So, you’ve decided that you need a writer. Hiring a freelancer rather than employing someone makes
good financial sense, you only need to pay them for each project and don’t have to worry about having another person on payroll.
But how do you choose one?
How do you wade through the thousands of freelance writers online to find the one that you can trust with your content? How can you tell a professional writer from someone who writes badly or copies from others? How can you make sure you are getting what you pay for?
By starting your search at the beginning.
What do you need from your writer?
Technical expertise? Medical knowledge? Good writers specialize in topics they are familiar with, so find one that writes about your subject. People who say that they can write about anything can rarely do so in depth, and they’re unlikely to be able to consistently come up with new ideas to engage your audience.
What sort of writer do you want?
Do you need someone to write a blog or produce content for your website? Are you looking for advertising material or articles for your company magazine? Or a white paper, helping customers learn about your product? Perhaps, as an expert in your field, you need ghost written content that you can put your own name to.
Knowing exactly what you need will narrow your search. Here are some other things to consider.
What’s your budget?
Some writers charge by the word, others by the hour or per project. Paying per word can be tricky, as the writer may pad out the article with fluff to meet a target payout. If you want concise writing that gets to the point quickly, a per word rate isn’t the best option.
When a writer charges per project, they have worked out how long the job will take and calculated the cost against their hourly rate. If they give you an hourly rate, they should also let you know how long the job will take.
Some writers don’t publish their rates on their website, preferring to discuss the project before talking about money. Others post their rates so that clients know what to expect before making contact. It’s a personal preference, and the subject of much debate among freelancers. However, it makes no difference to their writing ability.
Rates vary greatly between writers. Some of this is due to living costs, someone in India can afford to work at a lower rate than someone in the UK or US. Others write part time, alongside another job or write as a hobby. New writers tend to keep their rates low in order to gain experience, whilst better, more experienced writers can charge much more.
When deciding between writers rates, consider how much their work, and their time, is worth to you. How much time are they saving you and your business? How much more productive will you be by outsourcing your writing? How much income with this writing project bring you in the weeks, months and years to come?
Once you’ve found a writer in your niche, check out their clips or portfolio to get an idea of their writing style. If you like what you see, it’s time to get in touch. Arrange a mutually convenient time for your interview. This may be via telephone, google hangouts or Skype.
What questions should I ask?
Tell them about your project and the type of writer you are looking for. Give them time to ask questions about you and your company. They should ask you about the scope of the project, whether you have writer guidelines or a style of writing you prefer, as well as your timeline and budget.
Do you need them to do hours of research or interviews? Do you want them to source photos? Do you want someone to update your blog for you or just email you the content? Do you want them to respond to blog comments and share their work on social media?
Depending on the work involved this could be included in their quote, or they may charge extra.
Ask whether their quote includes revisions. The first draft isn’t always perfect. Just as a new employee needs time to learn the ropes, a writer may need more than one draft to capture the right tone of voice.
How easy are they to contact?
It’s unlikely that your writer will be available to chat to you 24/7, they will have other clients and other commitments. They should however, be able to give you times when they are contactable, whether that’s by phone or email. Let them know how often you want to be updated on progress.
Find out their payment terms and how they want to be paid. If they are in a different country, one of you will be liable for bank transfer fees. Will you be paying them in a different currency? Make sure you take the exchange rate into account.
A written agreement is essential for both sides. This can be a formal contract, or an email stating the terms of your agreement. This will include details of the project, the deadline and the amount you have agreed to pay. If they are ghost writing on your behalf you may want them to sign a Non Disclosure Agreement so they cannot claim the work as theirs at a later date.
For ongoing, longer projects it’s common to have a review of the contract every 3 to 6 months to take into account any changes to the agreement.
As with any working relationship, good communication is essential to its success. The clearer you are about what you need, the easier it will be for your writer to get things right.