How to hire a freelance writer... Where to begin? So, you’ve got a piece of content that needs writing for your business, website or charity. Rather than seeking out a writer internally, you’ve decided to embark on a mission to find the perfect freelance content writer for your project. Hiring a writer externally outside of your own employee pool can appear daunting, and the questions and doubts you have may cloud your perceptions of the benefits of using a freelance writer. Where do you even find a freelance content writer? What's the difference between a scientific freelance blogger and technical medical writer? How can you ensure that the experience is both mutually beneficial and efficient, saving your business time and money? Questions... so many questions!
How to hire a freelance writer... Where to begin?
So, you’ve got a piece of content that needs writing for your business, website or charity. Rather than seeking out a writer internally, you’ve decided to embark on a mission to find the perfect freelance content writer for your project.
Hiring a writer externally outside of your own employee pool can appear daunting, and the questions and doubts you have may cloud your perceptions of the benefits of using a freelance writer. Where do you even find a freelance content writer? What's the difference between a scientific freelance blogger and technical medical writer? How can you ensure that the experience is both mutually beneficial and efficient, saving your business time and money? Questions... so many questions!
Look no further. This is a comprehensive guide outlining the dos and don’ts of employing a freelance writer from the perspective of, well…. me, a freelance writer.
Why should you hire a freelancer?
Let’s start with ‘why’. Choosing to use a freelance writer means you’re engaging with a self-employed individual. With self-employment comes a range of benefits. We are more cost effective for your business. Very little admin when it comes to tax and payroll. Just a simple contract and invoice process, freeing up time for your HR and finance team. Your full-time staff can continue to focus on their core tasks within the workforce whilst we crack on with the project. Freelance writers also write for a career. We know all about SEO, what content drives traffic, and tone of voice. No training needed. Give us a brief and watch us go!
You may be worried about quality. After all, we no nothing about your business. However, most of a freelancer’s profit comes from repeat clients. It’s in our best interest to “wow” you with our insights and make sure you return and spread the word of our abilities. You are the boss we’re trying to impress.
Need a little extra reassurance? The following steps will ensure you’re getting the best possible content for your buck, give you a freelance writer's perspective and let you into a few insider secrets.
How do I find the perfect freelancer?
Every organisation requires different content. Therefore, there are many different types of freelancer to meet these demands. Not all writers are the same nor do we all fit your requirements. If your website seeks to teach people how to build their own website from scratch, 'freelance technical writing' might be the required description for your brief. If you would like to keep people in the loop about local medicinal achievements – freelance medical writing would be better suited.
Make sure you know what kind of content you require from the offset. This makes the process much easier. We come in all shapes and sizes, you know! It’s not just written content either, we can also help with your content strategy. Write down the goals you would like to achieve from the content, such as “clicks to my website”, “more paying customers” or “higher engagement on my website” and we'll make sure we factor that in when drafting your content. If we understand the overall goal, we can deliver a superior service.
Advertise the position
There are multiple platforms at your disposal to hire freelancers (although, you're on the best of them right now!). A Google search will provide a wealth of choice. However, a lot of these sites are saturated - believe me! With the appeal of being self-employed comes a high level of competition. There are many freelancers, all desperate for freelance blogging work on these platforms ready to fill up your inbox. Aim for freelance websites that do not promote unpaid work and other forms of exploitation (such as working for below minimum wage). I’m a freelance writer and member of the Freelancer Club. I got this job through the Freelancer Club to write about hiring freelance writers for Freelancer Club - it doesn't much more 'meta' than that!
You can also find job boards related to the subject matter of the work you require. For example, if you want a freelance blogger to discuss dog breeds, post an ad on specific job boards such as Animal Jobs Direct.
A slightly more time-consuming method is to post the ad on non-freelance specific websites. Twitter uses common hashtags such as #journojobs, #bloggerswanted and #freelancework. Don’t be shy to rework some of the search terms when Tweeting. Send a tweet out with these hashtags as well as a short, yet informative, description of the work desired. Be aware, you may get swamped with applications, most of which will be completely irrelevant. However, dig deep enough, and you may strike gold.
