This post, 4 Secrets: Knock-Out Content from Freelancers, was written by nDash community member Jaime Saine.
Hiring a freelancer content marketer or writer can sound like a brilliant and terrifying idea all at once. It can help you ramp up your content production without the expense of an in-house marketing team, but it can also lead to a lot of frustration, wasted time, and sub-par content.
How do you find a good freelancer? How can you be sure they’ll produce usable content? It’s a two-fold process of finding the right person and setting them up for success, which doesn’t have to be as difficult as it sounds. Here are our four secrets to getting great content from freelance writers every time.
1. Have a Brand Voice & Standards
The last thing you want from freelance content is for every piece to sound completely different. The best way to avoid this is to have a brand voice and content standards. While you can get extremely nuanced when refining your brand voice, it doesn’t necessarily have to be complicated. At a minimum, establish if your brand voice leans more serious or casual and if your style uses the Oxford comma. Share this information (or any official brand standard documentation) and a few of your existing blogs or web pages as examples so your freelancer can get a feel for your tone and style. If you have expectations — such as every blog post must contain one recent statistic — share that expectation with the writer at the beginning of the engagement.
If you have defined buyer personas or ideal customer profiles, also share those with the writer. A content marketing freelancer will understand how to adjust their writing to fit these profiles (one of the reasons to hire a freelancer content marketer rather than just a freelance writer … more on that below).
2. Choose High-Quality Freelancers
There are plenty of sites that offer freelance writing services, but they’re as different as Walmart and Nordstrom’s. While it may be tempting to go with a bargain freelancer, you risk getting a piece that is poor quality (or even unusable), not getting a completed piece at all, or causing yourself a lot of time and headaches with revisions and editing. If you’re hiring a freelance writer or content marketer, find a reliable freelancer site that is committed to providing high-quality services.
When evaluating individual freelancers, consider narrowing your focus to people who have specific content marketing experience. Many people are hobby writers, but someone with specific content marketing experience will understand the nuances of writing for a consumer-based audience and content marketing best practices. Also, narrow your search to writers who have experience (or, at the very least, passion) in your industry. This is particularly important in more technical B2B industries where the subject matter can be harder to learn and where consumers have very little patience for “marketing fluff.” Once you’ve identified some potential freelancers, ask for writing samples and about their research process. This will give you a feel for the quality of their work.
When you’ve found a writer you like, stick with them! Over time, they’ll get a better feel for your voice and understanding of your company and industry. This will result in better content at a faster cadence. They may even be able to start suggesting topics or take over blog outlining (which we’ll cover next).
3. Provide Keywords and an Outline
You might be hiring a freelance writer because you want to offload content creation, but that doesn’t mean you should rely on the freelancer completely. You know your business and industry better than they do, so provide them with the guidance to be successful from draft one.
Before hiring a freelancer, do some keyword research and identify good topics. When engaging a freelance writer, provide them with:
- An assignment title
- The target keywords for that content piece (keep it to 2-3 keywords max)
- An outline for the piece
You might not be a professional marketer or writer, but that doesn’t matter. Remember, YOU know your business. The outline doesn’t need to be more than a few bullet points of topics the writer should include. This will give the writer a much better framework to work with than just a title alone. If you’re not comfortable outlining the piece yourself, ask the writer to provide an outline for review and approval before they complete a draft. This will extend your engagement but ensure the piece is in line with what you want and need. We also recommend sharing some of your preferred industry publications and resources to help point the writer in the right direction.
4. Set Expectations for Revisions
Very few content pieces are 100% perfect after the first draft, even ones written by in-house content teams, so you should plan for some revisions. However, working with a high-quality freelancer is not an ongoing engagement until you deem the piece to be perfect. Instead, the writer will likely have a set number of revisions they’re willing to conduct. When starting an engagement with a new freelancer, pre-negotiate a set number of revisions and timelines for those revisions to make sure your expectations align and you are both comfortable with the scope of the engagement.
When discussing the number of revisions, you should also establish revision timelines. These timelines work both ways — you need to commit to reviewing the submitted piece and providing feedback within a certain timeframe, just as you expect the writer to hit their deadlines.
Keeping communication about assignments, revisions, and timelines in a centralized platform can help reduce confusion or misunderstandings.
Final Thoughts on Getting Top-Notch Content From Freelancers
By putting the work in when engaging with a freelance writer, you’re setting yourself, your company, and the freelancer up for success. There are many options when it comes to freelance content, and many paths lead to disappointment and frustration. Take your time, be diligent, and commit to hiring a high-quality writer and you’ll find that getting knock-out content from a freelancer isn’t that difficult after all.