So Many Scribes in the Sea: How to Pick a Freelance Writer You’ll Love

the one

There you sit, elbows on your desk, chin cradled in your hands, shifting position only to flip between browser tabs as you compare the many attributes of Candidate A, then B, then A, but wait – what about C? There’s a lot at stake when you’re picking your soul mate, and – surprise! – we’re not even talking about your love life.

Many clients browse freelance writing sites like world-weary singles do eHarmony or Match.com, looking for “the one” but all too often getting frustrated and reaching out to the first competent soul that answers their (casting) call. In love and in business, life is too short to settle. Keep the following considerations in mind when picking your new content writer and don’t be afraid to test out a couple different candidates – when it comes to freelancing, there’s nothing wrong with a little time spent playing the field.

Background

Much like real-life suitors, writers come with a variety of educational backgrounds, much of which may well be irrelevant to the project at hand. Looking for someone to draw up a white paper on the effect of healthcare reform on primary care practitioners? You probably want someone with a healthcare degree or at least significant practical experience in the field. But if you need a how-to on roofing or a rundown on spring fashions, you don’t need Bob Vila or Heidi Klum on hand to wind up with something that will interest readers and boost traffic. When it comes to producing quality content a long list of formal education can be an attractive lure, but other factors like commitment, reliability, and overall talent are much more important.

Baggage

Sometimes you get into a relationship and things are so pretty and shiny and new you feel like singing, but other times your new beau shows up on your doorstep with a bunch of trunks and duffle bags with scary labels like “ex-wife,” “kids,” “drinking problem,” or “credit card debt.” In the freelance world, things aren’t much different. Every writer (and clients, too) comes with a set of past experiences that color the way they see the world. New writers might seem the easiest and least jaded, but with experienced writers you’ll get bonus tidbits like SEO hacks and layout recommendations that can only come from those who have spent a considerable amount of time racing against deadlines and verbally wrestling with unreasonable clients.

Trophy Writers

Everyone wants the prettiest writer on the block (think pristine resume, killer professional headshot, and not a revision to be seen), but sometimes the nicest profile doesn’t lead to the most talented writer. While every contractor should have a bio befitting of their experience and skill, sometimes the beauty is only pixel deep. Ask for samples and concentrate on what’s inside the book instead of what’s on the cover.

Take Me Home to Mama

Your mother might not care who you hire to write your content, but put your readers in that parental role and you’ll start seeing what I mean. There are plenty of writers who will accept a ridiculously low bid, but what you get in return for your paltry pittance will probably be every bit as absurd. Too many people say things like “it’s just web content,” but if you wouldn’t be proud to publish it in the company newsletter or show it off to your friends, you’re setting the bar way too low. It might cost more to cavort with a writer of quality, but you’ll feel a lot better about yourself in the morning.

Alana M is in a long-term relationship with her laptop, but she often sees her clients on the side. When she isn’t hard at work writing all kinds of witty and engaging content, she enjoys long walks on the beach, lion taming, nuclear physics and lying about her hobbies.


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