Hiring a Freelance Content Writer: The Complete Guide

If your agency is looking to improve its content marketing, and free up valuable time and resources, it might be time to outsource. To help you in the quest for the perfect writer, we’ve created a comprehensive, no-holds-barred guide to hiring a freelance content writer. From sourcing your writer, to writing a content brief, and even solving some common outsourcing problems – we’ve got you covered. With 62% of businesses outsourcing their content, it’s time that your agency understood how to benefit from outsourced content.

Hiring a Content Marketing Writer

Do I need a freelance content writer?

A freelance content writer can be the difference between a growing, thriving agency – and an agency struggling to keep its head above water. Having said that, the decision to outsource should never be taken lightly. Hiring a freelancer will always carry with it some degree of cost – in terms of time, expense and risk. So, before we dive in, we need to be sure that your agency really needs a writer. Before setting out on the hunt for a freelancer, ask yourself these 3 questions:

Do I have the manpower to handle content in-house?
Freelance writer and manpowerYour own team should always be your first port-of-call. If you’re confident that your team has the ability, resources and time to tackle your content, you should make full-use of their abilities. If, however, your agency is stretched thin, and struggling to produce consistently great content – a freelance content writer could help.

Are my employees world-class writers?
1st place contentContent can’t be mundane. There’s too much competition for average content to be effective, and if your team can’t write stellar content, you need to hire a pro. Whether you’re writing for your own blog, or your client’s blog, you need to watch out for these 4 signs that it’s time to outsource.

Am I willing to make a permanent hire?
Hiring an affordable marketing writerIt’s possible that your business will be best-served by a full-time writer. If you think that could be the case, read our guide to permanent hiring – Should My Agency Hire or Outsource? – and make an informed decision.

Where can I hire a freelance content writer?

Finding a freelance content writer has never been easier. Thanks to a wealth of intermediary websites, agencies and writers, your agency can choose a quick, easy and efficient way to find your ideal writer. Each channel has its own merits, and potential problems – so arm yourself with information before starting the search!

Intermediary Websites

Outsourcing content isn’t a new phenomenon. A quick Google search for the term freelance content writer will reveal a wealth of websites dedicated to matching businesses to writers. These sites offer a diverse choice of writers, from thousands of disciplines, and hundreds of countries. If you have the time to spare searching for the right candidate, these sites can be a viable source of content writers. oDesk and Elance are two of the most popular intermediary websites, and might be a good place to start your search.

AgencyBanner

 Huge choice of freelancers

 Low prices

 Hard to find the best writers

 Website will take a cut

 Extremely low barriers to entry

Potential for fraudulent portfolios

Content Writing Agency

Digital agencies can specialize in any aspect of marketing – from SEO to responsive design, PPC to content. Content writing agencies combine a knowledge of the digital ecosystem with the expertise of professional writers. The services on offer can vary hugely, because of variations in size and expertise – but the quality and reliability on offer will always outdo intermediary websites. As an example, I run Contender Content, a specialised content writing agency – and we offer a range of blog management and white-label content services.

ContentAgencyBanner

 Variety of services to suit all needs

 Experts in content marketing

Knowledgeable across multiple industries

 Some agencies are glorified content farms

Agencies may expect longer-term commitments

Single Writer

Occasionally, you’ll read an article that really resonates with you – one that inspires and engages you, and leaves you wanting more. It’s clear that the author is top-quality: so why not approach them about content writing? A lot of writers use their blog as a powerful advertisement for their services, and your ideal writer could be just an email away. I’ve started some fantastic working relationships because of my blog content, with marketers reading my content and getting in touch about working with me!

WriterBanner

Obvious skill-set and writing ability

 Lower prices than large agencies

Easily contactable

Ability to develop a personal relationship

Expert in their niche

Potentially limited workload

Can be harder to find

How do I shortlist my writers?

There are thousands of freelance marketing writers available to hire. Each will have their own specialties, skills, strengths, weaknesses, passions and dislikes. In order to find the perfect marketing writer for your agency, you need to be discerning – and shortlist your writers. From my own experience in the marketing industry, I’ve compiled a quick hiring checklist to help you narrow down the field.

Hiring Checklist

 Professional Website – Whilst we needn’t expect our writers to be seasoned coding-pros, it is important that they understand the digital environment. A professional website is a good indicator that our writer understands the online world, and appreciates the importance of great first impressions.

