How to Vet a Freelancer

How to Vet a Freelance Writer

Thinking about hiring freelance writers is intimidating for some, but that doesn’t have to be the case. If your company is serious about content marketing, then you’ve likely looked at how hiring a freelance writer can supercharge those efforts.

During 2020, freelance work contributed $1.2 trillion to the U.S. economy. Companies need to have a strong roster of freelancers who are available to pick up work on demand, and this figure proves they’re available and working.

One of the best ways to minimize any risks while simultaneously receiving high-quality content is by learning how to vet a freelancer.

Where and How to Find Freelance Writers to Vet

Finding and vetting freelancers takes some pre-planning. For example, you’ll need to gather your brand’s style guides, messaging, subject matter experts, competitors, keyword research, content strategy, editorial calendar, examples of top-performing content, and more. That way, when searching for freelancers, you can create a streamlined onboarding flow.

After gathering these materials, you have to know where to find freelance writers. Here are examples of where to begin your search:

Visit Competing Blogs or Websites to Find Writers in Your Niche to Contact

Look at the “about” pages on these sites to see if they list team members, including freelance writers. Or search for content similar to what you want to showcase on your blog. Is there a writer biography containing contact information? If not, consider looking the writer up using professional sites, like LinkedIn, and reach out to them there.

Ask Colleagues for Referrals

Contact colleagues and ask for word-of-mouth recommendations. The quickest way to receive referrals is by posting on your networks—like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. While it might take time to go through the messages before finding a writer that fits your needs, it’s worth it to put your feelers out there. You’ll find this is especially true when freelancers recommend themselves and make a good case for why they’re a good candidate.

Consider Using an Agency or Platform

When marketers partner with an outside agency, like nDash, for example, that effort helps them locate elite writers who know how to create materials within their niche. You’ll find this is especially true if companies have small marketing teams.

Take Ivy Exec, for example. Their five-person marketing team, which includes one full-time content manager, relied heavily on freelancers and used nDash to streamline their content production process. mabl is another example of how leaning on a platform like nDash takes the burden off an already overtaxed team.

Steps to Take Before Contacting a Freelance Writer

After finding and curating a list of freelance writers, it’s time to start the vetting process. However, you must do a few things before contacting them. By following these steps, you’re ensuring the candidate meets your company’s standards.

Step One: Read Their Clips

Experienced freelancers have published work available for you to read online. If they have a website, look for clips linked there and read their blog. If they don’t have a website, search for their name and read what other companies publish. Reading their previous clips helps you determine if:

  • Their work is easy to read and understand.
  • If you like their voice and tone
  • The industries and niches they write for

Step Two: Study Their Freelance Writer Portfolio

Portfolios are a goldmine of information about a potential candidate, including finding their clips and seeing other information about their background. Their portfolio should show you if the candidate worked on projects similar to yours, their location (for example, is their time zone going to be a challenge, or is it the same as yours?), and specialties you can browse through.

Step Three: Look at Their Social Media Profiles

Marketers don’t have to follow freelance candidates on their social media profiles. However, it’s a good idea to see what they’re posting publicly on Facebook (pages or profiles), LinkedIn, and Twitter. LinkedIn is valuable because you can read endorsements and recommendations on the candidate’s profile.

What to Do After Contacting Freelance Writers

What many brands don’t realize is that the highest quality writers often have full calendars. More often than not, they reject clients that don’t fit what they consider an ideal client. That’s why, when contacting freelance writers, you must get their attention by convincing them it’s worth working with your brand.

Start this communication by:

  • Introducing who you are and your company.
  • Briefly discuss your company’s value proposition (your company’s purpose)
  • Look at the writer’s previous work, and pitch them an idea, topic, or assignment that matches.
  • Offer specific times to talk to make the decision easier for them.
  • Include a brief comment asking them for a recommendation if they aren’t available to work.

The Vetting Process Begins with Asking Questions

An essential part of the vetting process involves asking candidates the right questions. That way, you can see if potential candidates who look good on paper can prove their skills. Qualifying freelance writing candidates means you’re ensuring they align with your company 100%.

What are your industry specialties?

While research uncovers a significant amount of information about the candidate, it’s helpful to ask them directly about their specialties. For example, you might want to hire a freelancer because of their experience with case studies, but learn they also specialize in creating infographics. Or you might need a freelancer to write white papers and learn they have expertise with email conversions.

Have you ever been used as an SME, and if so, can you provide an example?

An SME (subject matter expert) is an individual who is an authority in a specific topic or area. These individuals have a deep understanding of a specific department, equipment type, function, job, machine, material, process, or technology. If a company or news outlet used the freelancer as an SME, the individual gave credibility to that content.

Can you explain your approach or process for starting a new assignment?

Asking this question gives marketers a general understanding of how the freelance writer works. That process could include brainstorming topics, fleshing out ideas in an outline, interviewing subject matter experts (if the assignment calls for it), writing the first draft, and their submission process.

Do you have SEO experience?

There’s a difference between a journalist and an SEO content writer. Journalists have experience in finding and interviewing sources to create fact-based pieces. SEO content writers specialize in using SEO strategies for their deliverables. Which do you need? Understanding what your company needs helps capitalize on the candidate’s skills.

Don’t Forget to Ask for References

In 2020, 59 million people worked in the freelance industry in the United States. With that level of competition, marketers must request references when vetting freelancers. It’s easier for you to eliminate red flags when speaking with a candidate’s past clients.

Contacting references not only helps companies pare down their list of candidates, but these conversations also give you an idea of how the freelancers work and what you can expect from them based on others’ experiences.

Ask the Writer to Complete a Trial Assignment

The vetting process also includes determining if the writer can meet your expectations. Some companies ask writers to complete a trial assignment, while others work with freelancers on a trial basis. No matter which you choose, supply candidates with:

  • A content brief detailing what you expect the content to include (proposed title, keywords, meta description, subheadings, and more)
  • Your brand’s style guides.
  • A deadline (this could be for the first draft or a series of deadlines the ensure they cover revisions)

Start with a small project, test the waters, and then expand from there. That way, you’re sure the arrangement works for you and the freelancer alike.

The Importance of Vetting Freelance Writers

Your company’s goal is to feature premium content. Just like you wouldn’t hire someone off the street without an interview for an internal role, you shouldn’t work with a freelancer without vetting them first. Having a good vetting process helps you hire elite writers with the knowledge, specialties, and expertise your company needs.

Vetting freelancers can be costly and time-consuming. One solution for these issues is using a freelance writing platform, like nDash, that vets each writer regarding their skills, knowledge, background, and writing samples.


What is the best way to find and hire a freelancer?

Visit competing blogs or websites within your niche, ask colleagues for referrals, or consider using an agency platform.

How do I find the best freelance writer?

Join freelance communities, look for talent at colleges, visit freelance job sites, and ask for recommendations within your network.

Which freelancer platforms also provide a vetting process?

Because there are thousands of freelancers working in the industry, companies often find no set checks and balances system regarding quality. Freelancer platforms, like nDash, provide a vetting process to help companies pare down their lists of candidates. Avoid platforms where freelancers bid for jobs or post low rates—remember, you’re getting what you pay for on these sites.