So you want to hire a freelance writer? Amazing! It's one of the best investments you will make in your brand and online presence, especially if you're not a writer yourself. Over the past five years, I've been able to hire over 100 freelancers during my time consulting for digital media companies and PR agencies, so I can say for sure that it's a big job of work!
When it comes to collecting resumes, reviewing portfolios, and making a decision, there's a lot of question marks – especially if you've never hired a content writer before and you're not a content expert yourself. Consider this post your primer on what you should consider – outside of the almighty dollar – when hiring a freelance content writer.
1. Look at their background
I'm not talking about their portfolio – that comes later. I'm talking about their work history and their resume or LinkedIn. Knowing what each person's background brings to the table makes a world of difference when hiring someone to best fit your content needs.
While this is not an extensive list, I've found that candidates with certain backgrounds are typically great when writing specific types of content:
Journalism: Ghostwritten magazine/newspaper/digital articles that need to be written as if by an expert or as if they are an interview; press releases; profile articles
PR/Marketing: Strong SEO-driven web content, pitch emails, promotional and sponsored articles
Social Media Management: Social media copy, strategic marketing copy, creative case studies
Business/Management: Expert articles in business, finance and tech; anything research- or leadership-driven
Of course, these background alone shouldn't be the only thing you consider when making your decision, but it does help to look at the whole picture of what a freelancer can do, not just their portfolio.
Speaking of which...
2. Evaluate their portfolio
Any freelancer worth their salt should be sending you their portfolio, and it should be featured prominently on their website or LinkedIn too! (You can see mine here, for instance.) But when you crack open that file or URL, what are you looking for?
Sure, you might not be a content expert, but there are still some questions even the most analytical, non-creative mind can consider while looking at a freelancer's body of work.
What is their tone and writing style? Even if they're a ghostwriter – someone who writes content to be published under someone else's name – each writer has a unique writing style and tone. If you love how they write and can see how it would mesh with your brand, that's a good sign.
What have they done in the past? This doesn't have to be a 1:1 likeness of your needs, just a general concept. If they've written case studies and white papers before, regardless of field or industry, chances are good they'll be able to do so for you. Same with press releases, ghostwritten articles, and more!
Where have they been published? If their work has been placed in publications that you see as your ideal placement or your competition, that's a great sign they know what these organizations need to see to love their work.
Keep in mind that it's very unlikely your candidates will have samples that exactly match your needs, because every business, company, and client is unique. This is about seeing what they can do in terms of general content production and discerning if their skills would work for you.
3. When in doubt, ask
If you don't know how a freelancer wants to work (deadline-based vs deliverable-based? Hourly rates?), want to see more samples, or have questions about their background, hop on a call or send an email. This is a business partnership, and ensuring that you both are best equipped to work together is paramount.
Investing in your content is a smart move, but it's important that you hire the right freelancer to stand by your side. After all, you're looking for someone to be the voice of your brand, company, or social media presence – and that takes a lot of effort and focus.
Need help determining what kind of freelancer is the right fit for your content or editorial needs? Book a consulting call with me today!