So You Wanna Hire a Freelance Writer…?

freelance_writerI don’t intend to sit here and pander to just the unwashed writerly types, this blog is for you, the clients of said filthy wordsmiths, as well.  I work with a lot of private clients, many who eventually become friendly and express their discontent with prior hired hands.  I’ve pondered this at great length, and I think the problem is that they don’t know how to hire a freelance writer — after all, this freelancing thing has been mostly the realm of private publishers for generations.

So, without further delay, my top tips for choosing a freelance writer (in no particular order):

1.  Choose a professional.  By “professional,” I mean someone who can show a long and meaningful history of successful employment.  If they’ve been writing for the same outlet for a long time, that’s a good sign that they’re either really good about deadlines or they’re such a good writer that clients are willing to overlook such a paltry thing.  This can also be a curse, though, since it may be hard to know if they’ll be able to adapt to your site’s style.

2.  Look for an expert.  An expert in your field isn’t necessarily good at communicating, and that’s ok.  But find a writer who knows a lot about whatever it is you’ve got, or someone who is willing to learn fast.  Your readers will know if your writer is just barfing up information from the WikiPedia, and they’ll give you suspicious looks for it.

3.  Pay writers what they’re worth.  Sure, I know what you’re thinking…. self-serving point here.  Not really — I have no problem finding clients who pay me what I’m worth.  I’ve also seen the results of poorly paid writers or bidding wars that end with some idiot paying slave wages.  If you want your writer to give two fucks about your project, you’ve got to pay them enough to make it worth their time.  Sure, you can find a novice or international worker to crank out copy for pennies, but you’re going to spend hours trying to turn that into workable copy.  Do yourself a favor and treat your writer like an investment — if you want to sell something, you need a sleek exterior.  Pay a writer who will make your project read like a beautiful song and you’ll never go back to working with bottom of the barrel writers.

4.  Request samples.  If you want to know what a writer’s voice is like, you’ve got to ask for samples.  Not just one, but two or three or four.  Read their whole catalog if they have it available — I know it’s hard to judge how well they’ll be able to handle your content, but try to make this process easy for everybody.  A writer worth their salt isn’t going to have time to crank you out a custom sample for free, so either work with what they’ve got (and ask for more if their samples are just way off the mark) or pay them for a custom sample.  We’ve seen too many people ask for free samples as a condition of employment, then walk off and publish them without so much as an acknowledgement — so we’re gun shy, too.

5.  Communicate your needs clearly.  If you want a writer to write softcore porn-like marketing for your houses, just come on out and say it.  Say what’s on your mind, tell us what you need, show us the site where it goes, give us as much detail as possible.  I promise it’ll make the process much easier.  Whatever your weirdness, I know freelance writers have seen weirder, and many (like myself) will jump at the challenge provided the pay is decent.