How to Work With a Freelance WriterElance_Cathy | Feb 27, 2008
We asked Jeff Haden, an Elance provider in the Writing & Translation category and a freelance writer we work with, to give us his perspective on how and why you should consider working with a freelance writer. We hope you enjoy this guest blog contribution from Jeff.
Connecting with and building relationships with current and prospective customers is vital for your business, and the words you use can literally make or break you.
No matter how you “touch” your customers – through website content, promotional literature, newsletters, blogs, press releases, e-books, or how-to guides, just to name a few – it’s critical your written communication is clear, to the point, and most of all effective.
If you feel your writing skills aren’t up to par (or you don’t have the time to devote to the task), there’s a solution. Freelancers can help you write:
- Web content: Home page, product information, articles, bios, etc
- Promotional Literature: Catalog and brochure copy, flyers, ads, even radio ad copy
- Press Releases
- How-to Guides
- And the list goes on and on…
Finding the right freelance writer for your project begins with effectively communicating your needs. It’s easier than you think: Simply describe your subject, your audience, and what you hope to achieve – those are the main items every good writer needs to deliver a successful project. Regardless of the topic, here’s how you can successfully find and hire a freelance writer.
Describe your project. Say you’re a lawyer with a focus on estate planning. Each month you e-mail a newsletter to help you keep in touch with past and prospective clients. (Sound like a tough business to hire a freelance writer for? It’s not; I write the quarterly newsletter for a national estate planning organization.)
How could you describe this kind of project? Here’s one approach:
“I’m an estate planning attorney and I need four articles each month for my newsletter. I will provide the article topics in advance, but you are also welcome to suggest possible topics. Subjects could include long-term care insurance, IRA pitfalls, Living Wills, Pourover Trusts, Alzheimer’s disease, estate planning letters, guardianships, etc. Articles should provide useful information for people just starting to think about wills and trusts as well as for those in the later stage of their life concerned about distributing assets and lowering estate taxes. The articles should not overtly “sell” me, but I do want to help people understand the benefits of estate planning and to feel I’m the perfect person for them to turn to. Articles must be between 300 and 400 words in length and submitted by the 10th of each month. Please provide a brief description of your experience and background in the field and samples of similar work.”
Some writers may seek clarification, but many can and will give you a detailed bid based on this information alone. I did.
Short-list your candidates. Some bids you might discard due to price or timeline. Others you may reject because the provider clearly does not have the experience to handle your project. On the other hand, some providers will have such a solid history of outstanding feedback they automatically make your short list. Try to narrow your choices to the three or possibly four best providers.
Seek clarification. Use a PMB or interview candidates by phone (which is especially important if your project will require a fair amount of communication between you and the provider.) Make sure the providers fully understand your expectations and that you fully understand what they will provide. This process will probably further narrow your short-list. Basic questions you can ask include:
What experience do you have in this topic (either subject knowledge or writing experience – or even better, both.)
If you don’t have subject matter knowledge, how will you conduct research? What sources will you use?
What input or feedback will you need from me? (This will give you a sense of how the provider works – and how the provider will work with you.)
Review samples. Check out each writer’s portfolio to assess their skills. If you’d like to see more, ask for samples that help you evaluate their suitability for your project. Try to compare apples to apples: If your project is an article, ask for samples of previous articles. If you need web content, ask for URLs of other work so you can see the copy in context. And remember, while it’s great if a provider has written previously on your subject matter, it’s not a necessity – many skilled writers can research and deliver great copy on subjects they previously knew nothing about. (In fact, the opportunity to learn new things is one of the reasons some people become writers.)
Make an informed choice. At this point one writer is likely to stand out from the rest. Even so, if you have a large, multi-part project (say you need 40 articles for your website), break the deliverables into stages so you can review the work you receive and give appropriate feedback early in the project.
Make a note of other providers who impressed you. While you may not have selected some providers for this project, you may later need a writer with precisely their skills and background – if so, invite them to bid on your next project.
Freelance writers can create great content and free you up to handle other tasks no matter how specialized your subject matter. Describe your topic, your audience, your goals, and the nature of the project and you’ll be amazed by the skill and experience available – and by how much time you now have to do the things you enjoy and do best.
About Jeff Haden
Jeff (Elance username: crunnells) has ghostwritten print and web articles as well as a number of non-fiction books, three of which reached #1 on Amazon.com’s Business & Investing bestseller list. His “day job” is President of BlackBird Media, Inc., a web design and business consulting firm based in Harrisonburg, VA.