5 Simple But Vital Steps to Hiring a Freelance Writer

There are many reasons you might hire a freelance writer. A few include product descriptions, ad copy, website copy, blog posts, business proposals and plans, and research papers. The key is finding someone who can do what you need, the way you envision it, without it taking forever. How exactly do you accomplish that?

It’s not as difficult as you might initially think. In fact, if you follow these five steps, you’ll find that the process is not only easy, but lands you the exact freelance writer you need.

Know Your Own Needs

It sounds overly simple and you might have even rolled your eyes when you read it. But you’d be surprised at the number of people and businesses that don’t actually know what they need written. They just know they need… stuff.

Are you looking for blog posts? Do you need product descriptions for a new line? Do you need copy for a new website you’re building (an about us page, home page, etc.)? Do you need a combination of these things?

Determine more about what you need. How many words are you looking for? A 500-word blog post, 4,000 words for an about us page, 10,000 words split between a combo of blogs and copy? Make notes on all of these things so you don’t forget anything.

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Next, consider the quality. Naturally, you want the absolute best. But keep in mind that with high quality comes a high price. Some things may not need top-notch quality, while others absolutely do. Determine which things must be perfectly polished and which ones can make do with a little less shine.

A final consideration here is the complexity of what you need written. A 200-word product description is going to be much easier and faster to write than a deep dive into the 40-year history of your company. If there’s going to be a lot of research involved, this will make the assignment more complex, and that means more time and work for the writer. They need to know this from the beginning.

Determine Your Budget

Freelance writer prices vary wildly. Newer writers may be willing to take less in order to get work and get their name out there, while more established ones may charge higher prices. Those that write white papers are likely going to charge considerably more than those who write blog posts.

While you probably won’t be able to persuade a writer to take less than they usually charge, knowing your budget ensures that you don’t waste your time or theirs. It will also help you see if your budget is realistic. If you find that out of 10 writers, all 10 quote prices far outside your budget, you may need to reconsider whether you’ve allowed enough funds for this project.

Find Some Freelance Writers

The first thing you’ll want to understand is that this process won’t be anything like the interview process you’ve established for hiring employees. A freelance writer is an independent contractor, a business providing a service to you, and not your employee.

The best way to find freelance writers is to go online. There are numerous ways to accomplish this task. You can head to a marketplace, such as Upwork, Craig’s List or Scripted, to find multiple writers in one place. You can look for a content-marketing agency. Or you can look for individuals who market themselves as freelance writers.

There are pros and cons to each of these methods, which means that you have to determine which one is more likely to meet your needs. An individual or content-marketing agency will be able to provide you with a deeper relationship with one writer, which means that as you go forward, it will be faster and easier to get exactly what you’re looking for. The writer will become more familiar with your needs, style and tone, and you’l be able to more easily communicate your assignments because you won’t need to go over the basics repeatedly.

A marketplace with multiple writers allows you to see multiple writers’ work, getting a feel for different voices and which one(s) might be a better fit for you. One thing to note about marketplaces, though: sites such as Fiverr and Upwork promise to connect you with high-quality writers. While I won’t say that high-quality writers aren’t on those sites, I will say that both sites offer very low prices.

When it comes to writing, the saying that you get what you pay for is very true. If you’re only paying $5 for a piece of content, or if you take the lowest bidder, you’re going to get the kind of work that $5 or the lowest bid gets you — quickly dashed off, churned out and sent to you, possibly with little to no research and little editing.

Paying more isn’t a guarantee of higher quality, but does make it far more likely.

Assign Your First Piece

You may have multiple pieces you want written, but ideally, you’ll start with assigning a single piece. This will let you get a feel for the writer’s style and whether it works for you. You’ll evaluate their style, turnaround time, ability to follow instructions and more with this piece.

Make sure of the following:

  • Clarity: Be explicit about what you want. How long is the piece? What is the topic? Is there an outline or any specific things you want mentioned? Do you have a style or format preference? What is the purpose behind the content?
  • Provide all necessary info: Any links, keywords, or images that are to be included or are applicable to the project should be provided to the writer before they begin writing. Let the writer know where the content will be posted when it’s finished, and where they can find out more about your business before they begin writing. All of these things will help the writer craft a better piece.
  • Show some examples: If there are other pieces that capture the same style or idea that you want, send links to them to your writer. While you don’t want your writer to copy it exactly, it will give them a good sense of what you’re looking for.
  • Communicate your desires: When is your deadline for this piece? Do you want the writer to write the whole thing and turn it in, or write the first third and have you review it before continuing? Do you want them to be available for edits or revisions?

Evaluate the Test Content

After you receive the content, it’s time to evaluate. You’ll want to evaluate the writer’s skill, of course, but you should also be evaluating yourself. If you find areas where the writer didn’t do what you expected, ask yourself if you were clear enough or if you could have explained it differently to ensure they understood. If they missed a deadline, or didn’t provide a deliverable, determine if that was an error on their part or a lack of clarity on yours.

Provide some feedback to the writer, and request edits if needed. Share your thoughts on areas where they missed the mark, or those where they went above and beyond what you expected. If they failed to deliver something, ask for an explanation. While you may have thought things were clear, you may learn there was a miscommunication — or even something as simple as a missing letter in your email address when they tried to send it to you.

Most important, learn from this process and apply that knowledge going forward with this writer or others. Figure out areas where you can be more clear about your needs. If the writer simply wasn’t a good fit, see if you can figure out why so you don’t make the same mistake twice.

Hiring a freelance writer isn’t difficult, but it’s also not something you can do in just a few minutes, either. It requires an investment of your time, energy, and thought to ensure that you get what you need. That investment will pay off when you find a writer, or a few writers, who are able to provide the kind of content you need.

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