So you need content, and you need it now. (Or maybe you need it yesterday!) Freelance writers can be a good solution if you want to improve your search rankings and generate leads through content. But finding good writers and giving them what they need to do the job can be a challenge. Here we’ll cover how to find freelance writers, how to hire freelance writers, and how to be prepared to get the most bang for your buck.
Advantages of Working with Freelance Writers
There many benefits and risks that come with trusting your content to a freelance writer. The primary benefits of working with freelancers are:
- They tend to be more affordable.
- They come with fewer overhead costs.
- The freelancer-client relationship is more flexible than one with an in-house employee.
Freelance writers are contract workers, so you don’t have the overhead costs associated with hiring a part-time or full-time employee. This may allow you to hire a team of writers, which will allow you to create more content than you would be able to with a single in-house writer. And since they can work from anywhere, you’ll find that many writers charge lower rates because they live somewhere with a lower cost of living.
It’s also easier to arrange a limited-time engagement with freelancers because these writers aren’t relying on you for their entire livelihood as a full-time employee would. So you can assign projects to a number of different writers, keep the ones you like, and move on from the ones you don’t until you’ve assembled the perfect outsourced team.
Disadvantages of Working with Freelance Writers
Working with freelance writers can give you a lot of flexibility, but there are also some challenges involved. For one thing, you’ll generally have less oversight over freelance writers. Let’s go over some of the potential downsides of working with freelancers, along with some ways to mitigate them.
Good Writers Are Hard to Find
Job postings for freelance writers generate a high volume of submissions. You’ll find that many candidates’ writing skills aren’t up to par. It can take a long time to wade through all of the applications to find the top candidates. Using TestGorilla, a pre-employment testing software, can help.
With TestGorilla, you can make an assessment that includes up to five tests (e.g., communication, verbal reasoning, English language proficiency, SEO copywriting, and reading comprehension). Then, instead of having candidates contact you directly, you can include a link to take the assessment (you can also include custom questions that allow them to upload their resume and writing samples).
After they take the test, you can easily see which candidates have the skills you need. You’ll save a lot of time by not reading resumes and writing samples before determining whether the candidate is qualified.
You’ll Have Less Oversight
You’ll generally have less oversight when working with freelance writers. Freelancers work wherever, whenever, and however they want (within reason). It’s important to be clear about what you want upfront. Create a detailed content brief for each article before you assign it. This document should include:
- Due date. When do you expect the article to be completed?
- Word count. How long should the article be?
- Topic. What will the article cover?
- Target keyword. For what keyword are you hoping the article will rank?
- Related keywords. What other relevant keywords should the writer include?
- Audience. What kind of people will read the article?
- Similar content for inspiration. What are some examples of articles that you’d like the writer to emulate? (For example, you might include some blog posts by some of your competitors that cover the same topic.)
Managing a Team of Freelance Writers Can Be a Challenge
If you have ambitious content marketing goals and you’re assigning a lot of articles each month, you could easily find yourself working with as many as ten freelancers or more. As mentioned earlier, freelancers generally expect to have a lot of leeway in how they complete their assignments. For many of them, that’s the reason they became freelancers in the first place.
But if you’re not careful, you may start to receive completed assignments that aren’t what you had in mind. This is especially true when you first start working with a freelancer. Until a writer has a firm grasp on your brand and expectations, a detailed content brief is critical. You may eventually get to the point where you’re comfortable giving less extensive briefs, but you should always give your writers some sort of direction.
You should also work on developing a project management system to manage all of your writers and their assignments. Airtable is a good option. Some people find Airtable too complicated, if that’s the case, Asana and Trello are more straightforward options.
Then you develop a process for assigning, reviewing, and revising articles.
You can add all of your content briefs as cards and put them in the “Idea” stage. Then, as they’re assigned, you can note who they’re assigned to and move them to the “Outline” stage. You can communicate with your writers in the comments of their assignments, and move them to the “Draft” stage when they’re ready.
When they’re complete, you can move them to the “Complete” stage and you’ll have all of your finished content listed and linked in one place.
There May Be a Language Barrier
Another issue you may run into is that, while a freelancer’s cover letter and resume were well written, their content doesn’t read as though it was written by someone fluent in the language the article is written in.
This happens more often with freelancers because they may be from anywhere in the world. If you’re hiring writers to write in the English language and you’re relying on freelancers to produce content cheaply, you’ll be more likely to receive applications from countries where English isn’t the primary language. That’s because non-English speaking countries tend to have a lower cost of living, so they can afford to take on projects for less money.
Paying careful attention to your candidates’ writing samples can help, but writing samples can be faked. Or a candidate may more time on their samples than they will be able to realistically spend on the articles they write for you. TestGorilla’s language proficiency tests are a good way to avoid spending the time it takes to onboard a new writer only to find that the final product isn’t up to your standards.
Should You Hire a Freelance Writer?
A freelance writer isn’t right for every project. Let’s consider some situations where a freelance writer wouldn’t be a good fit and some others where a freelancer (or team of freelancers) is just what you need.
