We’ve all heard the stereotypes of what it’s like to be a writer – the brooding poet, the caffeinated copywriter, the obsessive novelist.
With so many types out there, how do you know what to expect?
If you’re thinking of hiring a freelance writer for your business, how do you even begin the process of finding the one that’s right for you?
Especially when you have to keep in mind questions like:
- How can she write in my voice without reading my mind?
- If I can’t explain myself in words, how can he say what I mean?
- They couldn’t possibly fit ALL that into 140 characters, right???
The good news is that you don’t need to master telepathy to find the writer for you.
(But if you already have, it can’t hurt.)
You just need a little peek into their perspective and process, and you’ll be completing a successful project with the writer of your dreams in no time!
Most writers choose a speciality
Finding the writer that focuses on the type of writing you need is key.
Content writers specialize in writing blog content or articles. They may be willing to do research and write an article from scratch, or require a full draft or basic outline to start with, depending on the writer. (It depends largely on their existing level of expertise in your subject.)
Proofreaders will take what you’ve written and make sure it meets publication standards for grammar, spelling, and style (such as the Chicago Style manual, or AP style guide).
Copy editors will proofread AND edit your work, improving sentence structure and readability, and sometimes checking facts.
Copywriters might still work from a draft that you send or start completely from scratch, but they will do whatever they need to do to make your voice stand out (including turning your writing upside down, inside out, and even making up words on occasion). They may or may not proofread their own work.
Even within content writing and copywriting, you’ll find a whole range of skills.
Technical writing is a dream field for those who love a well-written software or product manual, or detailed blogs about the latest technology.
Conversion copywriters may write lovely prose, but they are all about getting clicks and conversions to sales or other metrics.
Expert content writers may choose to write from expertise in their particular field (like the arts, or science, etc.), and so using them as an occasional guest poster on a particular topic might be a good choice.
Messaging/branding copywriters specialize in creating your brand voice, and then executing marketing copy that might include website copy, about pages, and sales pages.
You don’t need to be an expert in these writing styles to figure out which type of writer you need – in fact, just having a general sense of what type of content you want when you look at websites and portfolios can really help narrow the field!
If you love a writer’s portfolio and style but don’t see the type of content you want, you can always ask if they can do it, and take the relationship slowly before entering into a long-term contract.
The best writers TALK to you, and ask questions
If all you need is a proofreader or some quick copyedits, this might not apply. But as a general rule, the writer who is willing to talk to you and ask questions is the writer who is going to best capture what you want to say.
It’s decidedly NOT magic when a writer is able to create a voice for you, or express an existing brand voice, and make it feel like they truly understand what you want to say and how you want to say it. After all, no writer is a mind reader, either!
(Unless they are. You never know.)
Get on the phone, do an online hangout, or meet face-to-face with your writer of choice to kick off a project.
Communicating what you want at the very beginning of the process and allowing a writer to ask clarifying questions will make sure you’re starting on the same page.
(Get it? Writer? Same page? Okay, moving on.)
Writing for other people takes great listening skills – so look for a writer who knows how to listen to your wants and needs.
There are so many things just a quick conversation can teach a writer about you:
- Tone – are you sarcastic, direct, fiery, or witty?
- Cadence – do you prefer short, punchy sentences, or long, eloquent phrases?
- Process – do you solve problems by giving step-by-step directions, or philosophical advice?
Maybe you’re a sarcastic business strategist with step-by-step processes that get buried in long descriptions and qualifiers.
A good writer will hear all of it, trim the language, amplify the important points, and transmit the tone – so that your personality AND what you have to offer are clear as a bell.
Writers see accountability as a two-way street
A schedule does not have to hinder the creative process.
When someone is writing for your business, it is a creative collaboration where you are sourcing the raw material and they are sculpting the finished work.
Ideally, you and your chosen writer will set deadlines for both of you to complete your own parts of the project.
You’ll need to make sure you’ve answered any initial questions, provided any materials the writer has asked for (company documents, links to brands you love, outline of the project, etc.), and are available for feedback.
In exchange, the writer will have everything they need to meet draft and revision deadlines.
Knowing ahead of time how many rounds of revisions are allowed and what happens if a deadline is not met is crucial, too.
If you don’t have the time to get your materials in order or figure out what you really want, wait to hire someone until you do.
Thoughtful critique allows creativity to thrive
A writer who can step into the tone and style of many different brands is a kind of chameleon.
However, it can take a first draft and some revisions to get exactly the right colors and nuance.
Sometimes a writer might want to try out a bolder version of your style first, to see what you think – or maybe they’ll start out extra cautious and work their way into bolder language from there.
Whatever their process is, it’s important to know that a first draft is just that – a first draft. Skilled writers will be able to augment, diminish, or transform what they’ve started into what you want, with thoughtful critique.
When you give criticism, don’t just fire off an email with everything you don’t like.
What you DO like is just as important as what you don’t. WHY you don’t like something is key.
You should also establish an editing process when you kick-off the project. If you are doing any edits yourself, make sure to track your changes so that both of you can easily compare versions.
(You can do that in both Google Docs and programs like Word.)
If you find yourself writing more than a paragraph of comments, you might consider scheduling a call instead.
Actually talking through feedback – at least in the first round of edits – can save an enormous amount of time.
What you think is a total disaster (I sound like a televangelist in this draft) might actually be a simple fix for a writer (okay, so she’s as passionate as a televangelist, but with the tone of a cheery accountant). Explaining your honest thoughts and feelings is the key to creating a path your writer can follow!
Keep all of this in mind, and you’ll allow a writer’s creativity to thrive without stifling their ability to try things – and get a finished product that meets your expectations.
What are your experiences with hired writers?
Where’s your favorite place to find freelancers?
Got any tips for sourcing and communicating with talent?
Share your own experiences in the comments below!