So, you have a writing project in mind and you’ve decided to hire a freelance writer. Great!
But, there are so many freelance writers out there, many of whom are fantastic but some might be complete cowboys. How do you know which one to work with?
In this post, I’ll take you through five steps that will help you choose the right freelance writer for your small business. These steps all focus on a couple of important things:
Understanding your goals.
If you can nail both of these, you will make the process a whole lot easier for yourself. They underpin the five steps I will outline below:
Define your business goals
Research and shortlist writers
Evaluate your shortlist
Choose a writer
Review and revise
But first, let’s review what a freelance writer actually does.
What is a freelance writer?
Freelance writers are self-employed business owners in their own right. They work for others as an independent contractor and are therefore not an employee of whoever they work for. Since they aren’t employees, it means they aren’t salaried either and therefore a business owner could save money and resources by outsourcing to a freelancer.
What is the difference between freelance and in-house?
The key difference between freelance and in-house writers is their relationship with the company hiring them. While in-house writers are members of a team within a company, freelancers are independent of it, although they can work with senior managers and editors of a team to get projects done.
Because of the nature of the relationship, freelancers are not salaried and charge their own rates (or negotiate a rate with the company hiring them). As I mentioned above, this can save money if you hire a freelance writer for specific projects as and when they appear.
But choosing the right freelance writer can be a tough decision. While there are plenty of fantastic freelancers available, you’ll need to take several things into account before committing to a long-term working relationship.
5 steps for choosing the right freelance writer
1. Define your business goals and needs
The most important step you can take before making any business decision is to go over and define your business goals and needs.
It certainly helps if you already have some in place - you’ll just need to review them. If you don’t have business goals in place, then what are you waiting for? Masterclass have a great resource on how to identify and define your business goals if you want to know more.
Back to the topic at hand. Once you know what your business goals are, for example, earn £X in one year, or increase content output by 40%, you will have a clearer idea of what it is your business needs.
This is where you define what sort of content your business needs to achieve your goals. Do you need social media content? Email marketing? Blog posts? Video content? There are many freelance writers out there, but most will specialise in a certain type of writing. For example, I specialise in long-form content writing such as blog posts and articles. Other freelancers specialise in social media copywriting, email copywriting, or video script writing.
Knowing what type of content you need to achieve your goals will help you identify what type of specialist you need. There are also other things to consider when outlining your needs, such as:
Your target audience - who will consume the content and become potential customers?
Your business style and tone of voice.
Your budget - how much money can you allocate to hiring a freelancer?
Knowing all of the above will help you research and find the right writers for your needs. Which leads to the next step.
2. Research and shortlist writers
Once you have an idea of what you are looking for and what you need, it’s time to start researching and creating a shortlist. Your shortlist will be a list of writers who have a decent portfolio, excellent ability, and are within your budget.
There are a few reliable methods you can use to search for suitable freelance writers.
Google search can be used to find freelancers in your local area if you are looking for someone who lives in the same city or area as your business. Simply search “freelance writers in [city/county/state/country]” to narrow down your search.
Check out the websites of anyone who appeals to you on the first two pages of the results. Be sure to look at their portfolio or blog and look at their writing style. If you like their writing, add them to your shortlist. If they have their rates on their website, be sure to make a note of those too. If they don’t, don’t worry - you can find that out later.
Another research tool available to you is LinkedIn. If you have a LinkedIn profile, you can use the search bar to find freelance writers who specialise in your industry. For example, you can search “freelance B2B SaaS writers”. (SaaS is “software as a service”.)
Check out each writer’s LinkedIn profile and take a look at their website if they have linked it on their page. You can also look at the testimonials section of their profile to see what people say about them.
Finally, there are marketplace websites such as Fiverr. These websites are great tools if you’re looking for a one-off piece of content. There are thousands of writers on these platforms, so you just need to search for writers in your industry to narrow things down.
Each platform has a different method of advertising individuals’ rates. On sites like Fiverr for example, sellers set their prices and packages in their profiles. But on sites like Upwork, you can set the budget for your project and sellers bid for it with proposals.
As you research, you’ll need to create your shortlist as you go. For your list, make sure you have the following details for each freelancer:
General location (e.g., city or country they live in)
Contact details (LinkedIn profile and email address)
Links to projects in their portfolio
Their writing style (does it match what you are looking for?)
Their rates or prices (if the information is available)
Links to testimonials and reviews
The more information you have, the easier it will be to narrow down your list.
