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August 16, 2017 (Updated: February 3, 2023)
Hiring a freelance writer isn’t exactly like hiring a new employee. It’s more like going on a first date. Instead of checking out their online profile, you’ll likely read their past writing online. Instead of meeting for dinner or coffee, you’ll chat on Skype. You ask your date questions when you meet, in part to see if you’re a good fit for each other. It’s no different when you’re ready to hire a freelance writer. Here are 10 questions to ask before you hire a freelance writer.
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You might think the amount a writer will charge is the most important question to ask. While the money is important, make sure to find out what you’re getting for your money. How many edits will the writer make as part of their fee? Will they attend virtual or in-person meetings? What kind of research will they conduct? When a writer charges a higher price, it’s not only for the skill they have but also for the work required to complete your project.
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Not every freelance writer you hire needs to have a work history in your industry. They need to show they can create the kind of content you want. Ask what industries they write for. Find out what kind of content they’ve written in the past. Written content is vast and the possibilities are endless: white papers, video scripts, blog posts, email newsletters, etc. Ask for links to their writing samples for other companies and check their references.
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Part of the answer a freelance writer gives depends on the project you’re hiring them to do. If you ask for one blog post a week and a monthly email newsletter, they should send content to you by an agreed upon deadline. You may, however, decide to ask for a last-minute project. At that point, it’s up to you to ask how quickly they can get it done or give them a deadline and ask if they can meet it.
Most freelance writers can do much more than the project you’re hiring them to complete. You might need blog posts today and a case study tomorrow. Finding a good writer who can offer different types of content will save you time. Other work that writers can do includes copywriting, script writing, interviews, newsletters, social media management, and more. Be ready to pay extra and possibly higher fees for any extra work you need.
Every freelance writer has a slightly different system. Make sure you understand when payment is due and which forms of payment they accept. Some writers send invoices upon completion of a project and others bill monthly. You can ask for something different, but it’s up to the writer to decide if they will change their billing practices for you. Most use online payment systems like PayPal or QuickBooks to send invoices and accept payments.
Freelance professionals benefit from a flexibility that employees usually don’t have. They work when it fits their schedule. Not every freelance writer works full-time, though. Some have other jobs or obligations and must schedule their writing work very carefully. Before you hire a writer, it’s important that you know when they will be available to answer your questions, take on a new assignment, or send in requested revisions.
In a perfect world, a freelance writer would complete a piece, send it in, and the heavens would open up as angels sing about their perfect words. In the real world, not every writer gets it right the first time, especially in the beginning as they learn the tone and style you prefer. It isn’t unusual for a writer to offer a few revisions on a piece within a certain timeframe. Full re-writes are usually rare, so ask how the writer will handle those if requested.
A freelance writer doesn’t need in-depth expertise on search engine optimization (SEO) to write well. They need to understand the principles of SEO and why it’s important to the online content they may write for you. If you want SEO keyword research done, be ready to pay extra or find another expert. A qualified freelance writer can use your keywords and research to optimize your content, title, and headings.
When you ask this question, a professional freelance writer may ask, “Do you have a brand guide?” This tells them nearly everything they need to know about the tone you want. If you don’t have one, they should describe multiple tones they’ve written in before. They may also ask questions to help you decide what tone you want them to use or help you figure out your brand’s voice.
Technically, this is two questions, but they go together. Often a freelance writer will ask this first during the negotiation. You can negotiate most of these details, and there is no right or wrong answer. Are you looking for a ghostwriter, or may the writer be listed as the author? Will you own the finished piece, notes, and other research, or can they use their notes and research for other pieces? Who gets the copyright for the piece? It’s important to consider these things before hiring a writer. When negotiations are over, put the details in an official agreement between you and your writer.
Hiring any freelance writer is both exhilarating and nerve-wracking, much like going on a first date. Will this person be a good fit for your company? Can they give you what you need? Is this going to work out, or will there be a painful break-up in a few months? The more questions you ask, the more comfortable you’ll be when you make the final decision of whether to go on a second date…or hire a freelance writer.