Looking for Freelance Content Writers? Ask These 5 Questions First.
December 15, 2019 | by Timothy Wier
Good freelancers can be the best of both worlds. That’s why many companies who want to scale their content marketing operation are looking for freelance content writers.
Their subject matter expertise and experience means they’ll give you high-quality content consistently. And their independence makes them a lower risk and more nimble than a content agency or full-time hire.
I’ve had the opportunity to work with a number of freelance creatives over the years, and it’s been great. Not only did they provide exceptional work, but the best experiences were truly collaborative and became productive, long-term relationships.
It’s true that working with a freelancer won’t be perfect. There are some challenges that can arise, especially in the early days. They may not “get” your business as quickly as a fully immersed hire. They may be a little too informal compared to an agency.
In fact, there may be days when you wish you just wrote the content yourself.
But for all the potential issues that can arise, here are some of the unique benefits that only a freelancer can give to you:
- They can be more nimble and agile than an agency
- They focus on tactical execution rather than strategy
- Their project-to-project nature makes them relatively low risk
- You don’t have to make up work for them to do
- They can provide a solid foundation before you jump to your next phase of growth
If you’re serious about outsourcing your content and looking for freelance content writers, here are five question to ensure that’s your best outsourcing option.
1. Do you need someone who will move fast (hopefully without breaking things)?
Freelancers move fast. They’re hungry for work and want to fit in as much business in as they possibly can.
So if you hire a freelance content writer, they’re going to move fast in tackling the projects you send their way. As a startup, this is exactly what you want.
We’ve all heard Facebook’s mantra, “move fast and break things.” And while, yes, you want to move fast, each thing you break has a cost. That cost could be time, reputation, or potential revenue.
A new freelancer won’t know your business and audience as well as you. Thus, they won’t be as effective in positioning the content, and could end up saying things that are detrimental to your business.
So while your they should start executing as soon as possible, they should also take the time to learn about your business before going full speed ahead.
Even though you can’t avoid initial onboarding, the good news is that educating a freelancer will be much quicker and, thus, more cost effective, than some of the other content outsourcing options.
2. Are your primary objectives are tactical, not strategic?
Many agencies, for all their benefits, are highly process- and strategy-driven. For some startups who are focusing on scale, this is exactly what they need.
However, if you’re in the early stage of your startup, tactical execution is the name of the game. After you make sure your content writer knows the basics of your business and your customers, there’s not much else you need to do to start executing.
That’s not to diminish the role of content strategy. Creating a formalized brand voice process, generating a fully fledged strategy, fighting for highly competitive keyword rankings — that’s all important.
But the quickest way to find out how to do that is to execute and, more importantly, examine and analyze the results of each campaign. And that’s exactly what a freelancer can provide for you.
And as you grow and your focus shifts to scale, you can use those insights to build a more formulated strategy
3. Do you need a low-risk outsourcing option?
I don’t want to say that freelancers are cheap. Because they’re not.
There are plenty of freelance content writers who get paid significant sums for their creative work. And they deliver on that investment.
But compared to the hefty cost of a full agency or the investment (both monetary and not) in a full-time hire, freelancers are relatively inexpensive.
If you’re looking for freelance content writers, odds are you’re looking for someone to help expand your content marketing activities without overspending.
But it’s not just the budget that makes a freelancer low-risk:
- You’re not committing to a long-term relationship, at least not initially.
- You can evaluate the freelancer on a piece-by-piece basis, making short-term, tactical adjustments that don’t require you to wait until you fulfill a contract.
- You can figure out the best ways to outsource for your business’ needs with someone who is a relatively small investment.
While there are a number of benefits a long-term outsourcing vendor will give you, if you want to mitigate risk, you’re probably going to get more value from a freelancer.
4. Do you have a full-time workload?
Make-work is anathema to a startup. When you hire someone full-time, you want to make sure you have plenty of work for them to do.
While there will certainly tasks that aren’t contained within a typical job description — this is a startup, after all — you do need tasks that are at least remotely relevant to your hire’s expertise.
If you aren’t ready to scale your content marketing, you likely won’t have the workload to take advantage of a full-time writer. Not only that, but without the support of a marketing team to promote and evaluate the content, you won’t maximize that writer’s investment.
So you could try a cross-discipline role, like a content marketing manager who’s both a writer and a marketer. Speaking from experience, this can be a great option if you get the right person.
Or, you could hire a freelancer. That way, you’re only paying for the work you need, and don’t have to come up with other things for them to do.
Plus, if you hire them in the beginning and all of a sudden realize that you have more work than one can handle, you can always transition into a full-time role or bring on an agency. It’s harder for the reverse to happen.
5. Do you need someone to establish a foundation while you prepare for the next phase of growth?
Your business won’t run on freelancers forever. Eventually, you’ll grow to the point where you’ll need either an agency or in-house content marketing team.
But bringing on a full-time content writer, not to mention a full team, is a big investment. It requires that you be at a certain level of financial stability that you can bring on and sustain that team. The same goes when you decide to hire an agency.
Freelance content writers are not only helpful for the value they offer right now, but how they set you up for the next stage.
As your startup grows, freelancers can be a great stepping stone to the scale of content production that you’ll eventually need.
This could mean that your freelancer can turn into a full-time hire. Depending on how well you like working together and what their goals are, that could be a great and seamless transition.
But even if it isn’t and you have to part ways at some point, at least you’ll do so with the knowledge that, while they were with you, they provided immense value to your business and are part of the reason that you’re successful.
That’s a pretty great spot to be in, if you ask me.