Ah, writers. Work with them correctly, and they can boost your website traffic, help you get more leads and strengthen your brand.
But what if you don’t work with them correctly?
Well, they’ll probably end up writing your content all wrong, which will hurt your brand if you publish it. Plus, they’ll stress you out. And before long, you’ll find yourself lunging for the liquor cabinet in an attempt to cope with your failing business.
…OK. Maybe I’m exaggerating a bit.
But seriously — even the best writer will disappoint you if you don’t set him up for success (and anyone who tells you otherwise is a big, fat liar). Get the most out of the next freelance writer you hire with these five tips:
1. Choose a writer who specializes in your niche
Fifty-three million Americans are freelance workers, according to a 2014 study commissioned by the Freelancers Union and Elance-oDesk. There are no hard numbers on how many of them are freelance content writers, but rest assured, it’s a lot. You have many options.
But not just any ol’ content writer will do. Search for writers with the specific expertise needed to write for you. That way, you can trust they’re well-equipped for the job and avoid the need to micromanage.
Now, I know what you’re thinking:
OK, that makes sense… but how can I find a writer who specializes in my niche?
Great question. Try one of these methods:
LinkedIn. Use the LinkedIn search tool to find writers who fit your needs. If you need a B2B copywriter to write content for you, look up “B2B copywriter,” like this:
Be as specific as possible when you search, and look for writers who have plenty of experience creating the kind of content you need.
Google. If you’re looking for a local writer, Google is great. If you want someone in Austin who writes IT white papers, type “Austin IT white paper writer” into the search bar. BOOM — done.
ClearVoice. Use the search tools inside ClearVoice Content Studio to identify writers and influencers in your niche and review their published work. ClearVoice has additional content planning tools that enable you to discover trending topics, create concepts and editorial calendars and analyze the competition.
Referrals. Ask people you know if they can recommend a good writer for your project. Not only will this help you cut down on your time spent searching, it helps you find someone with a track record of making clients happy.
A word of warning: Writers who specialize in specific topics or industries tend to charge more for their work. Don’t let the price scare you off. Remember, you’re paying top dollar because you’re hiring a subject matter expert. Settling for someone cheaper means you probably won’t get the results you want.
2. Provide detailed direction and resources
How can you expect a writer to succeed if you haven’t told her your expectations?
It’s simple. You can’t.
For example, if you’re hiring a blogger, don’t just tell her to “write a wonderful blog post” (or some other subjective nonsense). Instead, go into detail about your expectations for:
- Tone/brand voice
- Key words
- Word count
Give your writer any resources she’ll need to write the post, including:
- Style guides
- Marketing personas
- Any information relevant to the subject matter; for example, if she’s writing about an upcoming company event (or something else not Google-able), send as many documents about that event as you can. The more resources she has, the better her writing will be.
And yes, giving this kind of direction will take some time and effort on your part. But it’s much less time-consuming than having to request numerous revisions or re-write the freelancer’s work because she didn’t know what you were looking for in the first place.
3. Ask for an outline
An outline may not always be necessary once you’ve worked with a writer for a while, but you need to request one at first. You don’t need anything major — just an overview of the points he plans on making in his copy. Check out this example blog post outline from the Weidert Group blog:
Pretty simple, right? Your writer can create an outline like this in a matter of minutes, and all you need to do is review it and let him know what (if anything) to change. Doing so will help you avoid any unpleasant surprises when he turns his final draft in.
4. Provide useful feedback often
Writers aren’t mind readers. You need to give good feedback if you expect them to do good work.
Don’t just say something vague like, “This sucks — rewrite it.” Be detailed in your feedback, clearly stating what you would like the writer to improve. Thorough feedback results in fewer revisions and a quicker turnaround time, which is better for both you and the writer.
5. Decide how you will collaborate
If you’ve never worked with freelance writers before, you should know that many of them don’t appreciate unplanned phone calls or in-person meetings.
…That’s because they’re rude, self-absorbed creatures who avoid human contact whenever possible, right?
No. OK, maybe sometimes. It’s because lost time means lost money for freelancers. Any time they have to spend driving to your location and sitting through a meeting costs them.
And random phone calls? You can bet that they can’t stand them. Not because they don’t like talking to you — simply because unscheduled phone calls disrupt their writing process.
Your best bet is to communicate with your writer via email or scheduled phone calls/Skype chats. Ask your writers how they prefer to communicate and make sure their method works for you, too. That way, you both know how and when to get in touch with each other.
There are some other points to iron out, too. How will you continue to work with your writer? Should he pitch ideas to you, or do you want to provide ideas to him? Will you offer final approval on edits, or is the copy yours to do with what you please once he turns it in? Is it agreed that your writer will share it on his social channels, or is amplification solely up to you? Get all this on the table and nail down the details.
And there you have it — all the info you need to stop torturing yourself and every writer you hire (you’re welcome). Keep these tips in mind next time you hire a freelance writer, and you’ll find the results are worth the extra effort on your part.