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5 Steps To Find and Work With Quality Freelancers

Half of marketers say they outsource a content marketing activity. That’s not surprising given that about 60% of B2B and B2C marketers operate content marketing teams with no more than five people.

Finding partners with adequate topical experience and who understand the brand’s audience are the most frequently cited challenges in CMI’s most recent research.

Half of #B2B and #B2C marketers say they outsource a #ContentMarketing activity, according to @CMIContent #research. Click To Tweet

To help you overcome those challenges and confidently hire top freelancers, I’ve put together this five-step guide based on my experience working with contract writers.

1. Establish an adequate budget

Before you start the search for writers, you should set a realistic budget.

You can’t simply take a full-time employee’s salary and divide by 40 to estimate a freelancer’s hourly rate. Given freelancers run their own business, they charge more. They have to calculate rates that encompass their expenses – both the employer and employee share of income tax, insurance, and operational costs such as computers, software, internet, etc. Their locale also could affect their rates.

You can’t set a #freelance hourly rate by simply dividing an employee’s weekly compensation by 40, says @emanuelp986 via @CMIContent. #ContentMarketing Click To Tweet

If you’re challenged with finding writers who have sufficient topical experience, budget to pay the higher rates more experienced writers charge. It’s better to have a writer produce a top-notch piece within one or two attempts than to hire a cheaper writer and make multiple corrections.

If you’re challenged with finding writers who have sufficient topical experience, budget to pay the higher rates experienced writers charge, says @emanuelp986 via @CMIContent. #ContentWriting #Freelance Click To Tweet

You should also decide on a budget based on the expected deliverables. The more labor and research-intensive the project, the higher the budget should be.

Rates vary dramatically based on the individual as well as the industry. To calculate your budget, ask peers in your industry what they pay. Look to freelance associations and organizations for benchmark studies.

While a budget sets expectations on how much you can pay the writer, it isn’t the predictor of how successful the relationship will be. That’s why you need to follow the next steps.

2. Create the perfect help-wanted post

Freelance writers carefully read help-wanted posts to assess whether it’s a good opportunity and fit for them. Your listing should clearly explain your expectations and deliverables to attract more qualified responses and accurate proposals.

But just because you’re contracting to work with someone doesn’t mean you need a complete job description as you would with a full-time employee. Among the relevant details to include:

  • Assignment description, including what information will be provided by the company and what information the writer is expected to find.
  • Specify any special knowledge or skills needed
  • Expected deliverables, including length estimate
  • Start and end dates, including interim deadlines
  • Compensation range with terms like hourly rates or fixed prices as well as invoice payment timing

It helps to add some personality to your listing as it gives the freelancer an idea of what it would be like to work with you. And most importantly, don’t hesitate to ask additional questions you deem necessary to find the ideal candidate for your work.

Add some personality to your #freelance help-wanted listings to give an idea of what it’s like to work with your brand, says @emanuelp986 via @CMIContent. #ContentWriting Click To Tweet

TIP: To assess how well they follow instructions, include a small “test” such as, “Please put the word ‘freelancer’ in your subject line.”

3. Locate the best writer for your brand

It’s so much easier these days to reach out and find quality writers for your task or project. Among the options:

  • Ask your professional and personal network for referrals. Their input is invaluable because they already have a familiarity with or have worked with the suggested writers. Those word-of-mouth referrals give the candidates an added boost from the beginning.
  • Turn to job boards. While many writers search job boards for permanent gigs, part-time writers also use them to find work. Make it clear in your listing that you’re seeking someone for part-time work.
  • Post on social media. Post the opportunity to Instagram and Twitter, and use industry-relevant hashtags as well as #Freelance. Posting to relevant social media groups also can be a great way to reach writers in a specific niche.
  • Go to freelance sites. Use platforms, such as Contently, Skyword, ClearVoice, etc. These outlets facilitate finding, hiring, and paying writers. Most of the platforms help you quickly find better quality content creators who produce optimal quality work in your niche or for the content type you want created. (I recently hired a writer who specialized exclusively in the privacy policy and terms of use pages.)
Go to #freelance sites such as @contently, @skyword, and @clearvoice to find quality #content creators for your brand, says @emanuelp986 via @CMIContent. #ContentWriting Click To Tweet

TIP: Create an authentic and engaging profile on freelance sites to show your brand’s personality and culture that will attract writers who are interested in that environment.

TIP: If you hire a writer who only freelances part-time, recognize it may take them longer to complete the work than if they worked a full-time freelance writing schedule.

4. Evaluate the writing candidates

First, you should shortlist your options. You can then ignore responses that didn’t pass your test, such as including “freelance” in the subject line. Then, go through the remaining responses and eliminate those who don’t meet the basic requirements.

Freelance platforms also help you find qualified wordsmiths by filtering them based on specific prerequisites and only invite qualified writers to respond to your listing.

With your shortlist identified, conduct a video interview. I do this with every writing opportunity. While phone interviews can work, I find it easier to interact with a person on video.

During the interview, ask them questions to reveal:

  • Their professional background and expertise in areas important to your work (i.e., SEO, headline writing)
  • Their experience in your niche and with your content type(s)
  • How they approach writing assignments such as the ones you would assign
  • How they handle meeting deadlines when they are working on multiple projects
  • How they respond to unforeseen obstacles, such as an interviewee that doesn’t respond or an unexpected power outage

TIP: Asking for narrative examples sometimes can better help you understand the candidate’s thought process.

If you have a standout candidate, you can proceed to the next step. If you’ve narrowed the search to two or three candidates, ask them to complete a small paid project related to your topic. Then, you can compare and gauge each writer’s ability, from understanding the assignment to executing the content.

Ask the 2 or 3 finalist #freelance candidates to complete a relevant paid assignment to gauge their ability, says @emanuelp986 via @CMIContent. #ContentWriting Click To Tweet

5. Hiring the freelance writer

Once you select the freelance writer to hire, it’s time to detail what you want them to do.

There is a marked difference in hiring a freelancer over an employee. While you tell employees what they have to do and how they have to do it, you can’t give the same instructions to freelancers. They control that.

With freelancers, you should be clear about the criteria, including start date, detailed scope of work, deliverables, payment terms, etc. All these details should be included in a contract, which safeguards your business and the writer, and can help prove to the IRS that the writer is a contractor, not an employee.

A detailed, clear, and concise contract includes:

  • Names, contact information
  • Exact assignment requirements with deliverables
  • Deadlines, including milestones
  • Payment terms
  • Owner of the completed work
  • Confidential information clause
  • Limitation of liability
  • Freelance copywriter terms and responsibilities
  • Indemnity clauses

Don’t begin the working relationship until both parties have signed the contract, and you’ve paid any deposits as required.

TIP: To help your writer onboard more quickly, share examples and documents of similar work so they can better understand your expectations.

TIP: Make sure the writer can access any servers or platforms necessary for their work. It will improve their productivity from the beginning.

Expand your team with freelancers

The process of hiring freelance writers is similar to hiring an employee. You need to know what you want, explain it well in a help-wanted listing, narrow down the candidates, conduct an interview, and then engage your preferred choice.

However, you also need to respect the transactional nature of the relationship. While you can’t control how they do the work, you should spell out exactly what they are to deliver in the formats you prefer and on the schedule you set.

By following this process, you’re more likely to find valuable talent that can help your content marketing team deliver results for your brand.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute