This is the first part of a series on hiring freelance writers.
Whether you use freelance writers all the time or are getting ready to hire your first you want a firm relationship built on communication and trust. Freelancers of any sort hope you like their work well enough to hire them again and again or, better yet, put them on retainer. You, of course, are hoping to get top-notch content that you either don’t have the time or the skills to produce yourself.
More commonly these days, your relationship will be digital, built on email exchanges, shared links, or access to a CMS or other work-sharing application. You may speak on the phone or see each other in person but the internet has made it possible to select from a wider pool of freelancers than just those geographically nearby. And there’s always Skype if face to face works best for you.
Select the Right Writer
First of all, you need to know if this writer can write. Fortunately, the internet makes this pretty easy. Simply Google the writer’s name to find content under her by-line, read the writer’s blog, and ask for writing samples.
Then check the basics:
- Correct use of grammar
- No spelling errors
- Clear formatting
Many freelance writers have deep industry experience. If you need highly technical content you may want to look for credentials or other proof of industry knowledge. But a good writer is also flexible and an able researcher. Don’t count out an otherwise excellent writer just because she hasn’t written for your business area before.
Getting Started: The First Assignment
The first assignment will start setting the tone for your working relationship. This is where you work closely with your new freelancer to give her the best tools for creating the exact type of content you want. Spend some time preparing an on-boarding packet with the essentials. You have a few decisions to make before sending along your first assignment.
If you have an established style guide make sure you send it to your freelancer. You will be fervently thanked.
What point of view or “person” do you want the content to have?
- First person: “I/we have a solution.”
- Second person: “You need a solution.”
- Third person: “He/she needs (they need) a solution.”
There’s room for each point of view depending on the type of content. Third person is used for more formal communications such as technical white papers or case studies. Second person is typically used for a conversational tone; blog posts, brief articles, marketing white papers, and social media posts draw better responses in second person.
First person should be used extremely sparingly. Most customers are turned off by monologues about your products and services, even if you are talking about benefits. First person is rather intense and is not focused on your customer. More often it can sound patronizing and very sales-y; avoid this latter at all costs.
Who is your audience?
Target content to a specific audience. It is clicked on, “liked,” and shared more than content that tries to speak to everyone. Provide your freelancer with a buyer persona or other description of who you want to read this piece. Include more than bare demographics, include the problem this audience needs solved, who else the audience may need to convince, and any specific points you want made. In other words, what question is this content answering?
Do you have resources or will you need the writer to research?
You may already know best the types of resources with the information needed for your customers and prospects. Share these resources with your freelance writer. Find general resources about your industry to support all writing assignments and find specific ones for the content piece you need right now. Provide links to websites or webpages. If you can only find the resource in print, provide a copy to the writer.
If you don’t know of any resources off the top of your head, provide a detailed description of the topic and let the writer know she will need to do some research. Be prepared to pay for research time either as a separate line item or rolled into the cost of the content.
Set the tone.
How do you want your content to sound? Are you envisioning something humorous or do you need something more serious? Is there a particular style you prefer? Send links to some examples of content you admire and would like to emulate. Maybe you like the writer’s natural voice. Be sure to communicate your expectations.
Content marketing has become the most successful type of marketing for the 21st century. The form of the content may change but it will always need a writer to flesh out the basic idea. Selecting the best writer for you will take preparation, patience, and good communication skills. Build a beautiful business relationship from the beginning.