photo by Authentic Images
Content is pretty much everywhere. But it doesn’t get noticed. In fact, just 30-40% of content produced is actually read. And that’s a conservative estimate.
So how can you make sure that you’re hiring the right writer to get your content shared and linked to?
Make sure the freelance writer knows the topic
One of the key trends in high performance content is the use of Subject Matter Experts. For many companies this means that their internal experts are the ones actually doing the writing, with a content specialist simply editing for mistakes and flow.
But while you may not go that far – or not be able to – that doesn’t mean you should discount the importance of subject expertise.
Hiring a writer who has previous experience writing on your topic is a great first step to producing content people want to share. And this is because that writer knows the audience. It doesn’t matter how much you know about a topic, if you cannot get the target audience to react to that content, you will not produce content that is liked and shared, never mind linked to. So make sure the freelance writer you choose doesn’t just understand the subject matter, but understands how your audience understands the subject matter.
Pick a writer with style
Every site has a style, whether that’s intentional or not.
One big problem you can have is an inconsistent style. So make sure the freelance writer you hire has a proven track record of producing content to a specific voice. It doesn’t matter if it’s his own or guest posting, the ability to write in a certain way bodes well for that writer’s ability to write to your style. And guess what? That style is all about the audience again.
The general population don’t want complicated. It’s why slogans work so well in politics. They’re short, simple and easy to remember. So a writer who can keep their B2C articles short, simple and to the point is always better than one who needs more words to say the same thing.
There’s a reason some of Seth Godin’s blog posts are just a few words.
Browse their samples and get to know their style
That style, though, needs to be a fit for you. If you’re a financial brand and you hire a comedian, it may not go down so well. Be sure to match your own values and tone of voice up with any potential freelance writer. Best, though if they can write in many styles. And there’s only one way to check that…
When hiring a freelance writer, reading through everything they have done can be time consuming. But you probably spent time researching your hosting platform, your email autoresponder and your coffee machine. So why would you neglect something else so important to your business’ success?
Get to know whether the potential hire you’re looking at can actually do what you want. Check their style and their ability to write, check their SEO knowledge and subject matter expertise, and check their availability.
Don’t go crazy, but generally the longer you spend hiring a freelance writer, the better fit they’re going to be in the long-term. And the best freelance writer is the one you will work with long-term.
Get a quality freelance writer
Some sites even test their freelance writers before allowing them to join the marketplace. In this case, the work has been done for you. But if not, check through for silly mistakes, readability and performance. Perhaps you can even run a test like the Hemingway App or Grammarly to make sure their content is of the right standard. A clever way to do this without having to pay them to write a full article is to ask them to write the first paragraph and then write a few points on where they would take it from there. They should be able to do this in 5-10 minutes, and you’re good to go.
The best freelance writers are long-term partnerships
Many companies like to bring all their content efforts in-house. And while this brings the everyone together – great for brainstorming – it isn’t actually the most efficient method.
In fact, freelancers can be cheaper and save you time compared to in-house hires.
And when you bring in a freelancer for a long-term partnership, they get to know your business inside out and can often provide just as much expertise as you can. Which is incredible. A long-term freelance writer can help you with content suggestions, advice on how to better optimize your blog and your content marketing efforts, and that’s before we get to the saved costs from having fewer onboarding sessions.
You get to know their working times, strengths and weaknesses
A long-term partnership with a freelance writer also allows you to build a real relationship with them. Which means that you get to know how they think and act when it comes to writing your content. You can get to know how they work best and adjust accordingly.
And when a partnership is allowed to get to know each other like this, the work they produce is better. The freelancer knows exactly what you want, and you know exactly what the freelancer needs.
Now we’re not saying that you should completely craft your content marketing efforts around the whims of freelance writers, but knowing how they work can help you make their lives easier. And if their lives are easier, producing better work becomes easier.
What about images, SEO and structure?
Content is not complete with words alone, though. For a piece of content to be complete it needs images, it needs to be SEO optimised and it needs to have the perfect structure for the topic.
Some freelance writers happily find their own images, while others prefer their client to provide them. The best content is full of original images that fit the theme perfectly. So if you’re producing an online marketing how-to guide, screenshots are great. But if you’re making a travel guide, you’re going to need beautiful photos.
This is where it’s doubly important to hire a freelance writer based upon your niche. While a marketing writer is going to struggle to back up his travel article with stunning images, a dedicated travel writer is likely to know how to even take beautiful pictures.
