Guide to hiring a freelance writer
Our guide to hiring a freelance writer is the latest instalment in our series of guides and resources for those interested in using freelance marketplaces. It gives buyers useful hints and advice on hiring freelance writers through freelance websites.
You have created a website and have big plans for it. The design is remarkable and the interface too good not to be noticed. However, you are missing the most important factor which can turn your site into a winner – the written word.
On the internet the phrase 'content is king' has long been the mantra for those interested in creating profitable websites. Despite all the ups and downs of the web, the advent of web 2.0, the explosion in social networking, the growth of video and audio, this mantra still holds true, particularly with reference to the written word.
A website without quality content, without written words, articles, features, guides or knowledge sharing is of little use. Written material is essential to securing strong positioning on search engines, it is vital for creating dialogue and discussion within a community and it is a tried and tested means of codfiying tacit knowledge for the purpose of sharing.
Now, you probably already knew this, which is why you were looking for a guide on hiring a freelance writer, rather than an article on why content is king or how search engines rank websites. So, armed with the knowledge that content is king and the written word is the most established form of content which delivers solid returns, how exactly do you hire a freelance writer that is efficient, experienced and within your budget?
General freelance websites such as oDesk, Elance and PeoplePerHour have a rich pool of talented writers. There are also a number of specialist marketplaces which focus purely on writing projects and matching individuals and businesses seeking a freelance writer with an individual with the requisit skills and experience. Real Writing Jobs is just one example of such a site. We suggest you browse our directory of freelance sites - or use the search function to find a site which has freelance writers available.
oDesk has over 100,000 freelancers listed under its writing and translation category - whether you want a technical writer, copywriter or blog author you will find one on a freelance marketplace.
Elance has fewer writers than oDesk, but many pay a fee to be a member and use precious 'connects' or credits in order to bid on your work - therefore you may find high quality writers who pay more attention to the specifics of your project on Elance.
PeoplePerHour meanwhile, has a much smaller pool of freelance writers in its stable, but the vast majority are native English speakers from the UK and USA, so if you want to avoid language barriers and get high quality material in English, then PPH may be your best bet.
Most freelance marketplaces have tests that gauge the skills and capabilities of providers. Some are designed to quiz the proficiency of the provider in English or other languages, others test spelling and grammar and some test knowledge of specific areas of business or technology. When searching for providers to contact or invite to bid on your job opening, you should try to narrow the field by requiring providers to have passed the relevant tests which apply to your specific job, although this is not a foolproof method and the tests can be manipulated or cheated to an extent, this approach will still enable you to cast a net and narrow the field of freelancers to consider for interview.
You can also choose to make your job opening public and allow several providers to apply. You can ask for a sample article in the job description so you can have a quick look at the writing style of the writer. As a buyer seeking a writer, you should also pay attention to the freelance writers cover letter - have they paid attention to detail? Have they proofed their work? A sloppy proposal suggests the provider does not have your best interests at heart. Also - try to make sure you interview writers who have crafted a bid and proposal specific to your requirements, rather than recycling a cover letter. Read our guide on posting projects on freelance websites for more tips on how to define your project requirements and how to ensure you attract quality freelancers.
When you initiate an interview with the provider, make sure you give them a small writing project as a further test of their ability. This could be as simple as answering your questions in writing or requesting a 100-word article on a given topic.
As a note of caution when obtaining the services of a freelance writer through a freelance marketplace you should be aware that some freelance providers who pose as impressive writers, may in fact be plagiarizing the work of others, or recycling copy they have already produced for someone else. It is crucial to avoid this if you want to indemnify yourself from legal ramifications or if you want your website to be successful. Search engines, particularly Google will automatically flag and delete content from its index if it detects that material has been plagiarized from another website. It is advisable that you equip yourself with software that can detect duplicate or plagiarized content, Copyscape is a good example.
Once you have chosen a writer, you need to negotiate on the price and the payment terms. Quality should never come second to price. Quality content shines through and should always be a priority. If you want to see your online business flourish, hiring the best person for the job is a must.