What to include within the advertisement.
Within your ad, include some key terms and information.
Money talk: Unsure of the price? You can give an estimate to the prospective applicants, whilst leaving some flexibility for negotiation when you’ve shortlisted a few candidates.
What's involved: Is it written content, or more short, snappy captions for digital marketing gigs? Do you require someone with experience, or are newbies welcome? What would you like the writer to write about? Do they need to research the topic or be specialists in a particular area? Make sure you make it specific. This stops unqualified freelancers applying – saving yourself valuable time.
How many spaces: Knowing the competitiveness of the role can help freelancers filter out whether they want to apply. Only one position for a big company? Some freelancers may look for something more accessible. An unlimited amount of positions for a start-up blog? Much better, thanks.
Duration: Is it an ongoing project, or is it more a one-off? This can help us weigh up the costs and benefits of working for you.
How to apply: I think it's best to request a CV with a portfolio (examples of work). Ask to see their website. To make it easier, ask them to send any links to similar writing gigs - whether it be a similar voice and style or subject matter. I personally don’t think cover letters are needed when seeking a freelance writer.
It’s in the money, honey
Writing is a craft. Not everyone can make words dance so intricately on a page, enforcing reader action so subtly. Your budget must reflect this. Everyone can write, but not everyone can write well. If this was the case, you’d be writing your own content, right?
Some write as a hobby, but for freelance writers, writing is our full time job and something we have spent years perfecting. Please, respect this.
Like many other things in life, output quality is often a reflection of the resources put in. If you are offering a fee below minimum wage (I have seen adverts for large pieces of content being advertised for $5), you may receive haphazard pieces of work and you'll be contributing to the exploitation of the creative arts. Newbies will accept lower rates, however, there are economic concerns. Pushing the price to an obscenely low rate forces high-quality writers out of the market, and may even reduce professional development for gifted, yet novice, freelance writers.
More experienced writers will require higher rates, which often cannot be negotiated. Many clients who hire experienced writers do so after trying the cheap option and realise the hidden costs outweigh the attractive low rates. Consider the amount of time you'll save in editing the content, communicating the brief or chasing for the article to meet deadline. Multiple that by your hourly rate and ponder the old adage involving peanuts and monkeys.
Look past the jargon
Don’t be afraid to take a chance on service providers. Some people may describe themselves as a freelance content writer, and some as a freelance blogger. This doesn’t really matter – as their CV (or portfolio) will give you a clearer picture of their work. I describe myself as both, I have also volunteered as a freelance content writer for various charities outside of my science-heavy academic background.
Don’t throw someone’s CV away because their CV describes themselves as a medical content writer when you’re looking for an advanced freelancer to form a long term freelance technical writing relationship with. A lot of the time, a good freelancer also has some pretty impressive research skills. Their style is often flexible and adaptable, meaning they can change their tone of voice depending on your needs.
Your decision shouldn’t be based on just their experience, but also their willingness to provide a good service.
How do I know the writers will provide a good service?
If you have written an appealing proposal within your job ad, you probably have a flood of emails in your inbox right now. Sift through these and pick the top 20% of applicants that stood out for you. Ask yourself why they stood out. Was it an impressive CV? Similar writing styles? Affordable, yet promising fees?
Interview them and ask about their relevant experience. Browse their portfolio beforehand. Ask what pieces they have mostly enjoyed writing, and for what reason, and vice versa. Try to gauge whether it is a working relationship you will both enjoy. When you find a writer who loves writing about the topics you give them, you'll benefit from a passionate, hard working freelancer who loves producing captivating content for your audience.
Keep the interview casual, and try to be flexible and accommodating. Being a freelancer means we are not constrained to working the 9-5 requirements of most jobs. Your potential freelancer may have a build-up of clients. They may even live in a time-zone which contradicts yours completely. Don’t expect them to turn up to your London office at 9am. If you do want to meet face to face for a content strategy meeting, pay them for their time.
