Storytelling

How to Onboard and Work with Freelance Writers

Freelance writers are the unsung heroes of content production for brands. They can bring expertise and a fresh perspective that can help you execute your editorial strategy quickly and on budget.

However, learning how to work with freelance writers can be a challenge. Quality varies significantly among writers. It often takes rounds of trial and error to learn where to find talent. And a lot of marketers underestimate the importance of setting up a thorough onboarding process, which can doom your relationship with a freelance writer from the get-go.

Here’s what you need to know about recruiting your dream team of wordsmiths and keeping them purring with productivity.

How to Find Freelance Writers

Finding the perfect freelance writer is like panning for gold in a river of talent. Even with a lot of effort, you can still come up empty-handed. Contently’s marketplace alone has more than 165,000 freelance creatives. Countless other writers promote their services on their personal websites and social media feeds. So, how do you begin your search?

Start with clear goals

Are you looking for someone with expertise in your specific industry? Do you need someone with experience writing SEO web copy or white papers? Would it be helpful to have a writer with a professional certification related to your industry? Having a clear picture of who you’re looking for and the type of content you need streamlines the search for a freelance writer.

Be creative with your search

Your brand’s social media channels are among the best places to start looking for a freelance writer. It puts you in touch with professionals who already have some familiarity with your brand and voice.

When I was an editor for a health publication, I announced on my social media feeds that I was looking for freelance writers who had experience writing about certain medical conditions. Eager writers filled my inbox with details about their backgrounds, links to their portfolios, and even ideas for content.

Social media is just the start, though. You can also find freelance writers:

  • on freelance marketplaces (like Contently),
  • by posting listings on job boards,
  • by asking for referrals from people you trust, or
  • by reaching out to those who have bylines in industry-specific publications.

Throughout your search, be transparent about your budget. Just as each writer has a different background and experience level, freelance writers charge a wide range of rates. By sharing how much you expect to pay, you’ll save time from courting writers outside of your budget.

How to Vet Freelance Writers

After a broad search, you should have a list of freelance writers who have industry-specific expertise, experience producing similar content, and rates that match your budget.

What’s next? Vetting. To put things in perspective, Contently clients have access to over 165,000 freelance creatives. We do our own due diligence before adding a freelancer to our creative marketplace, and you should too.

Start by looking for red flags. A portfolio filled with out-of-date clips, broken links, poorly written articles, or content that doesn’t align with your needs can all be signs of a mismatch.

Take a peek at their social media, too. You won’t want to work with freelance writers who post insulting or misleading things in public forums, especially if it’s about your industry or their other clients.

Once you’ve filtered out potential bad apples, build a short list of freelance writers who stand out from the competition. Glowing testimonials or references from prior clients can be clues about a writer’s quality of work, reliability, and professionalism.

Share more details about your content strategy and assignments with the freelance writers you want to work with. You can connect with them over email or even set up a short video call to get a sense of how well you mesh. Here are some questions to ask a freelance writer to help you get the right fit:

  • What’s your availability?
  • What’s your typical turnaround time for projects?
  • What’s your usual work schedule?
  • What type of clients do you prefer working with?
  • What types of content do you love working on?
  • Is there any type of content you don’t create?
  • How do you handle revisions and feedback?
  • What’s your process for research and fact-checking?

It’s time-consuming, but meticulously vetting freelance writers can help you zero in on those who can deliver stellar content and are easy to work with.

How to Onboard Freelance Writers

Found a writer or two who seem like the right fit for your team? Get the relationship started on the right foot by having a clear onboarding process in place. Eric Doty, content lead at Dock, put together a virtual dashboard that outlines their brand’s onboarding process for freelancers. It can be a helpful model to follow.

Here’s how to onboard freelance writers in three steps:

1. Get a freelance writer contract signed. Before assigning anything to a freelancer, ask them to sign a contract. This can happen automatically if you’re onboarding a freelance writer through a marketplace. Otherwise, you can have your brand’s legal team draft up paperwork or search for a freelance writer contract template online. You may also need to collect tax documentation, such as Form W-9.