 Great Blog – In other words, do they practice what they preach? Any content marketing writer worth their salt will apply their skill-set and knowledge to their own business. Look for a regularly-updated, engaging and targeted blog. Can you easily define its target audience? Do the headlines compel you to click-through? Is this standard of writing good enough for your blog?

 Active Social Media Presence – Social media can be a huge source of referral traffic, and if your writer is successfully leveraging it for themselves, it bodes well for your own content. If your writer is active across social media, and their content is popular, it’s a good indicator of its quality, targeting and efficacy.

 Portfolio – A portfolio can take a range of formats: from a website slideshow to a downloadable PDF. The type of portfolio on offer will vary (and a white-label writer may not have an obvious portfolio) – but your writer should always make available examples of their previously published work. If a portfolio isn’t immediately obvious, request one from your candidates.

 References – Testimonials are great, but they aren’t a patch on references. If you’re able to get hold of contact details for genuine reference, you can benefit from an insight into your writer’s ability and work ethic. Best of all, it’s the perspective of somebody in your position – making their opinion invaluable.

 Easy to contact – Email addresses and phone numbers are useless if you can’t get hold of your writer. Send a few introductory emails back-and-forth, and monitor their response times. There’s no guarantee that a responsive writer will stay responsive throughout your contact – but it’s still worth checking.

 Familiar with your target audience – A good writer is a good writer, regardless of the subject matter. To be a great writer though, it helps to be familiar with the right target audience. Does your writer understand the problems faced by your audience? Can they empathize with them? Can they relate to your reader?

How do I choose my freelance writer?

We’re getting close! By this point, you should have come across a couple of standout writers (and if you haven’t, jump down to Common problems with hiring a freelance writer). All manner of considerations may influence your final decision – but these 4 factors are some of the most critical in your pursuit of the perfect freelance content writer.

Experience

experiencebuttonThere’s no real substitute for experience. Seasoned freelancers have experience of client-work, and they understand the responsibilities that come with the territory. There’s nothing wrong with hiring a talented, fresh-faced writer: but experience tends to be conducive to efficiency.

Personality

HappyButtonDo you like your writer? It’s likely that your chosen freelancer is going to become an important part of your team. Whilst there’s no need to find your next BFF, finding a pleasant and engaging writer can be a big plus.

Location

UKButtonCare of the internet, your writer could be based on the other side of the world, with no appreciable differences in their content. However, you may feel more comfortable hiring a writer from the same part of the world as your agency. Native writers have an unbeatable grasp of the language, tone and dialect of your country, and their content is more likely to relate to your native clients. If you’re a UK-based agency, look to hire a UK content marketing writer first and foremost.

Price

PoundButtonFor every savvy marketer, price is a hugely important factor. There can be huge fluctuations in pricing from writer to writer – so decide on a budget, and obtain rough quotes from your writers. Whilst there are no hard-and-fast rules for pricing, it’s important to remember that…

…you tend to get what you pay for. Chasing the bottom line could be damaging – and if you care about your website, blog and client-work, quality is paramount. It is possible to find incredible value writers at minimal cost – but lower-than-average rates are much more symptomatic of lower-than-average writers.

…prices vary for a reason. For most writers, it’s impossible to advertise fixed-rates for content. Blog posts, eBooks, web content, sales copy and white papers all require different skills, abilities and levels of research – and they’ll incur different costs as a result.

…writers are people too. If a writer is just out of budget, talk to them honestly and fairly. Explain your issues, and there’s a good chance that they’ll be willing to meet halfway.

How do I brief my content writer?

In order to write effective content, your writer needs to understand your business: your clients, your industry, your goals and objectives, your aims and expectations. A content brief contains this crucial information, and facilitates a successful working relationship.

Buyer Personas

PeopleButton

Every piece of content should begin with a buyer persona. Your writer needs to understand your target audience, and empathize with their problems and needs. Any information you can provide your writer with will improve the efficacy of your content. For help in developing a buyer persona, check out this great resource from HubSpot.

Sales Funnel Stage

FunnelButtonContent should vary according to the intended reader’s position in the sales funnel. Sales-qualified leads will respond to information differently to a new lead – and whilst a case study might be perfect for an advanced lead, a basic guide or problem-solving post will be better received by a first-time visitor.

Topic and Title

TitleButtonSome agencies need a writer to tackle existing content briefs. If you have a topic and title planned-out, try and provide as much information and background as possible. If you already have a defined keyword strategy, make sure that your writer is aware of your requirements before they start writing.

