Words aren’t just words. These tiny bundles of potential have the power to make or break your business. Hiring a freelance content writer means you’re investing in that potential, but how will you find a content partner you can trust?
The path to incredible content is best traveled with care, and selecting a writer is just the beginning. What you really want — what you really need — is a writer who can create blog posts that drive traffic. Why? Because traffic is the lifeblood of any marketing campaign.
Bring the people, and they might buy. Write a compelling headline, and they will come. Start sharing great blog posts, and those people might even stick around. Pair all those features with high-quality copy from homepage to post-purchase thank-you emails, all peppered with irresistible calls to action, and you just might see sales soar.
But I digress.
Long before you get the satisfaction of nudging your mouse across your screen, hitting publish on your blog and watching your writer-for-hire‘s words dance across the internet, you have a job to do. Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to give your writer everything they need to understand how to write blog posts you and your audience will love.
Recruit Writers with Proven Experience in Your Niche
If you’re a baseball player dealing with a possibly career-ending knee injury, are you going to book an appointment with a general practitioner or call a board-certified orthopedist with stellar references and a jaw-droppingly impressive track record? The answer is obvious. You wouldn’t trust your livelihood, your passion or your future to just anyone.
Good writers aren’t that hard to find. Great writers who specialize in the type of content you need are far more difficult to source. Did you know there are three main categories of writers? And each of those categories explodes into a plethora of subcategories.
Writers may specialize by topic, such as hospitality or personal finance, or they may narrow their focus to email marketing or landing pages. Some writers are riveted on a teeny tiny slice of the pie, tailoring their offerings by both topic and content type.
What kind of writer are you looking for? Decide before you jump headfirst into your search. It’ll help you stay on target — no shiny object syndrome when you spot a writer who looks great but is completely wrong for the task at hand — and expedite the hunt.
How do you gauge a writer’s experience?
- Check their samples. Most writers have some kind of portfolio, though these days ghostwriting and NDAs may make it more difficult for even the most experienced writers to share their best work. That’s why it’s a good idea to…
- Let the writing speak for itself. Whittle your list down to two or three writers and hire each of them to create a post. This way, you’re getting a true sense of what they can do given your parameters, your topic, and your brand’s style guide.
To further streamline the process, use Crowd Content’s platform to search and review writer profiles or set up a casting call and let the talent come to you.
Provide Examples of Good Posts
Most people have an idealized version of the things they like, and everything that comes after is compared to that paragon. When you order a piping-hot slice of pizza or listen to an up-and-coming rock band’s new song, you’re automatically (if unconsciously) comparing it to the best pepperoni pie you’ve ever had and hearing the Rolling Stones in your head. Blog posts are no different.
It’s human to gravitate toward a writing style or certain blog post ideas that makes you feel something. If you want your writer to evoke those same emotions, give your freelancer a solid starting point. A couple links or a short list of names accompanied by a few notes sets the bar, letting writers know exactly how high they’re expected to jump.
Include a Detailed Creative Brief and Style/Brand Guide
One of the most common mistakes in content marketing is skipping the creative brief. It takes time and energy, and it requires
Putting your ideas on paper is a big hairy deal because it’s a gigantic part of conveying your vision to the people tasked with bringing it to life.
You’ll need to include:
- A brand statement
- An introduction to the project objectives
- Central messaging
- Pain points you intend to address
- Who the audience is
- Where the content is going to go
It’s essentially a blueprint on how to write blog posts that will resonate with your readers, advance your branding and capture reader attention in a lasting way.
Style guides are similar in that they serve as a road map to how you want your content to look, read and feel. They’re crucial for one gargantuan reason: cohesion. If you’re working with multiple writers or really any team members other than yourself, a style guide ensures everyone stays on the same page. From logos to color schemes, font preferences, tone and so much more, your brand or style guide spells out your identity, so customers learn to recognize you even when your name isn’t front and center.
