By Scott Stevens, co-founder and CEO of The Content Panel
Published on December 8, 2020
Freelance writers can help marketing teams be more efficient and effective. Writing, editing, proofreading, and posting high quality content regularly takes time that would be better spent elsewhere in house, so it makes sense to hire a writer.
That said, getting the most out of a freelance writer isn’t always easy.
In an ideal world, you could just tell the writer “I want a blog post on X, that matches our current brand voice, and i need it by Y Date” and your content would be perfect.
But obviously, that’s not how things work.
In reality you need a way of communicating what you want (and how you want it) in a reliable, repeatable, and most importantly, scalable manner.
With that in mind, here are 4 things you can do to get the most out of every freelance writer you work with.
Communicating Your Vision
Every time you decide to hire a new writer means starting from scratch with someone who doesn’t know about your brand. You may think that this is a task you’ll only have to do once, but freelance writers put the “free” into freelance, their availability can be somewhat unpredictable – so prepare to work with more than one. This is especially true if you work with content writing services that use several writers (instead of hiring a freelance writer directly).
If you don’t have marketing resources to give your writer, this is the time to create them. Here are some examples of the kind of content you should give your writer to assist in the creative process:
Customer Personas: These are fictional representations of your audience, preferably based on sales data. Who is your ideal customer? Who are your regulars and your targeted audience? You need to create these if you don’t already have one. Consider turning to a freelance marketer if you don’t have in-house marketing, as they may have access to data capture tools. Otherwise, discuss with your webmaster or advertising department about customer data to create an informed Customer Persona.
Website: Your website should have an About Us, product descriptions, and some existing content unless you’re starting from scratch. The content you have already may have been created in house or by you, but if it’s something you have posted on your website, it likely has some of the tone you want your new writer to capture. At the least, it’ll provide your writer with an idea of what your brand voice is meant to be as well as your value proposition.
Existing Content: This may be in the form of eBooks, white papers, presentations, or other material you have already for your business. This could also include how-to articles from websites you respect or content you want to emulate from other businesses.
If you don’t have these things, consider hiring your new writer to create them. The creation will be hands-on for you if you don’t have marketing resources to give to your writer, so effective communication and goal setting will keep you from tearing out your hair.
Setting Effective Milestones
If you already have a business process for content creation, sharing it with your writer may keep you both on the same page. This helps with effectively communicating goals and milestones, and having this in documentation helps you and your writer stay accountable.
If you don’t have this sort of documentation, you will want to set dates and milestones for your project. Discuss these with your writer. Clear communication is required to make deadlines work, and setting effective milestones means working together to set realistic completion dates. Think in terms of SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-based. Following these guidelines will keep you and your writer accountable.
- Specific: Set concrete goals. If you’re too vague, it makes delivery difficult for the writer as they won’t be certain you’ll be happy with their work.
- Measurable: Content today needs to work with guidelines from Google. Your webmaster or marketing department should have data on click-through-rate and sales data related to content on your website.
- Achievable: Goal setting unachievable projects result in unhappiness for you and your writer. Make sure you are being realistic in what you can achieve.
- Relevant: Have concrete plans for the project, and don’t task your writer with non-writing tasks. Make sure your request has some context in the framework of your existing content, whether it’s a product description or blog post.
- Time-Based: Set dates for completion. Talking openly with your freelancer about their availability will help you meet this requirement.
Provide an Outline
If you already have a vision for the project, you should outline that as detailed as possible to give to your writer. This kind of information helps your freelancer know exactly what you’re looking for so that they can create what you need. Don’t forget that you know your brand voice better than anyone if it’s your company. Content written by you will speak to that, giving your writer a great starting point.
You can be as detailed as you like with the outline, or you can break down what you want into bullet points. What you need to do may depend on how long you’ve been working with the writer. Once you’ve developed a relationship with a freelance writer, they get to know you and can more readily provide content they know you will want.
Writers know how to take criticism as a means to improve their writing, but not everyone knows how to give criticism. Give feedback at every milestone, and don’t be afraid to speak up if you aren’t happy with what you’re seeing. Don’t get frustrated if your expectations aren’t being met. It’s best to speak up professionally. Professional writers expect feedback along the way.
Don’t worry if you feel like you’re micromanaging. You’re paying for content, and your freelance writer wants to build a good relationship. Part of that is getting to know each other through feedback. Just be clear in your feedback and provide examples of what you want to see and what you don’t.
In summary, getting a good experience out of your new working relationship requires clear communication. You might be surprised at how eager your freelance writer is to work with your feedback, but it’s important to remember that you’ve hired a professional communicator. However, if you find that you continually end up with dull, poor performing content, and your relationship with the writer is one of little benefit, it may be time to try starting over.
Working together through the writing process is one way you can get to know your writer, but you can also ask for samples of their previous work. The person you hire for your projects may have content that you can refer to, and they may have ideas based on working with previous clients that you can benefit from if you discuss their past work.
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