Within the digital age, the need for quality content that can captivate and inspire shares on social media has never been more important. Add to this the fact that few businesses have the in-house talent or resources to craft content that spans from marketing materials, such as brochures, to informative pieces, such as instruction manuals, and the need for employing outside writing help becomes non-negotiable.

Before these companies is two options: hiring an agency, or opting to commission a freelance writer. Whilst there are many differences between the two, the first and most apparent is cost. Agencies tend to charge rates that are at least in triplicate of an average freelancer’s rates; and beyond this, many agencies in fact employ freelancers for their clients’ projects in any event.

However with the choice made in favour of a freelance writer, there comes a number of potential challenges, and working successfully alongside such a professional isn’t always such a straightforward task. Here are our top ten tips towards a successful outcome that achieves a happy freelancer, an even happier employer and a project well done.

1. Know where to source writing talent

Sourcing a writer via an official freelancing website provides numerous benefits, including:

      • The peace of mind that any deposit paid will be held in ‘escrow’ by the website until the successful completion of your project;
      • You can read detailed feedback from previous clients;
      • The chance (on some freelance websites at least) to view a writer’s portfolio and read their profile;
      • The ability to tap into a large pool of talent that can be contacted within minutes – as compared to the time-consuming process of sourcing a writer through public noticeboards or other means;
      • The ability to post a job for freelancers that approach you with custom quotes;

Freelance websites that are home to an array of writing talent include: PeoplePerHour, Upwork, Guru, SimplyHired and iFreelance.

2. Take the time to research a freelancer before so much as considering placing a deposit

If yours is a specialist niche then it can be more than worthwhile hiring a writer who has experience writing for your industry. Beyond this however, and speaking more generically, basic considerations should include:

      • Checking the freelancer’s portfolio and reading through their past work – paying particular attention to similar projects;
      • Asking about previous publications that the freelancer has written for if you’re attempting to reach media or PR agencies with your content;
      • If you’re sourcing your freelancer from a freelancing website then consider how popular their services are and how many sales they’ve experienced.

3. Craft a complete, and detailed, brief

The success of your project will largely depend on your communication with your freelancer. You may have hired the best writer in the world, yet without a comprehensive description of your project they could fail to deliver what you really need.

To this end you should clearly define:

      • The intended audience – this may include the tone of voice to be taken;
      • The objective of the piece and what you’re trying to achieve – be this converting the customer to purchase an item, or encouraging website visitors to sign up for your email newsletters, for example;
      • Expected word count – this may serve as just a general guide, as a copywriter’s professional input may lead you to realising that your content should be either longer or shorter as according to the aim of the content.
      • The deadline – good writers are always in demand and tend to have busy schedules, so set out a reasonable deadline for the freelancer to work towards; you may also wish to enquire about how long amendment turnaround times are to factor this into your own marketing or business activities.
      • Your budget – setting your budget in concrete terms is essential if you’re to avoid any misunderstandings come invoice time. If yours is a large project then the freelancer may request milestone payments, with you placing a deposit as the project progresses. Just be certain that you’re completely happy with the work delivered before releasing any form of payment.
      • Protection of your ideas and Copyright ownership – you may be wondering whether you need to ask the freelancer to sign an NDA or other document that additionally transfers copyright to you; in the former instance, this may be advisable, although equally the request for a signature on an NDA can cause slight offence for those who are truly professional writers, nevertheless, you may feel that it is needed in order to build up a level a trust that your ideas won’t be lifted.

In the latter instance, you will already have ownership of any material that has been produced once it has been paid for, with no exceptions.

4. Have realistic expectations as to what a reasonable rate of pay is

The rates of varying freelancers can be drastically different and on research you may well wonder why such disparity exists between these. By and large this comes down to the fact that freelance marketplaces are often difficult to harness for writers. There are many, many freelancers who are each attempting to build up a reputation, and as such they provide their services at cut price rates.

Equally however there will also be those with lower rates simply because they are less talented than others – this is a classic example of supply and demand, where a lower price attracts more buyers.

Finally there may also be freelancers with lower ratings (and lower fees) because they produce what may be substandard work. Unfortunately, despite their having poor feedback, many companies opt to use these services solely because they are placing emphasis on cost, rather than results.

So, with all of that said – what’s a fair rate of pay to receive reasonable results? Generally speaking, the current industry seems to suggest that upwards of £20 per 500 words is a reasonable benchmark for general writing, although specialist areas do tend to command an increase in fees.

5. Don’t be afraid to provide feedback

Freelance writers who are truly good at their jobs will more than welcome your feedback; simply make sure that your requests are concise, constructive and polite. The majority of writers will also provide unlimited amendments – writing and re-writing until you’re happy with the results.

6. Once the project is complete – don’t forget to get back in touch with the freelancer

With a project happily completed now is the time to leave feedback on your freelancer’s profile (if you’ve used a freelancing website) or to offer a testimonial if you’ve worked outside such a site. Writers also appreciate the forwarding of documents, such as a copy of a brochure, published article or link to a web page, so that your work may be included within their portfolio.