Everything You Need to Know About Hiring Freelance Writers

James Grant - Content Writer

According to recent industry data, writing makes up 17% of all freelance work, with 33% calling themselves “creatives”, (so we would venture a bet there are some handy wordsmiths in that category, too). As AI-driven content hits the headlines, reputable brands are looking to create a unique voice, and working alongside freelance writers is one of the most effective ways to make that happen. 

This is a part of a series of guides about how to pay an independent contractor.

This is part of a series of articles about Freelance Management.

The Benefits of Hiring Freelance Writers

Hiring freelance writers gets you the same benefits as you find when leaning on a freelance strategy in any area of the business. You can allow your internal teams to focus on their core competencies, and trust that you’re outsourcing writing to a professional who has niche expertise.

Hiring freelancers is a strategy that is easy to scale up and down when you have writing projects that need extra attention, such as a rewrite of your website, or the content for an upcoming event or product launch, without the need to onboard full-time employees. 

Top freelance talent often have a broader range of skills. The right freelance writer for your business may also have expertise in SEO, PR, lead generation, and any number of other elements that augment their writing chops. 

Evaluating Freelance Writers

There’s no doubt that hiring freelance writers is a powerful strategy for business growth, but how can you find the right talent? With so many freelance writers on freelancer marketplaces, evaluating them has become one of the biggest pain points for today’s businesses. According to the Harvard Business Review, less than 20% of businesses call their ability to recruit and retain talent “mature”. 

Here are four steps that you can use as a checklist before you jump to hire: 

  1. Review writing samples: Every freelance writer should have a portfolio of content that you can use to assess the quality of their work. This could be PDFs, a dedicated portfolio on a site like Clippings.me or Writerfolio, or published links to content online. Especially for live links, remember that the writer is likely to have worked with an internal editor to get the piece over the finish line. 
  1. Assess subject matter expertise: Does this writer have the right background knowledge for your industry? You can assess expertise by the kinds of samples your writer sends you. If all of their clippings are parenting and lifestyle related, they might not be a good fit for churning out 5k words on Blockchain. Especially in a niche industry, asking for a unique sample to check the level of knowledge is common practice, but remember that this should be short, and paid. (No exceptions.) 
  1. Evaluate communication skills: There’s a fine balance when working with freelancers. Of course, they have their own working methods and processes in place, but you still need them to be part of your team. Language is an important part of that, so it can help to jump on a quick call to assess their proficiency. Consider completing a test article or project to see the process through from end-to-end. This can help you assess how they take feedback and iterate as well as their initial writing style and competency. 
  1. Analyze client testimonials: You don’t want this to be your writer’s first rodeo. If they have previous or concurrent client relationships, they should be happy to share them! Check your freelancer marketplace for previous 5* reviews, or head to LinkedIn and see whether they have glowing recommendations from businesses who want to shout about them from the social media rooftops. If something is particularly important to you, such as meeting deadlines or attention to detail, or a specific tone of voice – look out for those keywords. 

Hiring the Right Freelance Writer

You’ve narrowed it down to a short-list of awesome freelance writers who have the samples, the expertise, the communication skills, and the 5* reviews. Now you have to make sure they want to work with you, too! Freelancers have a lot more choice about who they work with, so you need to become your freelancers’ preferred client. Straighten up that bow tie, and it’s time to get to work. 

Start by being upfront about the process. Who needs to sign off on working with this freelancer, and how will the business go about interviews or trial assignments? If you expect your freelancers to complete a certain amount of training, to sit with the product team to go through a demo, or to have an informal chat with the CEO – how will this be compensated, and are these one-off expectations, or recurring? 

Most experienced freelance writers will have their own payment terms, but there may well be some flexibility. Don’t ask the freelancer to lower their rates, but explain your budget, and the candidate will be able to tell you what they can offer within those terms. You may initially want 4 blogs and a video script each month, but your budget allows for 2 blogs, the script, and some social media posts, which could even be a smarter strategy. Be crystal clear on what that price includes, for example whether edits and revisions are part of the cost, and for how many months revisions are acceptable. 2 rounds of edits over no more than 2 months from receipt of the first draft is common practice. 

Set up simple workflows to make sure that your freelancers get paid accurately, on time, and according to their preferred methods. 44% of freelancers said they have experienced an invoice not being paid, and that’s a one-way street to losing the relationship for good.

When it comes to the work itself, make sure that you establish clear expectations and deadlines. Draft a clear brief to share, that includes word count, tone of voice, audience, and keyword research where necessary. Mark the deadline clearly, and give yourself a couple of extra days internally so that you can provide feedback and receive edits. 

Finally, don’t skip out on drafting a freelance contract! It can feel like an extra step that adds friction, but it protects both you and the freelancer. Write down everything you’ve discussed within the contract, including project scope, deliverables, rates and payment terms, ownership over content, and kill or termination fees where relevant. 

At Fiverr Enterprise, you gain access to top, vetted freelance writing talent that has been pre-evaluated to suit specific enterprise needs. Via our professional and efficient sourcing capabilities, you can save time when hiring and managing freelance writers, ensuring you source and retain the right people to augment your workforce. 

Speak to one of our experts for a free, 30-minute discussion on how Fiverr Enterprise can optimize your talent management strategies when hiring freelancers. 

Related content: Read our guide to freelance management system

Related content: Read our guide to remote freelancer