Content marketing is huge. In 2018, 91% of B2B marketers used content marketing, and 82% of B2C marketers found it to be a key strategy for success.
And yet, 60% of people find it difficult to create content consistently. Even if today’s theme is, “everybody’s a writer”, that doesn’t make everybody a good writer. It doesn’t mean that everybody’s content is going to produce results for your business, like generating leads or converting prospects. And that’s the goal, right?
So how do you create content that produces results for your business? If you or someone on your team isn’t a seasoned writer or content creator, hire a freelancer!
Freelance workers are a growing force. An article from Upwork reported that in 2017, 36% of the US workforce (57.3 million Americans) were freelancers who work from home. They collectively contribute $1.4 trillion to the economy every year, which was a 30% increase from 2016. Nasdaq predicts that by 2020, 43% of U.S. workers will be freelancers.
This means that you have more choices than ever before on who to hire, and how to hire them. It also means that you will likely need to work a little harder to find the right person for your content needs.
Pros and Cons of Hiring a Freelance Writer
Determining if it’s best to hire a freelance writer or take care of the work in-house, can raise many questions. There are definitely pros and cons to hiring a freelance writer rather than a full-time, content creator. It’s up to you and your team to determine which option best suits the content needs.
Here are some of the pros:
- Often more cost-effective than hiring a full-time staff member
- Access to experienced writers without the training
- You can often find writers who know or have already written within your industry
- The rest of the team can focus on other valuable aspects of your business
- You can save your salary dollars for hiring an SEO expert to guide your freelance writers
- You can test the waters with a small budget without investing in a full-time employee. This is especially useful when you are just starting up
And, some of the cons:
- They aren’t exposed to the day-to-day of your business
- You aren’t in direct contact with them regularly to hear or see how their work is going
- You may not know their work ethic or personality for awhile
- They might not know about the product or service you sell
- They won’t have the same insight about your audience that your staff does
Considering these, it’s up to your team to decide what will fit best with your content planning. If you decide to go ahead with hiring a freelancer, there are some specific skills and traits to look for.
Sometimes it simply boils down to finding a writer who is a niche specialist needed for a one-off project. Amanda Lacy, director of POPCOM tells us “I often use freelance writers, especially if I am featuring a client in a field/industry I may not be 100% familiar with. I find that not only will I end up with a better quality product, the cost will be lower as the client is not paying for my research time. “
Skills and Traits to Look for in a Freelance Writer
If you decide to hire a freelance writer, there are a few qualifications you should look for on their resume as well as a few workplace skills to consider before you commit.
As far as their resume goes, look for experience writing for multiple mediums (blogs, guides, social posts, books, etc.). Someone who practices different mediums regularly will be able to pivot for your content needs as they change.
Also look for research and SEO skills. Even if you have someone else on your team dedicated to these things, a general understanding of both will help the writer deliver a faster, better first draft. And since the goal of your content creation is likely, to reach your audience, you should expect your writer to be able to research your target audience and at least understand what part SEO plays in getting your content found.
Lastly, look for a creative side. Unless you’re looking for someone to draft up legal contracts, you want some personality to shine through. You want someone who has a knack for storytelling that will grasp your audience’s attention. Simply reading through a few pieces of their work should be enough to judge their storytelling skills.
I work full-time aside from my freelance work. To me, freelancing is an opportunity to extend my skills to other incredible companies that are doing amazing things. It also teaches me a lot of valuable skills around project organization and communication, many skills that I bring back to my full-time job.
When it comes to workplace skills, you’ll want a freelance writer with excellent communication skills. Not only does your freelancer need excellent communication skills to be a good writer, but they need these skills to work well with you and your team. Look for someone who is also self-driven, since you can’t always be there to provide direction. Lastly, find someone who takes constructive criticism well. Your team will likely go through many edits and suggestions on their work so it’s important that they’re able to use the feedback positively. These three things are crucial for a successful, remote relationship.
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Where to Find Freelance Writers
Now that you’ve weighed the pros and cons of hiring a freelance writer, as well as traits that make them easy to work with, where can you find one?
A few websites to find readily available writers are:
Dusan Lucic from Simply CRM is a strong advocate for Upwork as the platform combines the ability to hire, communicate, and pay your writer all in one neat package.
On the other hand, Sharon Hurley Hall, a frequent writer for Slickplan, recommends avoiding marketplaces that can devalue seasoned, professional writers.
However, not all freelance writers have profiles on freelance work websites, so searching beyond those is a good idea.
In 2018, we recommended these 7 websites to find freelancers for all of your needs!
Some other ways to find a good freelance writer is to:
- Ask your peers for referrals
- Browse related Facebook groups (like these)
- Search for writers on LinkedIn
- Search on Reddit forums (like this one)
- Browse industry forums
Some might argue that these options are better. Yi Main Cheong from digital marketing agency, Dilate says that with them, there is a higher chance that you or someone you know will know these candidates personally or will have worked with them in the past and can speak to their experience.
Once you find the right candidate, it’s time to consider compensation.
What to Pay Freelance Writers
Some freelancers have a price per hour, per word, or per project that is always the same. Some freelancers have pricing discussions for each client. Either way, you’ll want to know where to start when it comes to.
Just like with any job, the best case scenario is to pay based on experience and performance. But, you may not have any experience with this person yet. This is why reviews are incredibly important to look at. If you’re able to, consult with peers to see if they have any recommendations to freelance writers they’ve had success with.
When deciding what to pay, it can be helpful to do some market research and determine how much you’d have to pay a staff member to do the work. You can use sites like Glassdoor and Ziprecruiter to help determine this.
Ziprecruiter reports that the annual average pay for freelance writers in 2019 is $32/hour; however, this can fluctuate based on location, how many hours the freelancer works, and more.
Presenting Your Freelance Project
As part of your content planning, you might take the route of posting your content job or project on a freelance website first vs. looking for a freelancer. Websites like Upwork work this way where you post your job for freelancers to consider.
If you go this route, there are a few things you can do to ensure you attract the right freelancer. Make sure you’re super specific about what you want your content piece to do. What action do you want readers to take after reading it? Who or what audience do you expect it to reach? Most importantly, what value do you want to bring to your audience?
Per Erin Shroeder, a key freelance writer for Slickplan, no matter what type of project it is, she appreciates tangible information about it. A good, downloadable document to help her see the goals of the company, the audience they’re trying to reach, and the intent… all in one place, results in a better understanding for the task ahead.
As for logistics, what’s your deadline? How often do you expect to hear updates from the freelancer? Are there resources you’ll be providing them or are they expected to find their own?
The more specific you can be about the content piece you want, the better you can be matched with the right candidate.
How Freelance Writers Fit Into Your Content Planning
Once you’ve identified a freelance writer and worked out a contract with them, you might wonder how they’re going to mesh with the rest of your team.
Freelancers can fit into your content team by being a remote part of your team who writes for you regularly or works on special projects as they come up. Either way, ensuring open lines of communication is crucial. Using tools like Slack and Google’s G Suite can help tremendously by making it easier to collaborate remotely.
Head of Agency Copy, Alexander Porter from Search It Local spends much of his day managing freelance writers and advises, “whether your freelance writer is a remote worker overseas or has an interpersonal relationship with you, setting them up with the tools to succeed should take the form of an integrated approach that combines text, video, and training.”
When it comes to the actual writing, it’s extremely helpful to give freelancers guidelines. If you have an SEO expert on your team, have them create content proposals that lay out the content topic, keywords, and features of your product or service to highlight.
As a freelancer and someone who has managed teams of freelancers, Sharon Hurley Hall believes that there are two things freelancers appreciate. “First, a good brief. Second, to be included in conversations relevant to the work they’re doing for you.”
Sharon goes on to say that briefing doesn’t need to be detailed, just accurate enough to get you the content you are looking for! Also, Keep in mind that freelancers are not employees, they don’t want to be involved in every meeting but keeping them in the loop of work related to their assigned project will result in better content.
Depending on the type of content the freelancer is working on, consider having regular touchpoints to review their work as they go so they don’t waste time on content that isn’t going to bring value for your audience. This is especially important in the beginning with those first projects they work on for you.
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Effective Content Planning with Slickplan
No matter how great of a freelance writer you find, they’re ineffective without content planning. To put it briefly, content planning requires you to identify actions you want your audience to take or areas you want to educate your audience in and which content will achieve that.
To effectively plan, organize, and collaborate on content with freelancers or in-house teams, use Slickplan! Slickplan helps your team plan and organize content, edit and collaborate as a team, and export the content for web or other use.
Hiring a freelance writer should not be a quick or rash decision. You need to consider the pros and cons and identify the value they’ll bring to your team. Once you’ve done that, remember that not all freelance writers are created equally. Finding someone with the right skills and traits to fit your team will be more beneficial in the long run than finding a quick person for the job.
So, where have you found the best freelance writers?