For niches that have fewer demands on images, writers may use free stock image sites like PikWizard, Picography or Start Up Stock Photos. If you have an account at a premium stock photo site like iStock or Shutterstock, then it may be worth passing this over to the freelancer.
Hiring a freelance writer doesn’t just come down to writing ability. While it should be top of the list, digital copywriting has a lot more going on that pure writing. And one of the key parts is SEO. You want the freelance writer you hire to have a good grasp of SEO and how it works. They should be able to do their own keyword research, naturally insert their keywords and understand LSI keywords.
One of the easiest ways to understand the writer’s grasp of SEO is with accreditation and badges. Writers can get these from places like MOZ. Another option is with an SEO test. MOZ have a 15 minute SEO Expert Test, while Kern Media have a beginner’s version. Lastly, Search Engine Land have their own SEO test.
Structure and Format
A great freelance writer should also understand the importance of structure. Different topics have different needs and understanding when to change things up is vital. Writers should understand that many people don’t read online content. So their subheadlines need to tell their own story.
List posts can be great for the right audience. Some experts believe they’re almost always great. But what about different formats? Content isn’t just about writing articles and blog posts. The internet allows us to produce all kinds of different types of content.
So if you think visual content will work with your audience, a writer who has experience creating infographics should be high on your list. Are you going to make videos? Get a writer skilled at putting together scripts. And don’t forget to optimise your YouTube channel, while you’re at it.
It’s not all about them
To get great content you cannot simply hire a freelance writer, sit back and expect results. It takes much more than writing to produce content that performs. And it starts and ends with you.
To start with, a freelance writer can only find the right style if you know your style to start with. If you don’t have a target audience, don’t have a tone of voice or brand identity, and don’t have a strategy behind your content marketing efforts, a good writer will only paper over the cracks.
Do your research before you start content marketing. Without a clear strategy, your ROI on that freelance writer is going to be greatly reduced. So put together a content strategy. And if you need help with that, there are freelancers who can help you.
photo by Authentic Images
Many businesses make the mistake of simply sending their freelance writers the topic of the article and the length. It’s the writer’s task to turn that into a great article, they think. Sometimes they give keywords, too. But the best results come when you give a brief. A brief outlines what the article will be. It says the topic and a title suggestion. It lists the keywords and it says the length. But it does so much more.
With a complete content strategy, you should have content personas. These personas are who your articles will be written to. You want the article to be written as if it was written just for this one person. So if you never tell a freelance writer this important piece of information, how will they ever create great content for you?
Include your audience, your competitors audience, your keywords, the aim of the article, and just keep adding more and more until you’re satisfied.
The more information you give a writer, the more time they can spend doing what you actually pay them for: writing.
That may seem like hard work. The kind of hard work you were looking to do away with by hiring a freelance writer. You can, of course, bring in a writer who does it all. Perhaps this freelancer is the same one who put together your content strategy.
This is where we can tie back to the idea of long-term collaboration. Writers who have been with you for a long time don’t necessarily need that full brief anymore. They know exactly what your content is for, who it is for, and why they need to insert a specific call to action.
Understand their needs
Again, it’s important to treat this as a collaboration. Writers should not feel pressured to work on their days off, weekends and the holidays. Be attentive to their needs and you can help foster that long-term collaboration that truly works.
Where to find them?
The freelance marketplace has gone through a number of massive changes over the past decade. We’ve hopefully moved through the bargain basement era, where $1 articles were almost the norm. But there is still a wide variety of prices out there and a wide range of different places to find writers.
Right here at FreeeUp is one of the best places. Here only the top 1% of freelancers get accepted into the marketplace, so you know you can get quality. Other places to try are on Craigslist – which is still surfed by many a freelance writer – Freelance Writing Jobs or even Facebook groups like the Content Marketing Lounge or the Cult of Copy Job Board.
These resources are great places to find the right writer, but it’s up to you to make sure they’re a good fit for your business.
So there we have it.
If you put together the right package and pay attention to a writer’s back catalogue, you can hire a freelance writer who produces amazing content every time and even get you a viral hit every so often.
Just make sure to give them a chance, and if they’re not a right fit, make sure to tell them as soon as possible. And tell them why: they are human after all.
Mícheál Brennan is the content marketing manager at Pikwizard a free image library boasting over 60,000 high quality images that can be used for both commercial and non commercial purposes. In his spare time you can find him in his local thai boxing gym, wondering why he’s feeling so sore.