As online content marketing becomes increasingly important, more and more businesses are discovering they don’t have enough quality writers onboard to meet their growing needs. But not everyone has the budget to maintain a full-time writing staff in-house.
The best solution is to hire freelance writers who specialize in content marketing creation. Outsourcing works well for brands that want to produce content fast or supplement what they are already putting out. But the question is, how do companies find qualified writers?
Only the experts know, through experience, exactly what features to watch for and what red flags to avoid. There are some important characteristics to consider when hiring freelance content writers. Ask yourself the following questions when you are ready to search for your right match:
What Relevant Qualities does the Candidate Possess?
A freelancer is a unique being not quite the same as a writer you may use for traditional purposes. They need to have a much broader skillset beyond wordsmithing. Key characteristics to look for include:
- The ability to write with authority
The freelancer you hire must be able to write in a way that presents your subject matter with confidence and expertise. One of the most important parts of content marketing is successfully conveying brand authority.
One online marketing strategist searches for freelance writers who are experts in specific topics. They will know what content is truly valuable. Someone who doesn’t understand the industry as well, may not do the best work.
Michele Linn, Content Development Director at The Content Marketing Institute hires writers with insider knowledge. She believes that any freelancer can write on any topic if the person can access the appropriate contacts.
Obviously, superb research and interviewing skills can help in lieu of first-hand industry experience. First and foremost, the content writers you choose must know how to delve deep into the topic at hand even if they know nothing about it. Your hired freelancer should have the proven ability to collect relevant statistics and other important data to help them craft an informative and compelling story.
In addition, it is crucial that every story a content writer tells is trustworthy and fact-checked. Factual errors will inevitably tear apart your brand’s credibly and erodes its authority. Therefore, it is important to only use freelancers who fact-check their work and whose content you can rely on for accuracy.
- Writers who are adaptable
While searching for freelance writers skilled with specific subject expertise is a good start, it is not the only requirement you should be seeking. You may need to produce marketing content covering a variety of industries. In fact, finding writers with experience covering multiple topics may be more valuable overall. This type of freelancer is referred to as a generalist in the content marketing industry. It is worthwhile to look for someone who is comfortable shifting focus, can write about a variety of relevant subjects, and doesn’t mind tackling several different topics in one day.
Rebecca Otis of the Internet marketing company Digital Third Coast’s agrees that adaptability is an essential trait in freelancer candidates. The writers you hire must have the ability to engage in the appropriate voice for the target audience.
The experts carefully review submitted writing samples from freelance candidates for tone variations based on the publication type or client the person is representing. These pieces demonstrate whether the freelancer can adapt to fit the style that is needed. Marketing collateral for print or more traditional business communication often requires a different tone than online marketing content.
Traditional marketing materials are also brand-focused and sales-driven but typically have a more formal tone. They are like a one-way conversation. Social media, websites, infographics and blogs are more about accessibility and engagement. The goal is to be conversational and entice readers to interact.
Content marketing is meant to drive sharing and promote dialogues. One way to look at is a press release will announce the launch of a new product, a blog post will compare similar products in the industry.
Some strategists have found that the ability of most freelancers to effectively grasp the tone of the brand they are writing for is rare. Although this skill may be hard to find, it is important and there are capable writers in the mix. Those you hire should have experience and show that they can gain an understanding of your ideal market and write content that engages the target community.
- They have keen internet skills and the social following to prove it
Opt for freelancers who have a good amount of experience writing for the web. Seek candidates who have spent time blogging and creating content for social media platforms. Blog writing and online articles posted on social media are prevalent nowadays. It has become an important part of any smart business’s content marketing campaign.
Therefore, it is in your best interest to hire freelancers who understand these formats and are familiar with the conventions of the platform you use. The best candidates will know how to communicate well and engage an audience on your chosen social networks.
Look for candidates with an established following on their personal blogs or social media pages. If the writer provides content that engages their own followers and earns many shares, likes or other accolades, it is likely that person can generate the same type of excitement for your marketing content.
In addition, it can be helpful to look for freelancers with Google+ profiles or for writers with memberships to industry-related groups or social communities.
- They have relevant business knowledge and understand marketing concepts
It only makes sense that writers who know how to craft the best marketing content also possess some measure of business awareness.
Professional freelance content writers will grasp the notion that they need to deliver a strong piece that converts. They will bring ideas to the table to make the content better and think carefully about important features like formatting, SEO, and image selection. Therefore, it is not so easy to find good freelance content marketing writers.
It may be helpful to seek freelancers who can also help with your marketing efforts by asking candidates to submit a list of potential blog topics and selecting a few for them to write. After the posts are submitted, request that they find relevant images to accompany the articles and make them more likely to be shared.
Keep in mind that the content writers you hire need to achieve the desired goal of content marketing. They must convey a great story that engages a target audience and prompts them to act. The action you are working toward can be to purchase a product or service, learn more about your company, or visit your business website.
How can I Spot an Undesirable Candidate?
When looking for something good, we always must weed out the bad. There are many good qualities to look for in the right freelance content writer, but there also warning signs. Keep an eye out for the following problems that will strongly suggestion, that candidate is a bad fit:
- The freelancer can’t write a competent email. This is a bit alarming, but it happens. If you note a ridiculous amount of spelling and grammar errors, odd tones or if it reads like a template, take heed. If the candidate can’t handle a basic email you have no reason to believe a more comprehensive piece of writing will be any better.
- Poor communication on a project or a lack or responsiveness means no go. Also, missed deadlines and an unwillingness to work on edits. These behaviors tend to surface early on and demonstrate a lack of engagement. You will run the risk of having the freelancer flake out altogether.
- You can generally see who is going to work out well from the start. If your writer in not able to follow instructions, plagiarizes or produces inaccurate work, particularly in areas one may have claimed to have expertise in, those are deal breakers.
What can Employers do to Protect Themselves?
Even with the most thorough screening practices in place, there are always a few bad apples that get through. Challenges always arise when working with this specialized type of freelance writer. But there are ways you can avoid these challenges and develop a positive relationship with your outsourced content writers:
- Provide clear and concise instructions for each project. Many times, the problem is a lack of clarity. Good communication can go a long way on both ends.
- Create an open feedback loop or discussion thread. A clear dialogue goes hand and hand with great communication. The experts recommend scheduling a chat session or phone call prior to starting a new project, where you can clearly explain what the assignment entails and what you expect. This offers a great opportunity for any questions to be answered and feedback to be made.
- Try an agile approach to providing concise feedback. This means that after each project is completed (at the agreed upon deadline or at a pre-determined phase in the process) the writer then submits the work for review. The project is then returned to the freelancer for revision. This way the manager can monitor the work at various stages.
- It is common for businesses to work with content freelancers who are doing work for multiple clients. It is useful to find out how busy the writer is before issuing an assignment. Some writers make a habit of taking on more than they can chew. This practice is bad business for everyone involved.
- If you find a freelancer isn’t working out it is best to not wait, simply cut your losses. It is often more work to try to salvage poorly-written articles then it is to find a new content writer.
Utilizing freelance content writers for marketing purposes can be great for your business. It will allow you to curate a larger, more steady stream of web content on a variety of relevant subjects. Freelancers can either supplement an existing content writing pool or work as a substitute option. This popular method is a great way to get your message across to a wider audience more quickly.