Are you unfamiliar with the booming world of freelancing? Today, if you don’t employ freelancers and have no knowledge of how to hire them, you could be missing out on some prime talent. According to a survey compiled by the Freelancer’s Union, an estimated 35% of the American workforce (55 million people) were engaged in some form of freelance work in 2016 — a number that has only been increasing. How do you navigate your way through the chaotic muck of the internet and find qualified, dependable people to work for you?
Freelance writing in particular has been exploding recently, which makes sense — it’s never been easier to move data between a writer and their editor//employer than it is today. The internet is overflowing with people willing to write content for your professional blog or website, but the key is finding the best ones for your business needs. If you are able to effectively hire and manage a great freelance writing team, you can quickly solidify your online brand and boost your business. Here are four ways to make it happen.
- Create a Freelancing Budget
As freelance work is further integrated into the fabric of the business world, this will become more commonplace. Nevertheless, it is important advice to follow sooner rather than later: create a budget specifically for freelancers. Do this and you’ll be able to avoid many problems down the road (like missing out on the future services of a freelancer because you ran out of funds and had to shortchange him/her).
Some questions you should ask yourself while making your budget are things like:
- What kind of content do you need written?
Blog posts, social media content, marketing emails, white papers — these will all run for different rates (and can vary a lot depending on who you hire). If you have a solid outline of things you want content writers to take care of throughout the year, it will be easier to create a budget.
- How good do you want your content?
Everyone wants content produced by industry leaders, but unfortunately getting it is going to cost you. On the other hand, hiring beginners to push out articles is a great way to get new material up on your site for a fair price, but quality may be a concern. Think about your target audience — do they require high-level content or would something more simple suffice? Hiring writers who produce material that resonates with your company’s particular audience should be your aim.
- How much do you want to pay them?
Payment is relative to each situation, but you definitely want to land on a price that is agreeable for both you and the writer. If payment seems fair for both parties, it’s much more likely that you’ll be able to work together again — saving valuable time down the road. This awesome infographic gives a general idea of what prices you should expect for writers of varying experience.
If your business gets a reputation as a great place for freelance writers, talent will start knocking on your door, saving you time and energy. On the flip side, a bad reputation will make finding top-tier candidates a chore. Money is at the core of the freelancer-client relationship, so make sure this isn’t a problem by creating a budget in advance.
- Establish freelance writer policies
It’s always a good idea to get things down on paper! Freelancers do not operate in the same way an 8 to 5 employee does, so it’s essential to have some guidelines for both parties to follow. Establish these in the beginning and avoid future headaches.
- Content Ownership
Freelance writers often like to publish content they’ve written for others on their personal website and social media accounts. It’s usually not a problem, but if they do so before their client, it can create a conflict of interest. Make sure that it’s crystal clear when and where it’s acceptable to re-publish freelance work. Keep your policy consistent, and everyone should be on the same page.
How do you plan on paying for freelance services? If you only want to pay for completed posts or projects, make this explicitly clear. Some companies prefer paying on an hourly basis, and others pay cents per word. It’s up to you and your writer, but you should definitely have a payment policy in place to fall back on when necessary.
How often should your writer touch base with you? When will you be in contact with them? As a non-traditional employee, it’s harder to keep close tabs on a freelance writer, but that doesn’t mean you should give them total freedom. You are paying them, after all!
- Logging Hours
If you decide to charge on a per hour basis, make it clear how you want work hours added up. A spreadsheet on Google Doc’s does the trick, and so does Excel. If you’re a trusting person, the honor code is fine too. There are also pieces of software specifically for freelance writers (some free, others not) that can track time, create invoices, and help keep clients organized. Regardless of how you want them to keep track of time, it should be laid out in the guidelines.
Any other policies that you want to set should be clearly noted early on. Write a fair set of rules for you and your freelance writer to follow, and working together will be cake (the fresh-baked kind — not the boxed, no-expiration-date variety).
- Assemble a variety of freelancers
Unfortunately, awesome writers don’t magically appear when you snap your fingers, although that would come in handy for a business owner! Here are some ways to begin building your own talented freelance writer team.
- Social Media websites
One method to quickly find candidates is to post on major websites like Craigslist, Facebook, or LinkedIn. The quality might be subpar though, because anyone can post their services here. The market is huge, so type in some keywords and see what you can find!
- Job Boards
One time-efficient strategy is to draw from a large pool of pre-vetted freelance writers and find your ideal content writer for hire. If your primary need is solid, timely content, this can be a good way to get it done. Time is money, after all, and nobody wants to spend too much time hacking their way through the internet jungle.
- Your Network
If time isn’t an issue, you can try reaching out to industry connections and see if they have any solid freelancers indexed. It’s a possibility that they won’t be willing to share their best ones, but it’s worth a try. Connections like this are a very solid way to find competent people to help you with freelance projects.
- Google search
This one doesn’t need much of an explanation — Google can more often than not get the job done. There’s an ocean of writers out there, and Google’s algorithm will do its best to track down suitable ones for you.Try using quotation marks to search for an exact phrase — for example, “professional sports writers” will land you only on sites that include those exact words. Or, if you find a website you particularly like, add the following to your query: site:websitename.com. This will analyze content on that website domain only, which can help you hone your search even further.
- Post an Ad
Get an advertisement up on your own website, or push your offer onto social media channels. You’ll be receiving emails from people soon (hopefully of the qualified variety).
Using a combination of these tactics will help you assemble a solid list of contacts quickly.
- Be fair to your freelance team
With a budget set, policies in place, and freelance writers at your fingertips, you’re in good shape to succeed — but it doesn’t end here! Long-term success working together is predicated on loyalty. If you can foster positive relationships with your freelancers, you’ll set yourself up for the present and the future. Here’s how to do it:
- Give them a contract
A contract is important for an employer, but even more so for the freelancer they’re employing. Show them you mean business by having an independent contractor agreement prepared when you begin working together.
- Make the scope of work clear
You’d be surprised how often employers and freelance writers are not on the same page. If you expect a writer to knock out something big like an entire social media campaign, you better spell it out. It’s easier to hurt a professional relationship in the early stages — let them know exactly what you want, how much time you think it should take, and when you need project updates to steer clear of problems.
- Communicate on a regular basis
Even if things seem to be going smoothly on both ends, find time to communicate weekly or bi-weekly, and even more often near the deadline. Don’t overdo it, but show a genuine interest in their work and be helpful if possible. Even just a simple email asking if everything is going well is a great way to show them you’re paying attention. Also, try to reply to their emails promptly to keep things moving forward.
- Pay them on time
Whatever payment method you decide to go by, make sure you are able to pay the agreed upon amount when the time comes. Being flaky here can be terrible for your reputation as someone to work with, so have your budget set aside and ready to go.
Most importantly, remember that freelance writers (like most of us) are humans, and are fallible. If you both treat each other with respect, things should work out well in the end.
Skilled, dependable freelance writers have a lot to offer companies; especially ones trying to build an online presence. Before blindly reaching out for good ones though, make sure you’re prepared. Equipped with a budget, rules, and the right mindset, any company can hire and manage freelance writers effectively.