Once you’ve found your dream freelancer, it's time to make sure that you both keep to your word. You may ask us to sign a contract once it has all been confirmed or we may send you a Service Agreement. Consider the following points in addition to the basics of a contract;
· Deadlines and milestones
· Description of work; word count, SEO etc...
· Content Requirements
Work with the freelancer, not against them
Freelancers want to do a good job, so that you use us again in the future. Some freelancers have been in the game for a while. Others have a lot of knowledge on specific topics. Listen to suggestions. If you want a 2000-word instruction booklet for some technical writing, but we think it will work better as a 500-word bullet list, consider our advice and ask us to expand on why. As a freelancer, there is nothing more frustrating than offering solid advice, and for it not to be considered in the slightest. You know your business better than anyone but we know a few things about content that might be able to help.
Make the writing a process you can both enjoy. Set up a shared Google Drive folder (or other cloud option such as Dropbox) and include all the Docs the freelancer could use to help with the article. References, data, infographics, assets, quotes etc... if you've got the research, share it. Every little helps.
Try and build a lasting relationship with the freelancer. It is easier to keep using the same writer than finding a new one each time.
How to write a solid brief
We love deadlines. In fact, freelance writers need deadlines. Include the date and time of the deadline, how you want it forwarded (via email or Cloud, for example) and in which format. Do you require us to label the segments, and what content is required in each one.
If it’s a staggered, back and forth process, have milestones for each part of the process (outline, first draft, revisions, final edit). I’ve found project management platforms work well for this – I am a keen user of Asana.
Include whether you want to be included in the process much. Do you want them to come to you with new ideas which relate to the project? If so, include your most convenient details of correspondence, including your office hours and time zones. Discuss how you’re going to communicate. Email, phone, WhatsApp, Slack, Google chat… there’s no right or wrong answer just whatever works for both parties.
Include the estimated hours and price. Is the price fixed? State this. Is it per-project or per-hour? State this too. Make sure the rate reflects the estimated hours – don’t have us working for less than minimum wage. Include the required word count. If you’re happy for them to run over time and word count, if the quality is reflective of this – let them know.
Piece Specific Details
Content writing is more than just words on a page. Are you using the content to generate organic traffic? If so, let us know the keywords you'd like us to include. Many writers have Search Engine Optimisation experience that we can offer too. So, if you haven't researched which keywords are best to use, we can help. Show us any previous content that has worked well, and content that hasn’t.
Any other resources such as photos, the product description, analytical data about the target audience can all help your freelancer construct a beautiful and precise piece of content.
Freelance pet peeves
Although we are a mellow bunch, working for ourselves can come with some unique stressors. We respect that not every client is the same, but here are some things that can turn your working relationship from sweet to sour.
Brevity - Can come across as secrecy. We are working with you – please let us know what website we will be published on, and whether our names will be credited. If you don’t have an answer to one of our questions, just let us know!
Late payment – Shows a lack of respect. We shouldn’t have to chase you for the money we worked hard for. Would you do it to a payroll employee? Probably not.
Not knowing what you want – If your job ad states you’re seeking a freelance medical writer, but your brief suggests your topic would be more suited to a freelance blogger specialising in mental health, the piece is going to sound confused and disjointed. We don’t mind revising content, we want to make sure you’re happy with the final product after all, but if the brief contradicts your actual requirements, we may be less willing to write for you again.
Constructive feedback - when providing feedback, please give reasons why you've made the comment. Just saying 'it's good' or 'bad' doesn't help and can start a long-winded back and forth until we randomly get it 'right'. This way of working is costly and often tarnishes the relationship. If you don't like something subjective such as our tone of voice or style, tell us the type of thing you wou;d like or examples of the style from another article for reference.
Reap the benefits of your new-found working relationship
So, you’ve found a gifted and hardworking freelance writer. You’ve provided them with the right materials to create a flawless piece of work for your company. Now, sit back and relax whilst your freelance writer creates a bespoke piece of content tailored to your needs. And, if you’re really impressed, don’t be shy to request more work, write a review on their website, and recommend them to other businesses within the area.