Hiring a Freelance Writer: What To Know Before Hiring
I’ve been on both sides of the table when it comes to hiring freelance writers. Before I transitioned into writing full time, I worked on marketing teams who hired freelance writers and even managed a staff of writers and editors. As a manager hiring a freelance writer, I made a lot of mistakes. I expected the world from the writers I hired. Expected them to live inside my brain and translate my thoughts into words that other people wanted to read.
As a full-time freelance writer, I’ve gained a lot of perspective to the things I did wrong as a manager and as a client. I’ve also dealt with plenty of clients who want me to save their business with a single blog post. Not to say that it can’t be done, but there are things that businesses need to know, and systems they need to have in place to create an environment conducive to success for the freelancers they hire.
I’ve learned about the challenges new businesses face and have a few insights on how companies can hire the right writers for their projects, and how to make these relationships last.
Know what you need from a freelance writer
I see the terms “content writer,” “copywriter,” and “content marketer” used interchangeably on job posts. While one person can fulfill both roles, the type of writing is very different and have very different outcomes for your business. Knowing what you need will help you understand who to hire. Some people are only good at one type of writing and hiring the wrong person could leave you disappointed at the outcome.
If you’re looking to increase conversion rates in your emails or build landing pages that are going to sell things, then you need a direct response copywriter who is trained in writing sales copy.
Copywriters are more aimed towards advertising, and helping you achieve a direct outcome. Their words compel people to take immediate action.
If you’re looking to create thought-provoking stories or articles for your blog, you need a content writer who can tell a compelling and professional story.
Content writers tend to write long-form, research-driven articles. Many content writers know SEO, but if SEO outcomes are your primary goal, make sure they have enough knowledge or access to the right tools to optimize the content they’re writing.
If you’re looking for someone to build out your entire content strategy, then you need a content marketer/strategist. A content marketer knows how to research your industry, audience, and trends, and come up with ideas that will resonate with your audience. They can take the process from ideation to hitting publish. Many will also have the skills to write the content themselves.
If you have a robust marketing plan, then hiring someone who is just a writer will suffice. But if you don’t have a marketing strategy, that involves content, then you will be better off hiring a content strategist. A content strategist will be able to help you do research, come up with content ideas, and create a plan for execution. Most content strategists will either have a writer that they work with, or do the writing themselves.
Someone who identifies themselves as a writer may not have the skills or knowledge to build out a content strategy and come up with ideas that are going to generate interest in your industry and increase traffic to your site. A strategist will also be able to determine what kind of content will align with your overall marketing goals.
You need a marketing plan before hiring a freelance writer
You need to know how the writing fits into the rest of your business. A writer can tailor content and messaging much more effectively if you know things like who your target audience is and what their demographics are. It’s also helpful to have information on your competitors and how your content compares to other content in your industry. If you are creating content for SEO purposes, this information is incredibly useful to the right freelancer.
You need a budget to hire a writer
Like a real budget. Being a remote freelance writer, I’m often compared to freelancers working and living in other regions that charge pennies to the dollar of what I charge. I’ve heard the phrase “why should I hire you when I could hire someone in the Philippines for 1/8 of what you charge” on at least three different occasions from agency owners who REACHED OUT TO ME after seeing my work online.
If this is a question you have to ask, then you’re hiring a freelance writer for the wrong reasons. If you can’t identify value beyond the cost of an article, then you need to do more goal-setting and strategizing on why you need content in the first place. Content is a long-term game. Things that you create and post now will continue to work for you in the future. If you’re dealing with sales copy, it’s easier to measure ROI. However, with content, it’s more difficult to see the returns in the beginning, and it’s important to understand that before hiring a content writer.
Spending more money to hire a more experienced writer will also save you time in the long run because they will be able to look at your existing content and mimic your style and voice more easily. They also tend to have more experience doing their own research. You’ll also spend less time editing their work, saving you more time.
If you’re hiring a ghostwriter or someone to write on your behalf, think about how YOU want to be represented in your industry. Bad content stands out. Don’t risk your reputation by trying to save a few dollars.
Hiring for writing skill vs. industry knowledge
A lot of businesses hiring writers want a writer with specific experience in that industry. This can really limit your choices of good writers. A person who is an expert at fitness is not an expert fitness writer. On the other hand, an experienced writer can do their research and learn the fitness industry more quickly than a fitness expert can learn how to write. With any specific niche, it will take a couple of rounds of edits to get things right. The writer will have become well versed in particular industry terminology and trends, but it is much easier for a writer to learn your industry than it is for someone in your industry to become a good writer.
Hire for the long-term and be patient
Like any role you hire for, there is a learning curve in the beginning. Now if someone is clearly not a good writer and even after the first project you can tell it’s not a fit, then just say that. You won’t always have time to give feedback, and that’s okay, but keeping on a writer that doesn’t meet your needs is frustrating for both sides. The writer feels frustrated and micro-managed while you’re frustrated that you’re not getting what you’re looking for.
High-quality writing requires investment
A new or inexperienced freelance writer, while they still could be a good writer, will need more guidance on the direction of your content. You might need to train them in your voice, or style, and go through a few rounds of edits before getting what you want. If you are hiring someone with just writing skills, then I suggest creating an outline of what you want the article to include. Look at successful examples of what you’re trying to create and let the writer use those as reference.
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