Share Persona Info
No matter how many times you give your freelancer tips to write a blog that rocks, if they have no clue who they’re writing for, you’re just wasting your time. In content marketing, the audience is everything. In fact, 63 percent of smart marketers create content around a specific buyer persona, and they do it because they know buyer personas fuel dynamic content.
Learning how to develop a buyer persona is a specialized skill in of itself. Simply closing your eyes and guessing who your ideal customer is won’t cut it. It’s funny how often the reality of who follows your brand differs from who you think is loyal to your company. Gather information gleaned from user surveys, sales insights, email capture forms, subscriptions, app opt-ins and general industry/market segment profiles and identify some common denominators.
Telling your writer they’re speaking to Paul, a 33-year-old software engineer from Indiana with two kids, a mortgage and a serious Fortnite habit is beneficial beyond words. This is the same info you’ll later use to target Facebook ads and perfect your sales funnel, so make your research count.
Give Detailed, Ongoing Feedback
Copywriters may be many things — creators, strategists, SEO experts, social media gurus, spelling and grammar purists — but they’re not mind readers. They can’t correct something if they don’t know it’s wrong. On the other hand, creative types often become attached to their work, and wondering whether it’s being appreciated can feel stifling.
Clients jump at the chance to offer feedback after the initial sample or at the start of a new project, but that’s frequently the end of the road. The rest of the partnership goes by without comment until one of three things happens:
- The writer starts to feel like a nameless, faceless cog in the wheel and their creativity stagnates
- The writer makes a mistake and, after a long period of silence, gets negative feedback out of the blue
- You become so accustomed to the status quo you skim the intro to each blog post and barely read the rest, gradually becoming disconnected from the heart and soul of your content strategy
Making feedback part of your process from the very beginning helps prevent critiques from feeling personal. If your writer feels attacked they w
Editing and performance reviews are par for the course in this industry, and anyone who is unwilling to accept they have room to improve won’t last very long—but that doesn’t mean you have carte blanche to rip apart every draft.
When giving feedback:
- Be specific. Saying “it just doesn’t feel right” isn’t useful. Saying “the tone doesn’t match our brand voice” or “I prefer shorter paragraphs” is.
- Be respectful. This is your brand’s reputation at stake, so you deserve to get the content you asked for. That said, belittling a writer won’t get anywhere.
- Be constructive. You’re not trying to show how much you know, you’re trying to empower your writer to think bigger and be more proactive.
Above all, remember you hired this writer for a reason. Ask questions if you’re doubtful about sentence structure or word choice, but also trust you were savvy enough to partner with someone who’s an expert in their field.
Share Performance Data
No one performs well in a vacuum. Imagine being a dedicated long-distance runner but never knowing how fast your competition runs or whether you’ve improved your own time since your last outing. It’s frustrating.
Content writing and digital marketing are ever-changing works in progress. Your writer wants to get better, they want to improve conversion rates and create even more compelling content, but they can’t do that without some knowledge of where they’re starting from and how they’re doing along the way.
When you contract a new freelancer, be up front with your current state of affairs. Have you been disappointed in your social media engagement? Are you getting blog hits but no sales? Do your landing pages fall short? All of this should be part of the initial instructions or you’re not giving your writer everything they need to succeed.
Once you’ve established and shared your starting point, deliver regular updates. If a blog performs particularly well, send your writer a message. If you’re seeing a steady rise in conversions, mention that too. When numbers are going in the opposite direction, that’s important information as well — though recognize that the writing may not be the only factor contributing to your burgeoning success or stuttering traffic.
Bringing It All Together
Remember, the writer-client relationship is a partnership, and communication is imperative. Your writer is going on a trip and you’re not going to be in the passenger’s seat the whole time, so give them what they need to reach the correct destination in one piece. The whos, the whats, the whys, the hows — it all matters. Your writer knows good blogging, but you’re a stranger until you step up, introduce yourself and make it clear what you need.
Your brand is one-of-a-kind. Help your writer help you shine.
For more help kicking off the writing process, contact the Crowd Content team or reach out to your customer success manager today.