Don’t Hire a Freelancer If…
Here are some of the questions to ask before you decide to hire a freelance writer:
- Do you have someone in place to manage a freelancer?
- How technical is the subject matter?
- Have you planned out your content strategy?
You Don’t Have Someone in Place to Manage the Relationship
Even though they’re not an employee, your freelance writer will need someone to give them direction, go over their work, and make sure they are given assignments that will move your content marketing strategy forward. Depending on the length of the assignments and the quality of freelancer you can afford, there may be an hour or two of editing time required per article.
And some freelancers are better at following through than others. If you don’t have someone keeping track of outstanding assignments, you could end up with a lot of content ideas in the pipeline but few completed articles.
The Subject Matter of Your Content is Too Technical
If your business is in a highly technical field like data science, medical, or coding, it can be hard to find a freelancer who can write at a high enough level to satisfy your readers. If there are mistakes or the articles are just fluff, it will damage your credibility with potential customers. You can find freelancers who specialize in most areas, but expect to pay a premium.
You Don’t Have a Content Strategy in Place
Freelance writers just write the articles, they don’t develop the strategy. When you’re paying per word or per article, it’s not cost-effective to just throw things at the wall and see if they stick. You need to develop a six- to twelve-month content roadmap so you know what articles you need to have completed each month to accomplish your goals.
Do Hire a Freelancer If…
If you meet the following criteria, then you’re ready to hire a team of freelance writers.
You Have a Plan and Your Ready to Execute
If you’ve got a solid content strategy but you don’t have the pieces in place to execute on that strategy, then you’re ready to hire a freelance writer. How do you know if your strategy is solid?
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Have you determined who your audience is?
- Have you identified the problem(s) your product or service solves?
- Have you developed your unique selling proposition?
- Have you decided what content formats will work best for your audience?
- Do you know what keywords you want to rank for?
- Do you know what topics you’ll cover over?
- Have you chosen which channels you publish your content on?
- Do you have a system for managing content development, publication, and promotion?
How to Hire Freelance Writers
Hiring freelancers can be simple as long as you know where to find them and how to assess their skills. Here are some pointers.
Where to Find Good Freelance Writers
You can find freelance writers all over the place. One of the best places to find affordable writers is on Upwork. Or you could post a request for writers on LinkedIn, but be ready to receive a lot of messages. Some of them will be good, but the majority of them won’t be. Of course, that’s true on Upwork too. Everyone seems to think they can be a writer.
How to Choose the Best Freelance Writer for Your Assignment(s)
Whether you use Upwork, a LinkedIn post, or something else, you’re going to end up with more proposals than you know what to do with. I recommend testing for the following skills:
- verbal reasoning
- English language proficiency
- SEO copywriting
- reading comprehension
Once you know which candidates rank the highest, you can start looking at resumes and writing samples.
How to Get the Most Value from Your Freelance Writers
Once you’ve started onboarding freelancers, there are a few things you can do to help them be as productive as possible.
Provide Detailed Content Briefs
First of all, give them as much detail as possible in your content briefs. The less guesswork your writers have to do, the more likely it is that the finished product will meet your expectations.
Establish a Clear Process for Content Production
Use a task management tool like Trello or Asana to keep track deadlines and see what stage each assignment is. By including an outline stage, you can help your writers make sure they’re on the write track before they put too much time into writing something that you can’t publish. For example, if your audience is teachers, but a writer submits an article geared towards students, you can have them revise the outline before moving on.
Otherwise, you might wait around a couple of weeks only to find that the writer has to go back to the drawing board.
Develop Long-Term Relationships with Your Freelancers
Find freelance writers that you can work with on an ongoing basis. The longer you work with a writer, the better they’ll come to understand what you’re looking for in an article. By providing detailed feedback on their outlines and drafts, you can help your freelance writing team understand your brand guidelines, voice, and product. Eventually, you’ll find that you have a few go-to writers who don’t require any oversight at all.
Do It Yourself or Have It Done for You
Now that you know the process, you can begin building your own team of freelance writers. But if you don’t have the time, strategy, and/or people in place to coordinate your content marketing efforts, you can choose a done-for-you option instead. For example, at Raindance, we offer an Inbound Marketing Content Service that will manage the process from start to finish. We’ll handle the content strategy, keyword research, topic planning, writing, and more.
Frequently Asked Questions About Hiring Freelance Writers
A good freelance writer will cost anywhere from $200 to $300 for a 2,000 word article. If you don’t already have team members in place to find, manage, edit and pay writers, you’ll need to find someone to do that as well. Similarly, if you don’t have a team member who can handle SEO and content strategy, that will be an additional expense to take into account.
There are a number of job boards and freelancing websites where you can find freelance writers. Upwork, Freelancer, Problogger, and Copyblogger all host freelance writers looking for new assignments. You can also find freelance writers by posting your project as a status update on your LinkedIn profile or by posting a job on We Work Remotely (as of this writing, posting a job on We Work Remotely costs $300).