2. Familiarize the writer with your brand. The more familiar a writer is with your brand, the better they’ll be able to deliver content that serves your audience. Send the writer any materials you have on hand that could help them create content. That might include your style guide, content strategy and pillars, and audience profile. Provide examples of content that you think works well, even if it’s from another brand.

3. Collect payment details. Making on-time payments is key to retaining your best freelancers. Ask the writer for details of their preferred form of payment (such as PayPal, credit card, or ACH transfer). If necessary, work with your accounts payable team to set the freelancer up as a vendor in your system to avoid delays in getting them paid.

Most freelancers expect payment within 30 days of submitting an invoice. But if you can get them paid even sooner (Contently writers get paid instantly upon sending their draft), they’ll be more likely to continue working with you for the long term.

Dos and Don’ts for How to Work With Freelance Writers

Recruiting and onboarding freelance writers can be a lengthy process. So, once you’ve found a few you enjoy working with, you’ll want to implement best practices to keep them around for the long term. Here are a few dos and don’ts for working with freelancers:

Dos

  • Send clear, comprehensive creative briefs for assignments.
  • Provide specific, actionable feedback. This includes both constructive criticism that helps them improve on their next assignment, as well as praise for a job well done.
  • Invest in their growth. Once they’ve proven themselves, assign them more challenging (and more lucrative) projects that come up.
  • Keep lines of communication open. Promptly answering questions from your writers helps them stay productive and meet your deadlines.
  • Have deadline integrity. If you’ve committed to a timeline for revision requests or freelance writer feedback (and turnarounds), do your best to keep up your side of the workflow.
  • Pay competitive rates and send payments on time.

Don’ts

  • Don’t ever ask them to work for free. (Yes, even a trial assignment should be paid.)
  • Don’t treat them like an employee. Freelancers work independently and on their own schedule, and they often have other clients. Don’t expect immediate responses to emails or requests.
  • Don’t ask them to complete work that’s out of scope. If you asked for a 500-word blog post, don’t expect the draft to come with copy for five accompanying social media posts unless it’s part of the assignment.
  • Don’t request endless rounds of revisions. One or two rounds should suffice. (Contently includes two rounds of revisions in all deliverables just in case.) Account for time to complete those revisions in your timeline.
  • Don’t forget to update them on important changes to your process or content strategy.

Freelancing is a two-way street — you have the power to bid farewell to writers who don’t quite hit the mark, but guess what? Writers can also bid adieu to overly demanding clients! So, it’s in everyone’s best interest to find that magical match. Keeping your writers happy and engaged means they’ll stick around to help your team create top-notch content like a well-oiled machine.

Learn how Contently helps manage all of this so that you can focus on what’s important: creating compelling content.

Ask The Content Strategist: FAQs about working with freelance writers

What legal considerations should brands be aware of when hiring freelance writers, particularly regarding intellectual property rights and confidentiality?

Brands should ensure that freelance contracts clearly outline ownership of intellectual property, confidentiality agreements, and provisions for dispute resolution to protect their interests and maintain legal compliance throughout the engagement.

What measures can brands take to ensure the security of sensitive information shared with freelance writers during the course of projects?

Implementing secure file-sharing platforms, establishing confidentiality agreements, and conducting background checks on freelance writers can help mitigate the risk of data breaches and safeguard proprietary information throughout the collaboration.

How do brands handle conflicts or disagreements with freelance writers during the course of a project?

Brands can establish clear conflict resolution protocols in contracts or agreements, facilitate open discussions to address concerns or misunderstandings promptly, and strive for mutually beneficial resolutions that prioritize project success and maintain a positive working relationship.

What strategies can brands employ to adapt to the availability and scheduling challenges often associated with freelance writers?

Brands can maintain flexibility in project timelines and deadlines, establish clear communication channels for scheduling updates or changes, and proactively plan for potential disruptions by building buffer time into project schedules or having backup writers available when needed.

Want to get high-performing, engaging content for your brand? Learn how Contently can help you scale content production with its network of freelance creatives across the globe.

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