The content beast has an insatiable appetite. As they have for the past several years, marketers plan to increase the amount of content they produce in 2017. Content is also getting longer (1050 words on average) and taking more time to develop.
This growing investment in content production has undeniable benefits: 85% of marketers surveyed by Content Marketing Institute attributed greater success in content marketing to higher quality/more efficient content creation.
Yet the unceasing demand for more, bigger, better content puts a strain on small, internal marketing departments. This results in CMOs relying on outside sources to fill the gaps. But writing contractors vary wildly in quality of work, pricing, and professionalism.
The last thing you need is a freelance content writer who slows down projects and generally makes your job harder. So, how do you successfully incorporate freelancers into a productive and reliable part of your marketing team?
Long-time independent content writer, Alexa Steele of The Website Wordsmith, offers guidance.
5 Step Guide to Hiring Freelance Content Writers
Step 1: Hire Well
Properly vetting freelance content writers is the first step to developing a strong and productive working relationship.
It’s a good idea to recruit a shortlist of content writers you feel comfortable turning projects over to — even at the last minute.
When reviewing candidates look for:
- Writing samples that show strong language skills.
- An online profile that demonstrates marketing and personal branding skills.
- A keen sense of curiosity (when you talk to them, they should be hungry for information about you, your brand, your product, and your target audience).
Try not to overemphasize industry-specific experience. A good copywriter can learn your product and industry. What you shouldn’t have to teach them is proper grammar or how to write persuasive copy.
Step 2: Pay Well
The number one complaint from content managers is that freelance writers require too much “hand-holding.” They often lack in self-direction and turn in subpar work.
The most common complaint from writers is that content buyers just want the lowest possible price and couldn’t care less about creativity or skill.
These complaints are interrelated (in a chicken-and-egg kind of way). If you consistently find your freelancers to be uninspired, consider increasing your content production budget. Then repeat step one to identify appropriately qualified writers.
For pricing benchmarks check out:
Step 3: Sign a Contract
An unhappy contractor makes a bad business partner. And if there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to leave freelance writers unhappy, it’s project creep. That’s why project parameters and compensation should be spelled out in writing before work begins.
What to include:
- Compensation (Is it per hour? Per word? Per project?)
- Project length (About how many words or hours?)
- Project deadlines
- Terms of payment
Step 4: Collaborate Well
Once you have a small pool of writers you trust, be sure to include them during the planning stages of your content projects. Getting a writer’s perspective during brainstorming and strategy sessions not only shows you respect their expertise, but gets the creative juices flowing (goodbye writer’s block!)
Early involvement also gives new writers a chance to learn about your company. Fully understanding your business, product, and audience is key to producing the best possible content, so the more information, the better.
Helpful details include:
- Your company’s history
- Your brand values
- Your target market
- Your style guide (if you have one)
- Imagery that will accompany the content
- Any graphic design the copy must align with
- Results of prior content campaigns
- Your suggestions for the content
Step 5: Be loyal
Writers would much rather serve a few loyal clients than always be fishing for the next prospect. Providing a consistent work flow (and revenue stream) for your writers reduces their stress. In return, you’ll be rewarded with more of their time and attention (a.k.a. better service). Plus, the longer you work with a writer, the better they get to know you, which means they can spend more time writing and less time getting up to speed.
Think of your freelance content writers as an extension of your internal marketing team. If you vet them thoroughly, compensate them fairly, open up to them, and provide a predictable workflow, you’ll find they can take significant pressure off you and your staff.
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