With Valentine’s Day coming up this week, I’ve been thinking about matchmaking—no, not in the romantic or dating sense 😉 , but how we can connect with the right business partners who can help us support our business goals.
Although entrepreneurs typically invest in educating themselves in as many aspects of business as they can, many simply don’t have the time or energy to do everything–and the smart entrepreneur doesn’t. They know when it’s time to invest in help from other professionals.
A professional freelance writer can save you time, energy and plenty of marketing content headaches. But for many business owners, hiring a freelance writer can feel risky. What questions should you ask? How do you know if the writer will meet your expectations? What should you expect from a freelance writer? Under what circumstances shouldn’t you hire a freelancer?
What is a freelance writer anyway? A freelance writer creates professional grade content for a variety of marketing materials, ranging from an assortment of web content and lead magnets to newsletters and presentations. A freelance writer might also write for publication, blog, guest post on blogs, ghostwrite and write product reviews. Freelance writers generally have multiple projects going at one time for a variety of clients.
Successful freelance writers are self-starters who set their own schedules. Some are general writers, meaning they write for a variety of industries, while others are niche writers and prefer to write for a specific industry.
Where do you begin? First, it can be helpful—although not a requirement—to find a writer who works in your industry. Oftentimes, you can get referrals from other trusted business owners or creative entrepreneurs, which can make finding a writer who is a good fit easier.
Keep in mind that just because a writer works in your industry, doesn’t mean they are going to understand your specific business inside and out. For example, my ideal clients are entrepreneurs in the health and wellness industry who focus on helping people look and feel good and live their best lives. This is an expansive industry that not only encompasses healthcare practitioners, but also includes business and life coaches, nutrition experts, therapists, home/business design professionals, skincare and salon & spa business owners.
Hiring a writer who isn’t too close to your product or service often works in your favor because they are able to immediately identify difficult-to-understand services and jargon and help you create clear, articulate copy for your prospective clients or customers.
What questions should you ask? Set up a short call or meeting with a prospective writer. Just as you would in any interview, ask them about themselves to get a sense about who they are as an individual, what they value and whether or not they’ll align with your business objectives.
What is their professional background? What is their process like? Does the project fit within their area of expertise? Can they offer feedback on your marketing materials/site before you start working together? How many revisions do they offer for a given project? How do they manage payment? Can they be flexible with how you are planning to budget your content marketing? Do they offer a refund policy?
How much is this going to cost? The short answer is it depends. Every client has different needs and every writer has different levels of expertise. I rarely give an estimate on a project until I’ve had a chance to understand the full scope of the project.
Some writers will share a range of prices for their services on their website. But, usually a client’s needs vary and there is simply no one-size-fits-all approach. Some may charge an hourly fee while others prefer to charge a per-project rate.
Okay, how much time? Again, it depends on the scope of the project. Ask the freelancer how soon they can realistically get to the project, and how long they think it will take them to complete it. This estimate might be based on factors like the number of other projects they have in their pipeline and how long it will take for you to provide additional materials and/or answer any questions they may have as they work on the project.
As long as you are each meeting your side of the agreement, you should expect that your mutually agreed-upon deadline will be honored. Life happens and sometimes a deadline needs to be pushed. Hopefully, your writer will be honest if any life circumstances come up. In general, expect a diligent, dedicated and deadline-oriented writer to deliver when they say they will.
Review their portfolio. By reviewing a writer’s portfolio, you can get a sense of their writing style. You can often find samples of a writer’s work on their website. If not, ask if you can see a few clips or samples of their work to review.
Check their references. Many of my clients come through word-of-mouth referrals from other clients. But, if you are researching writers who you don’t know, ask them if they could provide a few references for you.
Ask their references questions like: What was it like working with them? Did they deliver on their promises? What did you think of their writing style? Did they meet your deadlines? Did they take time to get to know you and your business? How did they make your life easier? Or, did they make your life harder?
Service agreements/contracts. Once you and the writer have agreed upon a game plan, I encourage you to ask for a contract or service agreement or provide one to them. Having a signed agreement detailing expectations, expenses, payment plans, etc., ensures that all parties are on the same page.
What if I hire them and don’t like the writing? If there is any part of a writer’s job that has many of us gnashing our knuckles in anxiety, it’s that moment after we’ve sent off the first completed project to a new client. Fortunately, because of the process I take new clients through before I ever begin the writing, 99 percent of the time, the feedback is overwhelmingly positive. (That’s why it’s a good idea to get a sense of how your writer plans to gather information from you prior to beginning on a project.) That said, it’s normal to have a few tweaks and changes in the first draft that they provide to you.
If a writer completely whiffs on the first go-around, please give them feedback and an opportunity to revise. Expect that first project to take a little extra time as they get oriented to your business and adapt to your brand’s voice. (Rarely is anything “perfect” the first time around. And, revisions should be part of the overall project fee.)
Honor the commitment. If you’ve read this far, you probably don’t need me to tell you that your content is an investment in your business. Many writers bring a wealth of experience and can transform your copy from ho-hum to energizing and help you connect with your target audience.
Writers often make writing look easy by delivering well-written, succinct content to their clients. Behind the scenes, they’re often spending hours of time researching, reworking, revising and tightening every sentence to make sure the meaning is clear, the structure is built on solid ground, and the content is an accurate reflection of their client’s brand voice.
With that said, please don’t hire a freelance writer if:
- You don’t truly value professional writing or the amount of work that goes into creating content that fits your business.
- You think deep down that writers should come cheap. Just as you specialize at your business, writers are specialists at their craft. They deserve to be paid for their level of expertise and experience.
- You get offended by feedback. When you hire a writer to proof/edit your content, they are going to do just that. Trust me, writers know all about rejection and critique of their work. Most will do their best to provide honest, gentle feedback.
- You can’t afford the services right now. Don’t say yes, when you really mean no. If you make a commitment, sign a service agreement and then disappear without paying after the writer has done the work for you, that’s stealing. Instead, communicate the issue and arrange a payment plan. It’s not only good business practice, it’s good karma.
Are they that into you? Finding a freelance writer is little like dating. Any writer worth their salt is going to want to know about you and your business. Expect them to ask you questions about your business and your needs. Did they listen and seem genuinely interested in learning about what you do and what you offer?
In the same vein, you may realize after chatting with a writer that you aren’t that into them.
Professional writers understand that their personality, background, writing process or fees may not be a good fit for you and your business—and that’s okay. There are many talented writers out there—find someone who you connect with and who meets your budget and your needs.
Got a question about hiring a freelance writer? Comment below!