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Tips for Working with Freelance Writers

Apr 14, 2017
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Once you’ve embraced inbound marketing and content marketing and get to work developing a game plan for your business, you'll soon realize that you’re going to need lots of high-quality, engaging content for your website. The truth is that many marketing agencies and their clients don’t have the in-house staff, time, subject matter knowledge, and/or skills to write about all of the topics that will yield their desired results (i.e. leads, conversions and high search engine rankings).

As an inbound agency, we work with clients in a wide array of industries, from plumbing and HVAC services to dental and medical practices to preschools to engineering firms. There is no way we would be able to write for all of those varied subjects ourselves, with our small staff. We simply don’t have the subject matter knowledge or time to do so. Many of our clients face the same issues. Although they have the subject matter knowledge, they don’t have the time or marketing knowledge to create strong blog content on their own. A scalable approach to content production is required for content marketing success.

The answer lies in using talented freelance content writers. By leveraging the power of outsourcing these skills, we’ve found that we can generate the content our clients need on a consistent basis.

There are some challenges inherent in contracting out this type of work. Gaps in communication, vague content production processes and a lack of firm timelines can lead to content that misses the mark and missed deadlines. Over the past year, we’ve learned a few lessons about using freelance writers which we are sharing below. We now have an excellent pool of writers who help us stay on target with content while staying on budget and meeting deadlines.

Tips for Working with Freelance Writers

 

Hire Great Writers

A good writer can take a topic and produce a well-written article. A great writer tells a story that is engaging, prompting the reader to take action. It’s not easy to find great writers and it may take some trial and error. When you find them, hold onto them because they will become one of your firm’s greatest assets. The longer a writer writes for a specific client the better they will get at writing for them as they learn their voice, their mission and values, and their subject matter.

A great writer will also understand the principles of content marketing and inbound marketing. They grasp the importance of keywords, calls-to-action, and writing for specific personas. Make sure your writers have this knowledge and use it in their writing or you will find yourself having to edit their articles to suit your target audience and lead generation goals.

There are many sources online for writers. We use Zerys, Belay Solutions, and an independent freelance writer. Take your time finding writers. In addition to online sources, ask other agency or business owners about writers they have hired and use referrals.

Hiring writers is as important as hiring for any other staff position. Ask potential writers for samples of their work and interview potential writers if possible. When hiring writers, look for these traits:

  • ability to write about various subjects, making complex topics easy to understand
  • excellent grammar and punctuation
  • responsive to requests and deadlines
  • ability to take feedback and critiques and adjust their writing as necessary
  • excellent communication skills and team player attitude

Create an Editorial Calendar

Rushing to produce content never fails to result in mistakes and missteps. Create an editorial calendar for your blog content and landing page offers at least a month in advance. Producing a quarterly content calendar is even better. Your writers will appreciate the lead time. We use a basic spreadsheet for our editorial calendar, but there are templates online if you need some help. Be sure to include these key pieces of info on your calendar:

  • writer deadline
  • publication date
  • title
  • keywords
  • internal links to include in articles

Empower Your Writers

I am constantly amazed at how our writers go from a vague article title and a few keywords and creating an eloquent piece of writing that makes a complex topic easy to understand. What helps a freelance writer go from a blank page to an article is the background information that you provide to them. There are several important resources you will want to provide to your writers for each client:

  • buyer persona(s)
  • website URL
  • websites in the same industry to use for reference
  • preferred writing style, tone, and voice
  • a list of phrases to avoid using

Open Communication

Develop an open and friendly relationship with your writers. It will make it easier to communicate feedback and concerns. Include your writers in discussions about content strategy and article topics. They will have some good insights about how to approach the subject matter. And, the more informed they are about clients the better equipped they will be to write for them.

If possible, meet with your writers periodically via video conference. It helps develop a good working relationship with them. Although they are independent or employed by a writing service, you want them to feel like part of your team.

Joseph Guida of Shoreline Copy, LLC, explains the importance of communication:

“Communication is very important. The best clients are ones that communicate clearly about what they want and when things are due, but trust their writers and other team members to get the job done.  Planning out a schedule for work and payment is very helpful. Meetings on a regular or semi-regular basis are good to make sure everyone is one the same page.”

Give Feedback

Writers need to know when they are on target and where they are missing the mark. It’s the only gauge they have regarding whether or not they are producing useful content. The more precise and detailed you can be in your feedback the better as it helps them refine their writing to suit the client’s needs. One of our writers had this to say about feedback:

“All feedback is helpful. I learn the most when people point out a flaw or something I did wrong, but I also learn what people like when I get good feedback.” – David, Belay Solutions

Be a Great Client

By following the tips above, you’ll develop a strong working relationship with your writers. Writers want to work with clients who are open, communicate frequently, and provide specific feedback. They also want to know that their work is valued and important to the mission of your agency or business.

For tips on working with remote teams, check out our article Team Collaboration Tools We Can't Live Without.

One more piece of advice… pay your writers on time. They are one of the gears that keep the content wheels in motion and if there is a breakdown in your relationship with them your marketing machine can come to a screeching halt.

We are grateful to the professional writers who contribute to our agency’s success. We want to know, do you have any tips for working with freelance writers? We’re always looking for ways to improve and we’d love to hear from you.

Busy Business Owner

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Rhonda Bavaro

By Rhonda Bavaro

As an Inbound Marketing Strategist for Shelley Media Arts, Rhonda helps our clients grow their audience through content marketing. A self-professed grammar geek and word nerd, Rhonda enjoys writing about social media, productivity, and remote work. Working from her home office in Queens, NY, she is an enthusiastic evangelist for the virtual office lifestyle.

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