Key Points and Resources

KeyButton

If there are any key points you’d like to include in your content, mention them to your writer. This can be anything – quotes, statistics or resources – but unless you explicitly include them in your brief, it’s unlikely that your writer will know to include them.

Call-to-Action

ButtonButtonWhat’s the ideal outcome from your blog post? Do you want your reader to subscribe to your blog, or download an eBook? Your writer can tailor the content to suit a particular outcome – but only if you keep them informed. If possible, provide your writer with a landing page link, and an overview of your basic sales funnel. By helping them to understand the role of content within your sales funnel, the end product will be more conversion-focused.

Time Frame

ClockButton

When do you expect to have the work completed by? Time frames are vital for both agency work, and client work, so set fixed deadlines for your writer. Include enough time to allow for any editing and revisions that need to be made, and remember that flexibility is one of the key benefits of hiring a freelance writer. There’s no need to commit yourself long-term, and many marketing writers will be happy to work on a monthly basis.

How should I handle payment?

Payment needn’t be a sticky-issue. You can use your brief to outline payment in clear and concise terms. Writing it down in black-and-white will prevent any future disagreements over rates and budgets, so the more time you’re willing to spend on a brief, the better. The payment terms will vary according to your own budget, and your chosen writer – but there are 4 areas your brief should always address:

Hourly or Fixed Rate?
Hourly rates cause inefficiency.

The traditional billable-hour system is tied exclusively to outputs, not outcomes

Paul Roetzer, The Marketing Agency Blueprint

To avoid spiraling costs and inefficient writers, look to set a fixed per-article price. This allows you to tightly control your expenditure, and encourages your writer to use their time as efficiently as possible.

Deposits and Expenses
Whilst uncommon, some writers may ask for deposits and expenses. If you’re happy to work with this model, ensure that you tightly define the limits of what’s acceptable – but personally, I’d recommend finding a more flexible writer.

Payment arrangements
How are you going to pay your writer, and how frequently? Wherever possible, choose a payment method that suits both parties – be it weekly or monthly, bank transfer or even Paypal.

Performance standards
What happens in the event of poor performance? How will you handle rewrites? If your writer misses a deadline, or misinterprets a brief, it’s crucial that you have a plan in place to deal with it.

Common problems with hiring a freelance writer

If you follow the steps outlined in this guide, and strive to avoid these 5 damaging mistakes, you stand a great chance of cultivating a productive relationship. Even seemingly inevitable issues can be resolved, quickly and easily – and as long as you communicate regularly with your freelance content writer, your agency can continue to benefit from world-class content marketing.

Plagiarism
It’s such a common-sense issue that many agencies overlook plagiarism. 99% of the time, they can afford to – but occasionally, a cost-cutting agency that’s sought out a cheap writer will fall victim to plagiarism. It can be damaging for an agency, and disastrous for their clients. Thankfully, a solid portfolio and a recommendation are enough to minimize the risks – and failing that, there’s always Copyscape.

Hiring the wrong writer
No matter how scrupulously you’ve vetted your writers, it’s still possible to choose the wrong one. Maybe you’ve chosen a technical writer, instead of a more creative one – or perhaps you need a content strategist, as well as a great writer. Thankfully, flexibility is one of the core tenets of hiring a freelance content writer. If you’ve realized that your writer isn’t the right fit for your job, both parties can quickly and easily move on to more fruitful relationships.

Not finding the perfect writer
The quality of your content is paramount. Everything you publish reflects directly upon your agency – and as a result, you may feel unable to find a writer capable of maintaining your high standards. However, with thousands of professional writers, working with hundreds of agencies, the right fit is out there. If you’re unable to find a match through intermediary agencies, try reaching out to agencies and individual writers.

Can you recommend a great writer?

Ryan Law Freelance Content Writer

How could you say no to that smile?!

If you’ve made it this far, you already have a solid understanding of how to find the perfect content writer. As the author of this guide, you also have a thorough understanding of me.

I’m a professional content writer, and I specialize in writing white-label content for marketing agencies. I’ve worked with dozens of agencies, writing purposeful, targeted content on a diverse selection of topics: from inbound marketing, to business telecoms. I understand the problems faced by growing agencies – and my services are tailored to solve them.

There’s no guarantee that we’ll be the right fit: but with years of experience, working alongside some of the biggest and brightest lights in digital marketing, there’s a good chance we could be. If you have any questions about content, get in touch for a free content marketing consultation!

 
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