Thanks to the Internet, it’s never been easier to be a writer, which is a boon and a bane for people who are hiring freelance writers.
The problem businesses face is how to sort through the huge number of writers to find the ones that meet the business’ needs. Why is this often such a frustrating process? Where and how can you find good freelance writers for your business?
Why Is Hiring Freelance Writers Such a Frustrating Process?
First things first: writers are frustrated, too.
For some reason, the freelance writer marketplace can be opaque and difficult to navigate, with many clients—and writers—having little idea of how to get matched with the right people or what good writing is actually worth.
On both sides, it is a very heavily reference-based market. The best writers often get enough business from referrals that they don’t need to advertise their services anywhere, so if you don’t know anyone who uses freelance writers, it can be difficult to find them.
Writers face the same problem: potential clients often go through referrals from their industry peers, so if you’re just breaking into the industry and don’t know anyone yet, it can be maddening trying to get the experience and connections that will prove to future clients that you know your stuff.
Another major problem freelance writers face is clients who request Pulitzer-Prize-level writing but offer third-world rates. A corollary to this is clients who order big, promise big, and then disappear when it comes time to pay. Many writers have stories of having to resort to legal action to get reimbursed for their work. Therefore, taking on new clients whom they don’t know to be trustworthy through other writers or past clients may not seem like a risk worth taking.
So how can you cut through all of these frustrations and get your writing needs fulfilled? Here are a few tips to ease the process of hiring freelance writers.
Know What You Need, and What It Costs
The first thing you have to do is set some realistic expectations about the kind of writing you need.
If you need consistent, compelling, detailed, technical blog content for your medical technology manufacturing business, you either need to find someone in your industry who can also write, or find a great writer who will research your business and become thoroughly familiar with your industry in order to produce the high-quality content you need. That takes serious research skills and a lot of time, and for a freelance writer, time is money. You are simply going to pay much more for that content than you will for a few pages of website copy for your new pet grooming business.
On the other hand, if you don’t mind doing some editing yourself and providing detailed outlines and resources for a writer who will more or less “fill in the blanks” with good writing, you can probably bring down your expenses. You’re either going to spend time or money on good writing. You just have to decide which is worth more to you.
Here are a couple of quick points to consider:
- How technical or advanced is your field? Would an average joe on the street even understand what you do, or is it pretty straightforward?
- How much time do you have to edit someone’s work? Are you willing to do any editing at all?
Once you’ve considered your needs, you can start doing some research about what they’ll cost to fulfill. The best way to find great freelance writers and maintain relationships with them is to know the going rate for the kind of content you’re requesting. Quality costs money. Offer reasonable pay or accept the writer’s requested fee. Then, pay on time.
When you treat the writer well, the writer will reciprocate.
Know Where to Look
If you know you need highly professional, detailed work that will require a lot of research, and you know you want to form an ongoing relationship with one or two individual freelance writers, consult industry peers before anything else.
If that doesn’t yield results, go a little farther afield and scan connections of connections on LinkedIn. If you see a post or a website with great writing, get in touch with the site owner or writer. Even if they’re not available, they might know someone who is. Again, top freelancers rely heavily on word of mouth.
On the other hand, there are very good reasons for looking into writing services as opposed to hiring individual freelancers. If you’d rather not deal with invoicing, have recourse when something isn’t delivered on time, and be guaranteed a certain level of quality and consistency, there are many, many services out there that have freelance writers for hire, in a wide variety of price brackets.
Some of these offer certain guarantees, such as that all of their writers have passed a test and speak English as their native language. Other websites let anyone who has an Internet connection sign up to become a writer. Finding quality writers at these places can be difficult. Avoid them, unless you are on an extremely tight budget and willing to do a lot of editing.
On the other end of the scale is a place like Contently, where you’ll get some of the highest-quality writing available—and pay a premium for it. You may find that you can just hire a freelance writer directly for less.
Some websites only guarantee the quality meets a certain standard, not that you’ll like it. Unless there is something materially wrong with the copy, you still have to pay for it. Some websites let you determine if you like the content before you pay for it.
You can check the quality of writers at a freelancer website by checking out both the customer and writer FAQ pages. Specifically, you are looking for the standards that writers must meet to sign up. You might also see what writers are saying about the sites in forums and personal blogs. While individual experiences will never paint a complete picture, you can get a good sense of how a company operates and your likely results from those kinds of reviews.
No matter what kind of writer or content service you’re looking to hire, ask for writing samples.
If you’re directly hiring a freelance writer, the drawback is that published work may be edited. You can’t tell how much editing went into the work. But, you can judge the writer’s abilities by where the work is published. If the publication is established and reputable, the writers must turn in quality work. Just remember your idea of reputable may not be same as the publication’s idea. The Onion is a humor and satire website, but it demands professional writing.
You can also check the writer’s work by asking for their personal website. Is the writing there at the level you will accept?
Check the research level. You can copy part of the article and run it through Copyscape’s plagiarism checker to make sure it is original work, or the source is correctly attributed. Then, does the article make good use of links? Are the references used authoritative?
Keep in mind that when hiring a reputable writing service, they’ll have automatic safeguards in place to ensure originality, and if you receive something that’s not original, you’ll have recourse.
Be a Good Client
At the end of the day, freelance writers are just trying to make a living, just like you. And freelancing is an inherently insecure line of work. By necessity, if they have a choice, writers will stick with clients that treat them fairly and consistently. So in order to get the best possible results from freelance writers, whether you’ve hired them directly or you’re using a writing service, you have to be clear about your needs and constructive in your feedback.
Problems often arise for writers and their clients when the client is not clear about what they want. The more you can narrow the subject, the closer the writer can get to exactly what you’re looking for. Rewrites frustrate both writers and clients because they take time away from other work. Suggest resources, create a rough outline, and be crystal clear on the stance a piece of writing should take, if any. Give the writer the tools to do their best work. They’re just as interested in producing quality writing as you are in buying it.
Showing that you’re a good client to work for is the best way to get more writers to want to do work for you. Even on writing sites like BlogMutt, the writers know which clients are a dream and which are difficult. In a market that is so reliant on references, your reputation is everything.
Finding good freelancers may take some work on your part, but the results should be well worth it.