3. Evaluate your shortlist and contact the writers
Now that you have a comprehensive shortlist, it’s time to evaluate! Firstly, take the time to go through each writer again and remove any that you’re not 100% confident with. This is important if you want to hire a writer that will do a great job and will be worth the investment! You should have a final shortlist of between five and ten writers. Now it’s time to reach out and connect with them. If you’re doing this on a marketplace website, this should be straightforward as it’s all organised through the platform.
If not, you’ll need to contact the writer directly, either by email or through LinkedIn. You could contact them by phone, but I certainly prefer people to reach out via the previous two methods at first.
In your introductory message, warmly introduce yourself and explain what you are looking for. Explain the scope of the project and that you are looking for freelancers who you would like to work with. You can also ask for samples and portfolio pieces that are related to your industry if you struggled to find some during your research.
If you decide to ask for their rate, remember that some freelancers might not respond with their rates in an email. Some like to get to know a person and the project before giving a price, and this is a perfectly normal part of the process for them.
If possible, arrange a one-to-one meeting with each freelancer. This is to reassure both you and them that you are both real people. It also allows you to develop that initial working relationship with the freelancer.
Finally, if a writer doesn’t meet your expectations or requirements, let them know. Do not ghost them. It is always better to be honest and upfront with a freelancer rather than avoid them altogether. It doesn’t have to be the end of the story for them either! If you feel they might be a better fit for another business in your network, you can always refer them.
4. Choose a writer and arrange an agreement
Now it’s time to choose a writer. If you’ve done everything you needed to in step three, this should be fairly straightforward. The choice here is ultimately up to you.
Once you have decided which writer you want to work with, arrange a face-to-face or virtual meeting with the freelancer. This meeting will be your opportunity to negotiate a rate and payment plan with the writer, which will be on their terms.
You’ll also need to communicate your expectations to the writer and listen carefully to theirs. This is vital. Working with a freelancer is not like hiring an employee; instead, think of it more like a collaboration between two parties on equal terms.
Freelance writers will always have expectations for each project they commit to. For example:
The project brief.
What the scope of the project involves - is it a one-off piece of work, or multiple pieces over several months?
Your style of communication - are you clear and punctual when communicating, or are you likely to ghost? Can you give clear instructions?
Will you make payments on time?
Similarly, you’ll need to communicate your expectations regarding the project. Make sure all of these are put down in a written agreement, along with the payment terms and conditions, as well as the scope of the project.
Finally, make sure you are both happy with the agreement before signing it.
Bonus: As the project gets underway, make sure you provide the freelancer with everything they need, whether it’s a brief, resources, or examples of content you’d like them to use as a guide. Continue to communicate with them throughout the project, but don’t be too overbearing.
5. Review and revise your working relationship
As the project progresses, there will be opportunities to review and revise your working relationship with the freelancer. In the beginning, things may be a little rocky, but rest assured that this is a normal part of the process. Remember that the freelancer is new to your business, and will need time to adjust to you and your brand.
Here are a few tips for reviewing and revising your working relationship with the freelancer.
In the beginning, review each piece of content submitted by the writer and give constructive feedback.
After a few months, take a less hands-on approach and just make sure the later projects meet your expectations.
Take note of any changes in the relationship - is it strengthening, or are more problems starting to appear?
If there are issues, communicate these clearly to your freelancer and allow them time to fix them.
If you find the partnership isn’t working anymore, communicate this clearly to the writer. Never ghost a writer, because the time they spend waiting for you to respond could be spent writing for another business that’s a better fit. It’s better to be open and honest in your communication than bury your head in the sand.
When it comes to finding the right freelance writer for your business, it can be an overwhelming process. You’ll come across a wide variety of people with different experiences and niches in the industry. But with a solid plan behind you, and these steps I’ve outlined, you should find the process a lot simpler. These steps were:
Define your business goals
Research and shortlist writers
Evaluate your shortlist
Choose a writer
Review and Revise
Unfortunately, even with the best will in the world and the best research, sometimes the decision we make might not be the right one. That’s okay! If you find you’ve chosen a freelancer, started a project with them, and discovered they aren’t right for you, then that’s also okay.
The important takeaway here is that you need to be open and honest with them and yourself upfront. Remember that you are dealing with a human being who is also trying to run a business. You need to communicate clearly to make sure that you depart on amicable terms, whether the project was a success or not.
And most importantly, never ghost a freelancer.
Are you considering hiring a freelance content writer? I work with busy B2B service-based businesses in the UK by writing content such as newsletters, blog posts, and books. So if you think I’d be a good fit for you, get in touch to see how I can help you be more visible, show your value, and get more leads.