More and more companies are hiring professional freelancers instead of maintaining large specialized departments in-house. This is especially true when it comes to design, marketing, content creation, and copywriting, to name but a few categories. Usually, this leads to a better end product (there is a caveat I will mention later on) and savings – working with a freelance copywriter 10 hours a week will cost significantly less than having one on the payroll.
But notice I did write usually at the beginning of that sentence. That is because you have to know how to hire a freelance content creator that fits your needs and you have to know what you want! If you’re a new UpWork client allow me to offer some advice that will help save both you and the freelancer you decide to hire time and money – and possibly sanity.
1. Scraping the bottom of the barrel
Rule number one, regardless of whether you’re hiring a content writer or a designer: don’t make your job postings a race to the bottom. You’re already saving a bundle by not having a writer on the staff. When you have a need for good copy or good content, make sure to pay a fair price, otherwise, you won’t be getting what you need! Sure, there are plenty of freelancers out there willing to work for peanuts, but are they really your best bet?
If you’re not paying a fair price you will attract writers that lack the necessary skill in terms of language and expertise. You will end up doing endless revisions with them and losing time on an assignment that a competent writer would be able to finish within few hours. Pay more at the start so you avoid paying extra further down the line after you realize that the work you received is subpar and you need to have it rewritten.
2. Being clueless about the purpose of the content
Nearly half of the job descriptions on UpWork are completely pointless. Clients tend to discuss general ideas in abstract terms without actually answering the only important question; what is the purpose of the content you need writing? When asked, most clients answer with ‘well, it’s for a blog’ or ‘it needs to read as an email sales letter’. That doesn’t really help much.
Most experienced writers are accustomed to this and they will help to guide you through the process of determining what the goal of a particular piece is; if it is a blog post, do you want it written with your existing audience in mind – detailed-oriented and wide’, or do you want to use it as a hook for a new audience – wider content touching on many points that might be of interest to people who haven’t heard of you yet?
3. Not agreeing on the terms beforehand
Communicate extensively before hiring someone; you don’t want any nasty surprises springing up mid-job. And neither does the person working for you. For example, I regularly turn down job offers from clients that are unresponsive. I also turn down jobs from clients that write vague descriptions that they, later on, refuse to elaborate on.
If, however, the client is responsive just not a great communicator (or just new to hiring a freelancer and needs a bit of help) I’ll make sure to cover all the fine points that they might have forgotten to ask for or did not put in the description.
Ask about your freelancer’s revision policy! If they offer unlimited revisions at no extra charge, that should raise some eyebrows – are they really as good as they market themselves to be? If no revisions are included who’s to say they can nail it on the first go? Sometimes it’s just not possible to get things to a satisfactory level of quality right off the bat.
Personally, I include one revision for free, even if I think a client is wrong. I will, however, offer numerous revisions if I find the objections they raise to be valid.
Be specific! A 1000-word article, and a good one at that, can be done in less than 48 hours most of the time, depending on the complexity of the subject matter. If you leave the deadline dangling, you can’t blame the freelancer for delivering late. And no ‘sometime next week’ is not good enough. Specify the day and the time you need your content by, and leave yourself enough time to review it and ask for a revision if something is not right.
Availability and contact information
Make sure to exchange emails and Skype information with the person you choose for the job. It’s much easier to communicate over Skype than it is over UpWork. In addition to that, the platform can get buggy at times and if you don’t have contact info it’s difficult to communicate if you find yourself in a pinch.
That said, lay down the law. Communicate the times during which you are available and agree on the hours during which you can contact your freelancer and they can contact you. I’m sure you don’t want to be available at all times and, believe me, neither do I.
If you’re paying for content, especially web content than make clear what you expect. Sometimes you will only need an article, but at other times, you will need meta descriptions, images, alt tags, image descriptions and more in addition to content.
Personally, I always include the meta if I’m writing an article or a blog post and I ask the client if they need images and descriptions in addition to the text.
4. Insisting on keyword density
For the love of all that is sacred, do not do this! It simply demonstrates how detached you are from today’s search engine optimization concepts. Experienced writers cringe when they hear the words ‘keyword density’ and rightfully so. Density is pointless in terms of SEO today and can only get you penalized by Google if they find you guilty for over-optimization.
The important thing is to ask for actionable content that is appealing and useful. How useful is a piece of content that repeats the phrase ‘hypoid gear oil’ 30 times in the space of 1000 words? I’ll tell you. Not at all! The only thing a reader remembers after reading it is what a lame reading experience it was!
So, there you have them, a couple of pointers you need to keep in mind when you’re setting out on finding an excellent freelance writer. Be aware of what you need and when you need it and don’t bring your preconceptions to the table! Communication is the key here! A good freelancer will respect your wishes but keep in mind that you are hiring a professional because of their expertise and knowledge, and keep your mind open to suggestions and ideas! If you want to hire the best, don’t be shy; drop by my profile and say hi!