recruiting freelance writers

Recruiting Freelancers: 5 Things to Look For

Is recruiting freelancers on your to-do list? Do a search for “full-time writer” on any major job board, and two things immediately become apparent:

#1. There are A LOT of companies looking for writers
#2. These companies seem to know exactly what they’re looking for

But here’s the thing: as we discussed last week, the modern writing team consists of in-house talent and freelance writers. You need them both. What’s more, the process for recruiting freelancers is much different than that of a full-time writer but just as important.

So to help you build an elite content community, we’re going to cover 5 things to look for when recruiting freelance writers. Here they are, in order of importance:

#1. Expertise

Beware of generalists. They are easy to find, but they usually struggle to deliver authoritative content. Like most companies, you’re probably looking for someone who’s written extensively on a specific topic or for a specific audience. If that’s the case, start your search by making it as granular as possible (e.g., keywords, topics, etc.) and then broaden the scope if needed.

recruiting freelance writers
Topics from a writer’s profile in the nDash platform.

Most companies do this the other way around and, as a result, wind up going with the first semi-qualified writer they can find. The diversity of the freelance talent pool means that you never have to settle. The perfect writer is out there—you just need to know what you’re looking for.

#2. Experience

When it comes to recruiting freelance writers, it’s important to note the distinction between expertise and experience. Whereas expertise shows us what they know, experience tells us what they’ve done, for whom, and for how long.

Here’s why it matters: A writer may know a topic inside and out, but maybe they’re only accustomed to writing one piece of content per month. Maybe they only specialize in a certain type of deliverable. Maybe they’ve never been part of a fast-paced marketing team. Or, maybe they don’t understand the nuances of branded content. Maybe they are a casual moonlighter who can’t handle much of a workload. These are big “maybes” that can derail your content objectives.

By closely examining their resume—just as you would do for a full-time hire—you’ll get a much better sense of whether a writer is going to fit into your content operation. Look at their job history, their titles, their responsibilities, and the types of companies they’ve worked for, and the picture will become much clearer.

#3. Availability

One could argue that availability (or lack thereof) would be the top criterion when recruiting freelance writers. After all, what good is a freelance writer if they’re not taking on new projects? But I’ll explain shortly why that’s not the case. In the meantime, it is critical to first determine how much work the writer is able to take on and over what period of time, as this will impact how many writers you’ll want to recruit.

This is where I see brands make a big mistake. They find a good fit, send the writer a few assignments, and then ghost them. After a few weeks or months go by, they reach out to the writer again, only to find them unavailable for work. When recruiting, it’s extremely important to know your publishing cadence and communicate this to the writer upfront. Otherwise, you’ll always be recruiting and never develop a real relationship.

#4. Price

As the old saying goes: “you get what you pay for.” And if you’re looking to pay the lowest possible price for written content, then you’re probably going to receive low-value content from an unmotivated writer. Wish we had a better answer for you!

Ultimately, cheap content comes with a cost of its own, and it’s measured in the time you’ll spend editing and rewriting the material in order to fit your brand guidelines. Generally speaking, the more you pay, the less time you’ll spend on these types of tasks, so be sure to budget for time and money accordingly.

recruiting freelance writers
Example of a writer’s rate card in the nDash platform.

Back to availability for a moment. At a certain price, every writer is available. The same as for a full-time hire. If you are able to offer more money and a better working environment, you will be able to lure a writer away from some of their lower-paying clients.

If you’re looking for a better gauge of what to pay a writer for certain types of content (in certain types of industries), then check out our content creation pricing guide.

#5. Creativity

Back in our agency days, whenever we recruited writers, creativity was always one of our top priorities. We wanted to know that they could not only deliver what we asked for but that they could contribute content ideas of their own.

To do this, we asked them to pitch us 2-3 blog post ideas, which included a title, abstract, and other monitor details. Instead of a writing test, which was costly to administer (since we always paid the writers), this process of ideation was a low-cost way for us to measure creativity. And for the writers, it was a far less time-consuming way of showing their potential value.

recruiting freelance writers
Example content pitches in nDash.

Of course, there are other ways to infer creativity from a potential freelance writer. That includes reading over their samples, checking out their client testimonials, and so forth. But asking for a few original ideas is often a faster and more accurate gauge of creativity.

Final Thoughts About Recruiting Freelancers

Finding writers is easy. Finding the perfect writer(s) is much more of a challenge and one that many companies never overcome. Luckily, nDash makes this process of recruiting freelancers incredibly simple. If you’re looking for help in building an elite team of writers, be sure to create a free company account or give us a shout!