If you've finally made the decision to hire a freelance writer to carry out some or all of your content marketing strategy, this is a wise decision that can allow you to stay in control of your time and your workday while also knowing that a true professional is working on your projects. However, deciding how to vet a freelance writer is just as important as making the decision to outsource, to begin with.
If you don't evaluate the potential freelance writer carefully and set the relationship off on the right foot, you might find yourself asking for revisions or getting frustrated halfway through the project and having to cancel and hire someone else. After hiring dozens of content writers for my own projects as well as for companies like Microsoft, I can give you some advice about the value of vetting a freelance writer properly.
Have a Conversation
In this digital age, it's easy enough to decide to work with someone without ever having a conversation over the phone or over Skype. But it is just as easy to have a conversation and get a sense of who you're truly working with. Some people may represent themselves extremely well in written form online but they may not hold up to muster if you have the chance to have the conversation. An experienced freelance writer should be able to speak about his or her craft easily and this can be accomplished with a simple phone call.
Get on the phone and trust your gut instinct. If this feels like the right person to work with, then go ahead and make the decision to sign the contract. If not, however, this is your chance to head back to the drawing board.
Ask for References & Testimonials
Although many freelance writers work on a ghostwriting basis, there are other ways that you can learn about their background. Go over to their LinkedIn profile, for example, and see if anyone has left them a testimonial or reference on their LinkedIn profile wall. Ask if they are active on any job boards where there would be open and public feedback associated with their profile. If you can't find anything, request the names of one to two individuals who could be emailed to provide further information about them.
You may also ask to see places online where the freelance writer's work is published under their own byline. These are all great ways to ensure that you are partnering with someone truly professional. Of course, it goes without saying that every freelance writer has to start somewhere and that not everyone will necessarily have clips or references and testimonials already lined up. This is why that phone call is so important in order to establish whether it's worth the risk of taking on a partnership with a new freelance writer.
Look Carefully at Work Samples
In the process of hiring, the most important thing you can do when vetting a freelance writer is to look carefully at his or her work samples. If it does not fall in line with the type of tone and quality you are looking for, the conversation with this freelance writer should end there. Every freelance writer knows that his or her samples are their primary calling card and that these should always be updated and well-written. If you spot any grammar errors this is a serious problem that could indicate that they don't have a careful eye towards the work, they provide to their clients.
This is the number one reason why I decline working with freelance writers because all too many people get so excited about the potential to work with someone that they send in work or pitches that are not properly written. Following these tips can help you vet a freelance writer so that you have a good opportunity to work with him or her.
Make Sure Your Instructions Are Clear
Once you have made the decision to hire a freelance writer, it is imperative that you have clear guidelines and instructions to give to the person you've chosen to work with. Without proper instructions miscommunication can happen all too easily and you can end up frustrated or totally unable to use the work that is produced. Make sure you're clear about what you need before initiating this relationship.
If you do some of the legwork at the outset, you can benefit from a strong relationship from the get go. With there being so many ways to get use out of content these days, it’s smart to work directly with a freelance writer.
Spend the time to ensure that the writer you choose has a background in the kind of content (or the industry) where you intend to publish. Having someone with advanced knowledge also means less time haggling over directions or edits.