I heard an ad on the radio today. It talked about a marketer who needed a writer for a new project. However, the marketer wasn’t sure how to go about finding an experienced, qualified writer.
Well, I’m here to help.
Let me start with what not to do:
I do not recommend blog writing services or content mills. Writing for these companies is a race to the bottom. Unfortunately, these so-called agencies don’t attract the most proficient wordsmiths. They pay very little and have no barrier to entry. Hence, you are not getting the best product or the most experienced writers and researchers. High level professionals work on their own.
Your dollars and website are too important to compromise on quality writing and research for your company.
What to do: Use LinkedIn, check online for some freelance writing profiles, do a Google search, ask around. If you come across a profile that looks professional and interesting, check the writer’s website and blog. If you are still interested, ask for samples and arrange a consultation.
What to look for in a skilled freelance writer:
• A basic skill: At a minimum, the writer must have basic grammar, punctuation and spelling skills. Reading the writer's blog should give you a good sense of their quality of work.
• Research skills: The articles or blogs on the writers' site should be credible. You can fact check it yourself to see what is on the site is real. Does this writer know how to conduct good research? Can they tell the difference between a fake website and a legitimate one? Are there annotations in the text?
• Subject matter expertise: If you are looking for a specialist such as law, health, technology, then narrow your search. However, niche skills are not always necessary. In some circumstances, it’s better to hire a writer that is a good researcher. You may find new areas to cover in your field with a generalist who does a wide search.
• Original work: One of the most egregious things any writer can do is plagiarize the work of another. The good news is that it is easy to catch that today with a plagiarism tool online such as copyscape.com.
Copy a paragraph and paste it into the plagiarism checker and see what comes up. It should reveal the author's work as well as references to cited information.
• Original thought: Have a conversation with the writer. How do they sound? Are they enthusiastic? Do they offer ideas and help flesh out your topic with additional alternatives? You don’t want an automaton. You want someone who is interested in your assignment.
• Flexibility: Just as you try to plan your day and something comes up unexpectedly, the same happens to everyone else. Be sure your writer offers realistic deadlines. You want to be sure the writer understands how long it may take to complete your first draft and deadlines.
• References: There are options here. Does the writer have references available online or offer names of clients they worked with? However, the best measure of the writer’s skills is their previous work.
• Hire the right person: The more you know about your project, the better you will be able to find the best person for your job. If you want someone to do content marketing, then you want someone with more article or journalism skills. If you want someone to write “calls to action” blurbs, then you most likely want a copywriter.
• How to work well with your freelancer: Remember, always, you are the subject matter expert in your field. It is up to you to inform the writer of particular areas you want to be covered. A good writer will “interview” you about what you are looking for. This is a team effort. If you want good copy, then be a good source.
Bottom line: You are responsible for finding the appropriate match and the writer who will deliver engaging articles. The more you know about your project and what to look for in a highly skilled writer, the better you are in a position to “hire right.” Hiring an experienced freelancer will pay off big. By employing a highly professional freelance writer, you have a much better chance of receiving compelling, original content that will gather and gain readers who will want to know more.
Geri Spieler is the author of award winning Taking Aim at the President: The Remarkable Story of the Woman Who Shot at Gerald Ford, (Macmillan) that has been optioned for a movie for the big screen by producers and screenwriters Taylor Allen and Andrew Logan