This is the second part of the hire a freelance content writer series. If you haven’t read the first part, use the link above to access it.
It’s important once you’re ready to hire a content writer, to go for someone that’s a good fit for your business.
Someone that has experience writing copy for your industry. A writer who can adjust their writing style to fit your brand personality.
A writer with the right work process; has the right attitude, and work ethics to deliver on their promise.
Once, you find someone that fits all the bill, not only are they going to make your life easier.
They are also going to create quality content that would position you as an authority, engage your audience, nurture and convert them to paying customers.
However, there’s just one bit of work you need to do – find the right content writer first.
Easy said, right?
Reality is, it’s hard to find good writers. But, you can at least, weed out the not-so-good, not-a-good-fit writer.
To do that, we’ve gathered important questions you can ask prospective freelance writers before hiring them.
Before you hire a freelance content writer, here are important questions you must ask to ensure they are a good fit for your business
What do you know about our industry?
Though, the content writer doesn’t have to be an expert in your industry – ideally, they should.
Since, niche writers are hard to come by and often when you see one, they charge higher fees which might be above your budget.
You may want to go for the second best option, which is hiring a generalist. However, be sure, they show enough willingness to learn and ability to produce great content.
Ask what industry they have written for in the past. Hopefully, they have enough interest to want to create industry related content for you.
What kind of content do you like creating?
There’s a vast array of content formats – think blogs, video scripts, whitepapers, guides, web content, newsletters and so on.
Usually, a content writer might show a strong preference for a particular content format than others.
Plus the fact that each content format requires a different approach and skill set to tackle.
Hence, you may want to ask this question to be sure their preference aligns with what you need.
Take for instance, if you want an ebook written, instead of hiring a blog post writer, search for freelancers with experience writing ebooks.
This way, you can rest ease knowing you hired someone with the experience to correctly format your final work.
How comfortable are you with your writing skills?
You want a content writer that’s comfortable with their writing skill. Of course, the writer is likely going to say, they are darn sure of their writing ability.
Here’s the thing, a not-so-good writer might succeed in chasing away readers instead of attracting them with their work.
So, go beyond asking this question, to request for samples of their previous works. Reading through their writing will give you an idea of their writing style.
In addition to that, ask specific questions related to writing for the web like: Can you write for a grade five student online without the technical buzzwords?
Are you able to explain technical terms in a clear crisp manner?
Remember, each copy the content writer finally produces for you should clearly explain a specific idea to the readers and not leave them clueless about what you do.
What does your copy editing process like?
With this question, you’re trying to get a sneak peek into how the content writer works.
Is their editing process any good? Do they have an eye for details?
Think of writing as both a service and a product. As a product, you want to be sure the writer’s quality control game is on point.
The thing is, errors, bad syntax can impact negatively on your brand, regardless of how valuable a content is.
Hence, it’s not out of place to want to know what editing processes the freelance content writer has to catch the tiniest but of errors in their works.
How do you source credible sources?
Your content is as good as the source. The more credible a source is, the more authoritative the content is.
And since, you want people to trust your brand, it makes sense to link out, cite, and or reference credible sources.
Does the writer pay enough attention to where they lift information? Do they give same weight to content from say Wikipedia and Harvard Business Review Journal?
A quick way to gain insight into how a writer think about sources is to look at the sample writings they provided.
Did they link out to sources? Are the sources credible – a medical journal, a peer-review publications, did they quote an expert? Was the source from a reliable news site?
What do you know about SEO?
A good writer is expected to not only know how to create engaging content; but also, understands how search engines work.
It is not enough to produce content, you want people to see it. You want people to read it. You want people to engage with the content.
And as it turns out, people often use search engines to discover new content that solves their problems or answers their questions.
Hence, a good writer should be able to optimize each content they create for search engines so that people can easily find them.
They should be familiar with how to optimize a content for particular keywords, add image alt text, format heading into H2, H3… and so on.
What do you love about writing?
If a writer is passionate and enthusiastic about writing – it will spill over into their works.
You don’ t want a writer that sees writing as just a job to be done. You want someone that is passionate and takes pride in every piece they churn out.
While at it, look out for signs that your potential writer is curious and enjoys learning; as this quality will serve them well when they are researching your industry.
Can you write in a different style and tone?
Usually, when you ask a potential writer this question; a professional freelance writer will request for your style guide.
The style guide will tell them everything they need to know about your brand tone and style.
However, if you don’t have a style guide yet; they will describe several writing styles and tones they’ve written in before.
Though, you should be able to see this from the different writing samples they provided.
How do you handle revisions?
Often, you’ll need to make some changes to a piece before you can finally sign off on it as completed.
In such situations, you want to be sure the writer is available to make the changes without extra charge on you.
So, before you sign the contract with the writer, be sure to set expectations on the number of revisions you get for each piece they create.
What’s your work process like?
Every writer has their unique process that allows them stay effective and efficient. So, a professional content writer should walk you through their personal process,
You should expect to learn everything it takes for the writer to get started. Also, their work process should give you a sense of how they handle deadlines.
For example, here’s my work process:
Step 1: Get content brief from client – includes everything from title suggestion, goals, audience, competitors, keywords, scope of project, and so on.
Step 2: Agree on responsibilities, roles, set workflows, budget, payment terms, and deadlines. Each party at this stage knows who is responsible for images, optimizing the content, when to expect report and so on.
Step 3: Sign a contract or take payment.
Step 4: Start work. edit. Make revisions when necessary.
Step 5: Deliver project and client signs off.
Who owns the work?
It’s important to establish at the beginning of your relationship with a content writer who owns the work.
Does the writer expect to be attributed with the work?
If you’re looking for a ghostwriter, you may want to let the writer know beforehand, that you’ll have own the copyright to the content.
What do you need to get started?
This question will often be answered when the writer is outlining their work process. But, it still doesn’t hurt to ask separately though.
The writer will tell you everything they’d need to get started on your project.
Can I see your portfolio or samples of previous works?
Probably have one of the first questions you’ll ask. The writing samples helps you see the writer’s style and it also helps you decide whether to hire the writer or not.
When you ask this question, the writer might point you to their published works online, or share samples with you.
In rare cases though, the writer might not have a portfolio ready, in such case you may want to do test writing.
Most times, the writer might require you pay for the trial writing samples.
How do you expect to be paid?
Most times, the freelance writer already has a payment and invoicing system they use.
A writer might bill per project while another will only send you an invoice at the end of the month.
Though, you can ask for something different; but it depends on the writer whether it’s convenient for them or not.
Be sure to prepare a spreadsheet to keep track of invoices so you can pay the writer on time.
What’s included in your price?
A professional freelance writer is transparent with the pricing and will let you know the different items included the price they send you.
However, you may want to ask the following follow-up questions:
Is keyword research include in the price?
Are you going to add images to the content?
Is your fees hourly rate or per project?
Is the price for specific word count?
What other services do you offer?
Finally, you may want to know other complementary services the writer offers.
Take for example, for us, in addition to creating content for our clients, we also help them develop end-to-end content marketing strategies.
We provide link building services; keyword research, competition analysis, and search engine optimization to rank each piece we produce for them.
In addition, we also design and write copies for newsletters that engage, nurtures, and convert their audience to buying customers.
Hiring a freelance content writer is not that different from hiring an employee. These questions will help you decide whether a prospective writer is a good fit for your business.