to get regular content using guest posting. Also, since people are not getting paid to produce content for your site, it can be difficult to find a regular contributor that will write for you. This can add to your stress as you’re constantly trying to get more new writers to write for you.With a freelance writer, you can make sure that content is delivered on time, which allows you to maintain an editorial calendar and keep your content on schedule. Tip: Offer guest posting on your site, but be very selective in which posts you allow and don’t make this your primary method of getting content.

In-house writer versus outsourcing to freelancers

 

A common challenge of setting up a content marketing team can be matching the writer’s qualifications to the company’s requirements. For bigger companies, your first thought may be to hire an in-house team of writers. Realistically though, creating a new department and hiring these people can produce some real headaches. This is especially true if your writing workload goes up and down. Hiring freelance writers, on the other hand, can be an easier fit because your budget can be adjusted to meet the need. You also have less cost because you have no spending on the backend for employment taxes, health insurance, and more. This can also help you save time by enabling you to find the right match for your company without having to go through an entire hiring process.
 
Pros and cons to hiring freelance writers 
Pros
Freelancers are cost-effective: Hiring a freelance writer gives you the ability to scale with multiple writers without having the on-going cost of an in-house writing staff. Since they are paid by the project, you can allocate resources when you need them.Great for temporary projects: If you have a temporary need, you can hire a writer with the understanding that they are there to complete a specific job and then go on their way when they’re done. This makes for less paperwork in both hiring and termination for short-term projects.

Cons

Lack of quality assurance: One of the disadvantages of using freelancers is a potential lack of quality assurance. However, using a proper vetting process (covered later in this post) can help you make sure they have the right qualifications for the job.Difficult to create long-term partnerships: It can be difficult to find long-term partnerships when dealing with freelance writers. Even if you can find one that meets deadlines and provides quality work, they have the ability to disappear when a better opportunity comes along.

What to look for in a freelance writer

Start by setting clear expectations for what you’re looking for in a writer. For example, do you want someone who will pitch topics to you or do you want to give them the topics?Even if you only need someone for one article, you want to include:
  • Your expectations for the project (i.e. I want a white paper to use as a lead magnet for CIOs that need to monitor their web services).
  • Budget: You need to understand the budget so you will know how much you can afford to spend per month on projects.
  • Timeline: Discuss the timeline early in the conversation to make sure the writer can meet the deadline.
  • Word count
  • Preferred audience: This can be a critical piece of information that is frequently not included in the initial discussion.
  • Search Engine Optimization: Keywords that need to be used. (Keywords are not as important as they once were as the search engines have gotten better at interpreting the underlying theme of the piece.)
  • Is extensive research required?: In most fields, the writer needs to be able to do appropriate research and look up topics on their own to find the information they need. 
  • Is an interview required?: In the case of technical products and services, the writer will need to be able to interview subject matter experts and discuss the topics with them as well as get the information they need for the content.
It’s helpful to know these things up front before you get into a conversation with a writer so you can share the information.

 

Where to look for freelance writers

1. Tap your existing connections

Search within your network of connections and ask them if they know of any freelance writers that have knowledge in your niche. Hiring people that are already part of your network (or know people who are) can help get feedback on their experience, work ethic, etc. before actually hiring them. Don’t be afraid to ask your peers for their opinions on writers.

2. Other publisher’s sites

Are there sites where you’ve read their content and thought, “I want our content to sound like that”? This was the case with Blake Puryear, who says, “We found our writers by going to competitors’ sites or other publishers where we envied their writing styles and reached out individually with a personalized email.”Once you have identified a writer via their profile, you can go to their social media pages and their website to learn more about them. Using LinkedIn can be a good way to connect with writers. Of course, email can be another way to connect.One downside to this method is you might have to connect with several writers before you find one that is available for writing. If you want to find writers that are looking for immediate work, another option is nDash.

3. nDash

nDash is a good option for finding and hiring freelance writers with subject matter experience. Unlike many freelance sites, this one allows you to filter by subject matter expertise. I prefer this option because it allows you to search through a list of writers that meet your criteria and are usually available for projects.nDash offers you a couple of choices when you sign up looking for freelancers:
  • 1You can sign up, select writers, and ask for them to pitch ideas to you. This can be a great way to come up with new ideas.
  • 2The second option is to post an assignment where you provide details about the project you need done and set a price. Writers have the option to ask for consideration and you can decide which one is right for the job.
I’ve been an nDash writer since its inception and can confirm there are writers with a variety of experience and subject matter expertise on the site.

4. Create a job listing

Another way to find a freelance writer is to have them come to you. Not surprisingly, attracting the best writer for your needs starts with a good job listing. Here are a few things to keep in mind when writing a job listing:Represent your brand: Make sure the tone of your job listing matches the personality of your brand. If you work for a software company where the environment is laid back but you get things done, have that reflected in your job listing.List experience requirements: If you need someone with knowledge of HR software, include that in the listing. Also include any systems like WordPress that they may need to know in order to publish after they are done. If you require a certain piece of software like Microsoft Word, include that in the listing as well to ensure they have the software needed.Include the price: To save time, include the pay scale so you can avoid wasting your time on applicants who are outside of your budget.Tips: One of the drawbacks of publishing a job listing is that you’re going to get some people that will send generic messages to all of the job listings without reading the listing. To filter out these listings, include that they must have a specific title or word within the subject or body of the email message.You should also create an email address specific for this job listing so that once you are done you have the option to delete the account or at least not check it again.One option is to put your job listing on ProBlogger’s Job board. This will cost $70 per listing and will last 30 days; however, there are many writers who regularly check this board so you should get plenty of responses.

