When you have too much content marketing work to do yourself, hiring a freelance writer (or several) is a great way to get –and keep– several projects going at a time. I’ve managed six figure projects for clients. There’s no way I could have done that without hiring a number of freelance content writers.
Still, entrusting your content creation to a freelance writer involves exactly that–trust. You’re counting on them to provide quality content that meets your needs.
Find a writer.
If you’ve researched a writer’s background on LinkedIn or her own website and/or received a referral from a trusted colleague and reviewed writing samples, you’ve taken the first step toward making sure you get what you need.
PRO TIP: Review unedited writing samples to get a true picture of what you’re getting. A good editor may have made major improvements to the copy a writer originally submitted, but you won’t know that if you only see the edited version.
I have the unique perspective of being a freelance writer who has hired many other freelance writers. As you might expect, I learned a lot about working with them. Here’s what I learned that can help you.
When you have a project available, send an email (with “assignment available” as the subject) to your list of approved freelancers. We used a form for this, so all I had to do was fill in the blanks with details.
Details can include: a short description of the project, the deadline, the type of content (web copy, blog posts, social media posts), pay rate and number of words. You can also supply other details, such as “sources are provided” or “must be able to upload content into WordPress.”
There are two great advantages to sending an email like this.
1. You give contractors a brief, but clear understanding of what you need so they can quickly decide whether to apply.
2. You save time by reaching out to multiple people at once and hearing back from only the ones who are interested and available at that time.
Be clear about what you need.
When starting a project, have a contract or at least an email that constitutes a written agreement of the work that will be done, as well as fees and deadlines. Clear communication matters. When expectations are explained up front, it cuts down on confusion during the project.
Once you’ve hired someone to write your content, give them as much information about the project as you can. Your goal is to provide all the guidance and background they need to start and to anticipate questions they might ask. This will help you later! Instead of answering questions, you’ll be humming along on your next project.
If you’ve prepped the writer well, there shouldn’t be too many questions along the way. But sometimes unexpected situations happen—like a subject matter expert not returning a writer’s phone calls. Be responsive to the writer’s questions to keep the project moving. If a writer doesn’t hear from you within a short span of time, she’s going to work on a project for someone else while waiting for you to answer her question. You didn’t think yours was her only project, did you?
PRO TIP: Plan secret wiggle room in deadlines. Whenever possible, I gave writers deadlines that were two or three days earlier than the date when I actually needed the content. This gives you more time to review the copy and get questions answered. It also allows you to grant the writer a deadline extension if he or she needs it.
Do the necessary paperwork.
Ask the freelancer to complete a W-9 form. You shouldn’t have any trouble getting this from the writer, because he can’t get paid without it. This simple form provides the tax ID number you’ll need when you make payments to freelancers and send 1099 forms to freelancers and the IRS.
Since taxes are not withheld from payments to contractors, I assume IRS computers compare 1099 forms with the contractors’ taxes to make sure they paid their self-employment tax on their earnings as an independent contractor.
Ask for an invoice (or invoices) that you can give to your accounts payable department. Depending on the size of the project, you may have agreed to pay a third of the fee at the start of the project and then the other two thirds in separate payments at certain intervals. If it’s recurring work, you’ll most likely want monthly invoices.
Review and give feedback.
When you receive the completed project, check the length and format. Give it a quick read to see if it has the right tone, the right kind of information or the right sources. If there are any problems, you’ll want to let the writer know right away so there’s time to address any issues.
If you expect to hire the same freelance content writer again, it’s helpful to give feedback. That way, the writer can get a sense of what you’ll need next time.