How to Tell Freelance Content Writers What You Really Need

How to Tell Freelance Content Writers What You Really Need

Having been on both sides of the complex content marketing puzzle, I’ve learned that what clients and project managers need isn’t always clear to freelance content writers and editors. A lack of detailed instruction is one of the quickest ways to tank your content creation project, but even when you think you’ve spelled it out, the crowd might read your instructions in a way you didn’t mean them.

Encouraging questions and offering clarification helps ensure you receive content that fits your brand and message, and by taking proactive steps with style guides and communication, you can make the process even more efficient. Here are seven proven methods for conveying what you need to the crowd.

1. Provide Examples

Provide examples of existing content you like, especially if you’re looking for a specific type of style. When clients ask for content that’s funny, professional, edgy or formal, those words mean different things to each writer. One writer might think edgy means dropping an F-bomb along the way while a more cautious freelance content writer might only convert to second person and toss in a pun or two. Linking to examples gives content creators a better idea of the voice you want.

2. Define Subjective – and Niche – Phrases

If the exact meaning of terms in your instructions isn’t readily apparent, add an example or definition. The same is true for niche phrases that are relevant to your content.

  • Unclear: Write a short blog post.
    • Clear: Write a blog post of 250-350 words.
    • Clear: Write a post with no more than 300 words.
  • Unclear: Source from the APA (this acronym could reference numerous things).
    • Clear: Source from the American Planning Association
    • Clear: Source from the American Psychological Association
  • Unclear: Use good grammar.
    • Clear: Follow the AP style manual.

3. Share Relevant Marketing Personas

How to Tell Freelance Content Writers What You Really Need

One of the easiest ways to ensure the tone of writing is correct is to let content creators know who the audience is. It’s great to say “write for the customer,” but it’s even better to define who the customer is. Develop and share marketing personas with your freelance content writers that:

  • Name the target audience
  • Provide some information about the audience’s familiarity with the topic
  • List the audience’s biggest pain points
  • Summarize why the audience is interested

4. Create a Prohibited List

The easiest way to keep writers from including things you don’t want is to tell them not to. Create and maintain a prohibited list, adding to it as you work with freelance content writers. You can ban concepts, sources, types of information, topics and even words from your content.

5. Create a Brand Is/Is Not Matrix

An is/is not matrix is an ideal way to flesh out how you want your brand to appear in content. Work together with in-house staff or your end clients on matrices to help ensure everyone has the same understanding of brand messaging and style.

An is/is not matrix is simply a two-column table that lists what the brand – or voice, style or content – is and is not. For example, a funeral client’s matrix might include:

  • Is: caring, responsible, knowledgeable, timely, helpful, compassionate and comprehensive
  • Is not: flippant, uncertain, demanding, self-serving, political, graphic or long-winded

6. Vet Instructions for Opposing Directions

Before placing orders with freelance teams or individuals, have someone in your organization vet all instructions. Look for areas that could contribute to confusion, and be especially aware of opposing directions. Did you say to use third person but provide examples that are all in second person? Did you ask freelance content writers to include real-time events related to politics, but prohibit mentioning any names? By addressing instructions that could make it more difficult to complete work, you help increase production speeds.

7. Never Jump All-In Without a Calibration Phase

Finally, always give your communications a final test via a calibration phase, which involves placing a small order and reviewing the content to ensure everyone involved seems to be on the same page.

For help aligning crowd resources with end-client content creation needs, contact us for more information about Premium and Enterprise content marketing solutions.

Sarah Stasik

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Sarah is an experienced writer and copyeditor with a background in project management. She’s Six Sigma Black Belt certified and leverages her knowledge of statistical analysis, process improvement and content marketing to help clients engage audiences and increase conversions.

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Rachel Elle
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Rachel Elle

This would certainly be handy for clients! I often feel like I’m expected to be a mind reader.

Earl Dotson
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Earl Dotson

Shouldn’t you get paid more for that? After all, it’s not every day one encounters a mind reader.

Bethany A.
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Bethany A.

The more information provided, the better! I really like it when examples are given because it helps me to create content that is as close to what they want as possible.

Clayton Lainsbury
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Clayton Lainsbury

In my experience at Crowd Content, briefs with examples perform much better out of the gates. Sometimes, it’s just easier to show writers what you need instead of trying to explain it. When examples work well, you end up with fewer revisions and content that meets expectations (big wins for both sides).

Clayton Lainsbury
Guest
Clayton Lainsbury

Agreed that providing as much relevant info as possible is great, but do you see cases where a client has provided too much detail? I’m thinking of situations where the instructions may be long and diluted, taking focus away from the truly important points that the writer(s) need to understand. Providing full information while staying concise is a tough skill to master, but it keeps the creation process efficient and ensures the most important points of the brief get noticed.

Steven Burgoyne
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Steven Burgoyne

Good advice. Some new clients can have issues with this as they are not 100% sure what they are looking for.

Tay H
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Tay H

The collab is such a helpful tip and something that is skipped all to often.

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