Thursday, October 18, 2012

so you want to hire a freelance writer...

Have you ever considered hiring someone to help write content for your marketing or informational materials? Maybe you need fresh copy or a new angle for your website or blog—or maybe you simply don’t have enough time to get it all done yourself. You decide to call in a freelance writer, tell her what you need, and ask for an estimate. She gives you one, and suddenly you feel a little short of breath.

But I don’t even want that much text on my landing page, you think. How can it possibly cost that much?

So you call in a second freelancer, tell him what you want, and ask for an estimate. He gives you one, and now you’re confused.

This actually seems really low, you muse. Does this guy know what he’s doing? Why does he work for so little money?

Welcome to working with freelancers! There is no standard fee, which can be confusing for someone new to this situation. Prices may be all over the map, depending on where you live, the type of project, and how much experience the freelancer has.

You know how much money you have to work with, so of course you need to select someone who fits your budget. But if you find a freelancer you believe is a good fit for the company and the project at hand—and if you feel the price is too high—consider what goes into the content creation process before dismissing him entirely.

Few writers attend a meeting and spout out copy that’s perfect. There’s much more to it than that! Let’s take a quick look at the steps a writer takes to craft copy that gets results:

Before a professional writer meets with you, she most likely has already done some research. She’ll visit your website and learn about your company and its services or products. She’ll get a feel for how the content is currently presented and ask if you’re happy with the style, flow, and tone.

After she gets the gig, she’ll research your competitors. She’ll see what they’re talking about and how they’re saying it. She’ll learn more about the topic she’s going to be writing about by asking questions and reading existing literature. She’ll make sure she’s got the names of products and employees accurate and she’ll interview your employees, and maybe even a few satisfied customers.

Note the actual writing process hasn’t even begun yet!

Now’s the time to start crafting words. She’s got to get her thoughts organized by creating an outline of sorts to follow. And she’s got to look over notes and quotes to make sure she’s telling the story accurately, then turn bits and pieces of this puzzle into something readable. Drafting is actually probably the easiest part of this job! But wait, there's more....

Hmm…the information she needs to obtain from Department Manager XX didn’t come through. He was supposed to return her email yesterday but she hasn’t heard from him, so she has to send a follow-up email or make a phone call. This goes on for a few days until finally they manage to connect. She takes notes on their conversation and adds the new information to the draft.

Now it’s time to clean up that draft so that there are no typos or misspellings. Everything needs to flow smoothly and make sense to the target audience. Only after editing her work thoroughly should she send it your way for review.

Few writers hit the nail on the head with their first draft—we expect to make revisions after our clients look everything over and give input. So we review your comments, ask additional questions, and re-word, re-phrase, or add or delete a section here or there. Then we edit again and send it back to you for final approval.

That’s pretty much the process, and it may be repeated once more to get a final draft that everyone is happy with. So as you can see, writing quality content is much more than just writing.

For those of you who have worked with freelancers before (and it doesn’t have to be a freelance writer—designers and photographers are also hired by companies on a regular basis), what did you like about having someone separate from your company or organization handle outsourcing? What didn’t you like? What do you want freelancers to know about working with you?

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