 

Evaluating the writer

How will you know which writers are really good ones? How will you evaluate them to know which ones are worth the money they charge? This section will show you how.

Writing samples: A common method of evaluating an effective writer is to have them send writing samples. This should be work in your niche (or in a similar field) to give you a feel of how well they know the subject matter. Some writers may have a portfolio on their blog or writing site that will allow you to review it there as well.“We vet each writer by letting them write a (paid) sample article of their choosing. From there, we would fact check the article and if we liked the writing style, bring them on to write for us on a weekly basis,” says Puryear. “The best thing I pulled away from the experience is that a paid sample article can go a VERY long way in how writers apply to your positions. They were excited to be paid for a writing sample and it was a great low cost way for us to determine if they’d fit in with the brand voice we were trying to convey.”

Interview them: Once you have reviewed their writing samples that are relevant to your niche and have proven that they can write about your topic, it’s time for the interview to see if they are a good fit. (That’s right, you actually should talk to a writer to see how good of a fit they’re going to be.) If you are planning to create a long-term relationship with this person, an interview can be an effective way to find out if they are a good match.

During the interview, some pertinent questions to ask might include:

  • What type of experience do you have within our industry?
  • Do you provide images with each post? (From personal experience, I’ve found it’s better to let the brand select the images since they will be more in line with their site.)
  • What are your turn around times?
  • What types of SEO do you do?
  • What information do you need in order to start the project?
 
 
 

Working with writers

Payment

If you have already determined their rates, this is a great opportunity to confirm or narrow down a rate range.After the interview, ask yourself how you felt about the writer’s responses. Did they come prepared? Did the writer take the time to learn about your company and services before the call? 
Writers normally charge by the project. This can benefit companies because they know the price of the project up front. Their per-project cost will typically depend upon the length of the content, the amount of research, interviews and if they are required, and transcription if needed.You can expect to pay 50% upfront and the other 50% upon successful completion of the project.

6 tips for working successfully with writers

1. Create a communication plan: When you start working with a new writer, it is critical to establish a communication plan up front so you can build a long distance relationship that works for both of you. This is especially true if you have a time zone difference.Many writers will prefer email as the primary method of communication. Other options are an occasional phone call, Skype, or Zoom. Tip: My personal preference of recent has been Zoom because the quality seems better than Skype. Since every writer relationship is different, it’s important to establish a method of communication that works for both of you.
 2. Nurture the relationship: Take the time to nurture the relationship. Don’t expect to hire a writer, never communicate with them, and have them deliver perfect content each time. Just as if it were an in-house employee, you need to take the time to bring them up to speed and make sure they understand the direction you want them to go. 
3. Be ready for questions: You can expect the writer to have questions. These questions may seem obvious to you since you’ve worked in the field for so many years. They may need to talk to a subject matter expert, so you’ll need to coordinate a conversation between them and your new writer.It can take a while for the writer develop a tone and voice that is consistent with the current writing on the site. The writer will need to pick up on the nuances of the language used, so expect a few more revisions in the beginning to incorporate these changes in voice.Tip: If you decide to edit a piece of content to match your own voice, make sure you show it to the writer upon completion so that they will understand the voice that you use and can mimic it in the future.
4. Editing: You’re holding the writer to a timetable so they can deliver the content on time (good for you!). When it’s your turn to look over a draft, make sure you offer the same prompt service and get the draft back to them with enough detail so that they can continue writing. When possible, make suggestions or comments within the document so the writer can address the issues quickly.Tip: Offering vague directions like “make it stronger” will only waste time and throw your writer off schedule.
5. Review: If you have a technical topic, be prepared to have your subject matter experts review the content to make sure that it is technically accurate. They can also help with idea generation to ensure the ideas are topics that they would want to review.Providing them additional information: If you have created buyer personas, providing these to your writer can help them to better understand the audience. This is particularly true if you want to focus on a specific persona and need them to write for that one person.
6. Use a content tracking tool: “We created a spreadsheet of topic ideas for the writers to pick from and they would mark off the topics as they picked them up. We had ‘bounties’ on certain topics that we wanted to push and paid a premium for these articles,” says Puryear. “We found that this worked extremely well and had great buy-in from our writing team.”It’s a great idea to set up an editorial calendar so that you will know the deadlines for the projects you have and be able to give the writer an appropriate amount of lead time to get the project done. Remember to build in time for revisions too.“Having a ‘living spreadsheet’ of articles that drove our content calendar was also instrumental in our operations. The writers liked being able to go in and choose their topics for the week and we would have people scrambling or even begging to write an article that they didn’t get to claim first,” says Puryear.

Good luck with your search…

This is only the beginning of the journey to find the best freelance writer that is the perfect match for your business. 

 

Do you have a favorite method for finding and hiring freelance writers? If so, please leave your tip in the comments below.
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The post How To Hire A Freelance Writer appeared first on Resounding Words.

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