10 QUESTIONS TO ASK A FREELANCE WRITER
"I have tons of time to write blogs." - said no business owner ever.
Unless writing is your business or hobby, it’s likely not something you want to spend a lot of time on. There’s a lot involved in even a basic blog post. You have to think about the goals of your content, keywords, length, brand voice, content research, editing, image sourcing…
This is where freelance writers are worth more than gold. Well, not really. But considering that content marketing is only getting started and you only have so many hours in the day to work on your business, we are really handy. See, when you are so busy running a business creating your goods and services, trying to figure out your cash flow statement or on the phone with the IT guys for the 100th time today, the LAST thing you want to think about is building high-quality content that connects and converts.
Enter freelance writers.
I’ve built an entire business designed to help entrepreneurs create incredible content that resonates with their audience and eventually (with some sales funnel magic) converts a few customers.
But it’s important to hire the right writer for your business. Not every writer is going to understand what you do and who you are. Hiring the wrong one will end up causing you grief and a lot more money. Finding the right writer for your business can be challenging, so I’ve put together a list of 10 questions to ask a freelance writer to ensure you get the right one for your business.
Use these questions to guide your search to find your unicorn writer and once you’ve nabbed one of us, get ready to make some content magic!
WHAT IS INCLUDED IN YOUR PRICE?
A good freelance writer will set appropriate prices and will be very transparent in what those prices include. Get very specific with your writer on this part because it’s fraught with opportunity to overcharge and underdeliver. Now that I’ve scared both the entrepreneurs and freelancers reading this, here’s what you want to ask:
- Does your package include keyword or topic research?
- How many revisions are included?
- Is your price for a specific length of content? (Typically, this falls somewhere in the 500-2000 word range. Be specific if you need more or less.)
- Who is responsible for providing the images?
- Is this an hourly service or a set rate?
- Who will be responsible for measuring and optimizing content?
HOW DO YOU ADAPT YOUR WRITING TO MY BRAND VOICE?
Good writers are “word chameleons”. We should be able to understand your brand’s unique voice well enough to write content that will resonate. If you’re a light-hearted, witty brand, writers should be able to adapt. I will usually do this by taking a look at your existing content, scouting for specific words or phrases that you use often and adapt my writing to fit that. A good writer will also ask questions to understand your audience and voice to produce a good piece of content. Don’t hesitate to ask a potential writer to produce a simple piece of content to evaluate whether they can adapt their writing.
DO YOU HAVE EXAMPLES OF PREVIOUS WORK?
A good writer should have a portfolio of work. (For example, this blog acts as a large portion of my work as a writer.) If a writer does not have a portfolio, ask them to create a blog post, sales sheet or another simple piece of content to evaluate their work.
WHAT IS YOUR PROCESS?
Writers are inherently creative, so process isn’t exactly our sweet spot. But having an effective and efficient process will ensure that your project moves forward on time and on budget. A good writer should take you through their individual process. This question should encompass a series of additional questions including
- What do you need to get started?
- Will you be able to meet deadlines?
- How will I pay you?
- How will you handle revisions and proofreading?
- Who owns the work? Do you get author credit?
For example, here is my process. This process assumes that we have already made a connection.
- Fill out a content brief. This is a document designed to capture as much information as possible to understand the project, including your goals, audience, competitors, key messages, scope of the project, etc.
- Establish roles, responsibilities, workflow, budget, payment terms, and deadlines. This is a meaty part of the process as it sets expectations regarding who will be responsible for what (research, keywords, image sourcing, linking, etc.). This is also where we develop a workflow that will keep the project moving, and we talk about your budget, how and when payment will be handled and timelines.
- Sign a contract. (Hard line here: no contract, no work. It protects the both of us.)
- Do the work: write, edit, repeat.
- Sign off on the project.
- Pop some bubbly. I will. You can join me, if you want.
WHAT ARE YOU READING RIGHT NOW?
Good writers are active readers. It doesn’t matter if it’s a novel, blog or comic series, but it is important to know that whoever you hire is developing their writing skills by reading.
(In case you’re interested, I am reading “How to Be A Bawse” by Lilly Singh, aka Superwoman.)
WITH WHAT TOPICS AND FORMATS ARE YOU MOST FAMILIAR?
I used to write blog posts for a funeral home. Yes, guys, a funeral home. Now I know more about embalming and space burials than I care to. To start, I wasn’t incredibly familiar or excited about the subject matter and to be honest, my writing was not as good as it could have been. This post is all about finding the right freelancer for the job, so hiring someone who neither has much expertise nor passion about plumbing may not be the right fit for your blooming plumbing business. A lifestyle writer might be a better fit for your floral business than a business writer. You’ll spend less time educating your writer and more time letting them wow you with their magic.
HOW DO YOU SOURCE CREDIBLE RESEARCH?
If you’re trying to rank, drive traffic or even establish a little brand awareness, developing authority in your industry is essential. Linking to non-credible sources in your content will not help you. Ask a potential writer where they find their information and how they vet a particular source.
WHAT PIECES NEED TO BE IN PLACE FOR A SUCCESSFUL CONTENT PROJECT?
Content is created for a purpose and an audience. Good writers will create content keeping the goal and the audience always front of mind.
WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT SEO?
Good writers will understand how to incorporate white hat SEO practices into your content. They will understand how to weave in keywords, add alt tags, build links and adapt to algorithm changes.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT WRITING?
Nothing is more infectious than someone who loves what they do. Their passion is palpable, and that passion is transposed into great work.
After your conversation with a potential freelancer, you should understand:
- how the work will get done;
- who will be responsible for what;
- how much the work will cost;
- the logistics of the project (payment terms, deadlines, etc.); and
- whether a writer is right for your business.
Hiring a freelancer writer is not much different than hiring an employee. Passion, culture and character are essential components to a great professional relationship. These questions should give you confidence that you’ve hired the right person for the job.