Editor’s Note: This post was written by nDash freelance writer Alicia Bones. To learn more about Alicia — and to have her write for your brand — check out her nDash profile.
If your company has never worked with a freelance writer before, you might worry that only an in-house writer can deliver high-quality content. But this simply isn’t the case. A 2019 survey found that 35 percent of the workforce worked as freelancers in some capacity, and while there may be duds in that group, freelancer writers can be as talented, knowledgeable, and insightful as any in-house content creator.
Hiring freelance writers is a smart decision for several reasons. For one, they can supplement your content and marketing team when you need more content than usual produced, but since they’re not a regular employee, you can use their services flexibly as need demands. You can also work with experts in fields your in-house team can’t cover.
Though there are many reasons to hire freelance writers, you may not get the most from your relationship if you fail to make your partnership transparent from the get-go. Here are some of the common mistakes companies when seeking and onboarding a freelance writer for the first time.
Companies seek freelancers with bottom-of-the-barrel rates.
Content mills are websites where companies can search for freelance writers. There, you’re certain to receive responses from freelancers offering to write for bargain basement prices. Unfortunately, the adage “you get what you pay for” is true in the freelancing writing world, as well.
Freelancers who write well, understand search engine optimization (SEO), and know how to research effectively are not typically hanging out on content mills. This is even more true for subject matter experts.
So, if you do hire a low-rate freelancer, you’ll likely have to spend more time reworking what they’ve written – if not scrapping it altogether. Either of these outcomes make hiring a cut-rate freelancer more of a hassle than it needs to be.
Companies don’t negotiate content parameters or create style guides.
You know your content expectations, but your freelancer doesn’t. Each company has different goals in its content creation plan. So, it’s important to give your new freelancer specific guidelines, like how long you expect blogs or white papers to be, as well as an overview about your key client demographics and your brand identity.
Provide your writer with samples of content you’ve liked produced by other companies, as well as keywords or phrases you want emphasized. This way, the freelancer can have a sense of what you’re looking for – and you’ll have a clearer view, as well.
You could also let your freelancer know you’re not sure what your expectations are – and you can make a plan together.
Companies don’t offer freelancers a schedule or expect content delivery on rushed timelines.
Freelancers are typically juggling many different clients, each of which offers them a variable content load. So, it’s typically not a good idea to let a freelancer know you want something written by the next day and expect a quick turnaround.
Instead, give your writer a week or more to return your content. A good rule of thumb is the more content you need written, the longer a timeframe you should provide.
What’s more, if you can put your freelancer on a semi-regular schedule, they’ll be more able to leave room for you in their schedule.
Companies are radio silent when a freelancer asks questions.
Once you hire a freelancer, you are likely their only point of contact at your company. Especially when they’re just getting started, they may ask clarifying questions about something they’re writing, or indicate that they’re unable to find a piece of information you’ve asked be included.
Be sure to respond to them in a timely fashion. If you don’t answer their questions, that means their writing will stall, which in turn, will lengthen the content’s completion timeframe.
Companies don’t negotiate a revision process.
Different companies have different expectations for the stages of content creation they’d like to see. Some only want the finished articles. Others expect that they’ll see a pitch, an outline, a finished piece of content, and a revision.
There is nothing wrong with either of these expectations, but freelancers should know how many stages of the brainstorming, drafting, and revision stages you’d like to see from the start.
In other words, if you expect an outline before the article, let them know. If you want to one or two revisions included in the content they’re creating, indicate that when you first set up your parameters.
Companies never offer a feedback process, even if they dislike the content.
Some companies treat freelance writers as overly expendable when they may need some help acclimating to your company’s culture and style. If you simply discontinue your relationship without offering feedback, however, you’ll have to start the process of searching for a writer over again.
Building a long-term professional relationship takes time. So, give your writer feedback they can use to improve and meet your expectations.
Hiring Your First Freelance Writer
A freelancer writer can be an important addition to your marketing and communications team, but no matter how experienced, they can’t function without expectations and guidelines. Once you build a relationship with a writer, they can work more autonomously, though regular check-ins and even thanks for exceptional content can go a long way to developing a lasting working relationship.