As a freelance writer, I’ve worked with more than a dozen companies. From startups to agencies to lifestyle brands, I’ve seen (almost) all of it.
I’ve worked with some amazing clients, and some not-so-amazing ones. I’ve seen the right way to hire a writer and the wrong way. I’ve worked with clients who need to be in 24/7 control and ones who generously give me free reign.
And I’m here to tell you everything that I’ve learned.
Here are my top tips for finding and working with the best freelance writers.
How to Find and Hire Freelance Writer
1. Understand Your Content Needs
Before you start interviewing freelance writers, you need to understand what you’re looking for. If you don’t have a clear sense of your content needs, you’ll only waste your time and the freelancer’s time.
First, think about what kind of content you want and the frequency. Are you looking for bi-weekly blog posts? Social media copy? Website copy? E-books? Make sure you are able to clearly speak to the scope of work.
Then, tie those content needs to your business goals. What do you want this freelance writer to accomplish with these posts? Do you want to generate leads? Brand awareness? Social sharing? In order to set clear expectations with the writer, you need to identify the metrics that are most important to you.
And lastly, consider the extra stuff. Do you also need help with imagery? Do you need the freelance writer to add the posts to your blogging platform or post them on social media? Who do you want the author to be for these posts: the freelance writer or someone internally?
2. Mine Your Network
The majority of my clients find me through word of mouth. An existing client will tell his or her network about me, and will introduce me via email. This makes the whole process so much easier. First of all, the environment is more comfortable. It’s not so much an interview as a conversation. My existing client has already vouched for my experience and talent. So, instead of focusing too much on the technical part of the job, the potential client and I can really focus on learning about each other and seeing if we would have a good working relationship.
I would always recommend getting referrals from people you trust over working with an agency or content mill. If you can’t find a freelance writer from your network, I would then recommend using social media and blogs to find someone. Search for blogs you enjoy reading and contact the writer. Find writers on Twitter and see what they cover.
3. Ask the Right Questions
Let’s say your network has introduced you to three freelance writers. How do you know which one you should go with? All three of them have strong portfolios, but the key is to find out if they would be good at writing for you.
Always ask to see writing samples and portfolios, but keep this in mind: just because she wrote a great post for company x, doesn’t mean she can write the same quality post for your company. A good writer will always be a good writer, regardless of industry. But, there will inevitably be a certain writer that better understands your business and customer challenges.
If you’re can’t decide between freelance writers, simply ask them each to come up with three potential posts for your company blog. This is an excellent way to see how they think and to get a glimpse into the kind of work they would do for you. Plus, this exercise isn’t too time consuming for the freelance writer.
How to Work with Freelance Writers
Congratulations! You found a freelance writer. Now what?
Here are my tips for working with a freelance writer:
1. Set Clear Expectations
Remember all that thinking you did before you started looking for a freelancer? About what kind of content you want and what your goals are? Well, make sure your writer knows all of this! As soon as you’ve signed a contract, meet in person or schedule a phone call to discuss the expectations.
Make sure to be as clear and specific as possible. And don’t be afraid of coming across too strict or needy. Writers like it when you set guidelines and expectations. Otherwise, we’ll just be doing the best we can and always wondering if this is what you’re really looking for.
2. Give Examples of What You Do and Don’t Like
Writing is incredibly subjective. A client may love one style of writing, but another client might want the opposite. If you have a clear opinion of what kind of writing you want, the best way to communicate that is to show examples.
Send links to existing articles, either on your site or on the Internet, of what you do and don’t like. Be specific. For example, say, “I like the witty voice in this post,” or “I like the bullet points and imagery in this post.”
3. Give Feedback
Share feedback and areas of improvement with your writer, especially in the beginning of the relationship. Until the writer gets to know your style, she’ll feel like she’s just shooting in the dark. If you don’t like the conclusion in one post, tell her and offer examples of what you’d like to see. Writers won’t take this personally.
And, don’t forget to give positive feedback as well. It can be easy to forget to praise the writer, but this is almost more important than sharing constructive criticism. If you really like a post, say it! If you really like an idea she had, tell her! As writers, we don’t want to work for someone who is never happy. And we all want to feel valued and appreciated.
4. Be Responsive on Email
Almost all my communication as a freelance writer is done via email. And it can be frustrating when I email a question to a client and don’t hear back for two weeks. Of course, we understand that you are busy and you won’t always be able to respond to an email within 24 hours, but this shouldn’t be a regular occurrence.
The freelance relationship is a two-way street. We need you to help us help you. And if we constantly feel ignored, we’ll stop asking questions or coming up with new ideas, and just keep doing the same old thing.
5. Relinquish Control
There comes a point when you need to let go. When you need to realize that you hired an expert to do something, and you need to trust that expert.
In the beginning of the relationship, the freelance writer is still learning about you and your company. She may come up with an idea or two that just don’t work. But, as she learns and gets more comfortable, you need to take a step back and let her do her thing.
If she comes up with an idea that makes you uncomfortable, try to figure out why you feel uneasy. Do you disagree with the idea or are you just nervous to let her take over?
Trust the expert. Let her do her job the best way she can, and give her creative authority. (Note: I’m not saying you should let her graffiti your logo on every office building on your block. Use common sense. Of course you can disagree with the outlandish ideas. But for the most part, agree with reasonable, realistic ideas).
How to Apply This To Your Business
And to finish up, one last piece of advice that I learned the hard way. Always trust your gut. Someone may look great on paper, but if you get a funny feeling or something seems strange to you, don’t go any further. It’s better to spend extra time to find a writer you feel 100% comfortable with than to rush the process and end up with regrets.