Hiring Freelance Writers? 4 Tips to Get Their Best Work
There’s a subtle art to hiring freelance writers. Striking the perfect balance between your budget and quality writing that drives business goals isn’t easy.
But let’s imagine that you’ve done all the hard work already. You’ve identified some writers with the experience and expertise you’re looking for. You’ve spent time reviewing writing samples. Maybe you’ve done a few writing tests to make sure you’re choosing the right person for the job.
After all that, you can get to the point of hiring freelance writers in the first place—creating great content for your website.
Except that’s still easier said than done. If you want to get a freelance writer’s best work, you need to set them up for success.
Working with Freelance Writers: The Writer’s Perspective
Like many content marketers, I came to this field from a writing background.
For over 5 years, my full-time job was to work with clients on fulfilling their content needs. And in that time, I learned what everyone in client services eventually learns—that not every client is a great fit.
If you’ve tried hiring freelance writers in the past, you’ve probably come across the scenario at least once. You take all the right steps and find a writer who seems like a good fit only to get a subpar draft in return.
From your end, there’s nothing worse than spending money on content that you have to rewrite. On the writer’s side, there’s nothing worse than delivering what feels like exactly what the client is looking for and hearing that it missed the mark completely.
How do we end up with that disconnect?
Every situation is unique. But here are a few questions that have come to mind after a writing assignment didn’t go quite as planned:
- Why didn’t they tell me that key point to highlight before we started?
- Did they have a keyword in mind, or should I have come up with one?
- Was there a certain CTA we should have built the blog post around?
- Should we have had more discussions about brand voice?
- Why didn’t they say that certain product descriptions and web pages were outdated?
When you’re hiring professional freelance writers with relevant experience and paying them well, it’s unlikely you’ll get a draft that’s structured poorly and loaded with all kinds of typos and grammatical errors.
The reasons you feel the writer delivered badly written content will be more subtle. Avoiding this situation altogether requires more work up front to get on the same page with your freelance content creators.
4 Tips to Get the Best Work When Hiring Freelance Writers
Outsourcing content creation doesn’t make this a set-it-and-forget-it process.
You’ll get as much out of hiring freelancer writers as you put into it. But unless you’ve been managing a team of freelancers for years, you may not know what that actually involves.
These 4 tips will help you get the most out of a freelance writer (and come across as a dream client).
1. Start with the Basics
You’re hiring a freelance writer to tap into their unique expertise. However, you can’t just give them a headline and one line of an idea and hope for the best. That’s just asking for a poor outcome.
The world’s best freelance writers will actively send you their own brief to fill out when you’re about to start an assignment. But what if that’s not how your freelance writer works? It’s up to you to fill the gap and make sure you’re both on the same page.
Your goal is to provide as much detail about your needs and expectations as possible so that the writer starts down the right path. Some key information will include:
- The High Level Overview: Explain the big picture idea that you want covered in the article. If you have them, give the freelancer some links to other articles that have influenced your thinking.
- The Goal: What’s your plan for the content? The freelancer needs to know if it should be written as an awareness piece or pull in product information to be more conversion focused.
- The Publisher: Don’t let there be confusion about where the article will be published. If it’s a byline, make sure they understand the editorial guidelines.
- The Keyword(s): This writing assignment will ideally be part of a bigger marketing plan. Clue your writer into the strategy and provide keywords they should be targeting.
These points are just about the bare minimum that you should be providing to freelance writers. It’s the foundation for a strong relationship. And each step you take beyond these basics, the more likely you are to get a draft you’re happy with.
2. Share Your Brand’s Standpoint on the Topic
Don’t stop refining your freelance writer’s brief once you’ve covered all the basics. The basic information will make sure that you and the writer are on the same page. At the very least, you won’t get a draft that completely misses the mark.
But you don’t want the bar for content quality to be whether or not it misses the market entirely.
You want high quality content that your audience will actually want to read. That’s why the freelance writing brief has to go beyond the basics.
One thing you should include is an explanation of your brand’s unique viewpoint on the topic. You’ve chosen the topic for a reason. It meets that perfect intersection of what your audience cares about and what your brand specializes in. Why write a generic overview of the topic that your readers have probably already seen before?
You’re hiring freelance writers, not mind readers. Give them insight into your unique spin on a topic. This is the information they need to push your content from good enough to truly great. And better yet, it will give them the context necessary to capture your brand’s voice.
3. Leave Space for the Writer’s Creativity
There are times when marketing managers go overboard with brand voice and style guidelines.
Is your brand voice important? Absolutely. However, focusing on whether or not the writer has mastered your voice and style as opposed to the actual content can be a problem.
Your audience wants content that delivers value in some way. They want actionable information and ideas that influence new strategies.
What they aren’t looking for is absolute writing perfection. Your content should be written well and in a way that clearly conveys the intended message. But writing a freelancer off because they included an Oxford comma and you prefer not to will make your job a lot more difficult.
Strike a balance between brand voice/style guidelines and freelancer creativity. You’re hiring professional writers with their own voices, experiences, and ideas. When you give them space to leverage all of that, they’ll return some standout content for your brand.
View yourself as the editor whenever you work with a freelance writer. Give them space to do what they do best. Then, take the time to edit that content so it fits your expectations for brand voice and style.
Writing perfection isn’t the goal you’re striving for. Focus on audience value and you’ll get more out of a freelance writer engagement.
4. Provide In-Depth Feedback for Long-Term Relationships
You could apply the first three tips to any individual freelance writing assignment.
But the real secret to getting the most value when hiring freelance writers? Building long-term relationships with your favorites.
Take it from someone who has done this for years. A freelance writer’s favorite clients are the ones who always come back with more assignments. Not just because of the consistent revenue stream—but because the assignments get easier and easier to complete.
Freelance writers are great at adapting to new clients quickly. But their value compounds when they writer for your brand over and over again. They start to refine their understanding of your brand voice. They gain a deeper understanding of the messages you’re trying to convey. And they learn more about your target audience as they continue to research your topics.
Feedback is the foundation of any great freelancer/client relationship. For every assignment you do, provide feedback that includes the following.
What You Loved
Whether you have dozens of edits or none, let the writer know what you loved about the content. Positive feedback will motivate your writers to put in the extra effort for your work. And providing specifics about what you love about one piece of content will help writers double down on those things on the next assignments.
Things to Avoid
Having a style guide is useful. But if you’re finding a recurring issue, go the extra mile to explain the problem. When you give writers context for parts of the draft you didn’t like, they’ll internalize that feedback and change accordingly. Simply redlining an article to death with no comments probably won’t lead to much positive change.
Ideas for the Future
Don’t edit freelance writing assignments in a vacuum. Go into the process assuming that you’ll build a long-term relationship. Offer comments on certain ideas that you think can lead to future content opportunities. This will give freelancers more insight into your thought processes and help them create more relevant content pitches moving forward.
Internal Data for Revisions
There are times when you’ll feel a piece of content could use more supporting evidence. Why not include internal data or links to case studies along with your feedback? Everyone wants to include data to support claims. But that doesn’t mean the stats are readily available for every point a writer makes. Give them all the context they need to make revisions that you’ll love.
When you provide fair, actionable feedback, your freelance writers will appreciate working with you even more. Don’t get lost in the minor details. Build relationships based on feedback that will lead to content that you and your writer are proud of.
How Hard Is It to Hire a Freelance Writer?
There are millions of freelance writers looking for work. Is it really that hard to hire one that can do the job well?
Yes and no. Finding a freelance writer is easy. Hiring one that has the right industry experience, subject matter expertise, and writing skills at a price that fits your budget isn’t.
The last thing you want to do is blindly hire a freelance writer and get a subpar draft in return. Doing the work upfront to get on the same page will make sure you get quality content for your money. And over time, you’ll build a community of freelancers you can go back to again and again.
Have any tips for finding the best freelance writers? Head over to LinkedIn and let us know what you think!