If you’re freelancing content, you want to select an amazing writer and get your “money’s worth” from that person. But how do you find one who’s worth it?
And when you find one, how do you know if the person is any good? Sure you can look at a portfolio but what does that tell you? For all you know that one article you just read was workshopped and edited by half the Eastern Seaboard.
What makes a good marketing writer is different than what makes a good fiction writer, although there’s a lot of overlap. Frankly, if you find a writer who doesn’t write for pleasure, walk away. That’s like a gourmet chef telling you he only eats foods out of a can, cooked in his microwave.
Writers write. Even the ones who have gone into marketing.
The first step to getting your “money’s worth” is selecting a writer who has fine-tuned his or her craft since the 1990s. The business world has changed drastically since then and a competent writer has kept up with it.
Writers Do More Than Write
A good content writer strings together nouns and verbs in a pleasing way, but also strives to understand your audience, what the audience wants, and where that audience is. The writer will also know:
- how the piece being written will fit into your social media strategy
- Social media best practices
- Images and copyright law (the basics)
If you’re paying for a freelancer look for someone who understands the marketing aspect. While you’re creating content for your audience to be helpful, you’re doing so because you want it to ultimately lead to more sales, not because you want to publish a book of beautifully written blog posts. Look for someone who knows marketing, the basics of code, and the basics of design. Those are needed skills in today’s content world.
But Not Everything
Good content writers know how their piece fits into the larger marketing goals of your company, and like I mentioned above, you want them to understand social media, coding (just the basics), graphic design (enough to create a meme, make something look pretty, and/or create a title image), and those other things I listed. These are essential to them being able to do their job. However, please do not confuse a writer with a virtual assistant. If all you need is someone to cut and paste work for you, don’t hire a writer. You can find someone cheaper.
Respect writing for what it is, a skill and a talent. With the changing marketing climate, writers have had to reeducate themselves on what they need to do their jobs, picking up a lot of new skills. However, administrative assistant work is not in that tool kit.
Be Specific about Your Audience
A lot of businesses don’t know exactly what’s needed in the content department but you can, and should, come to the table knowing who your ideal customer is (and the answer is not everyone). The reason for this is simple. It allows your content writer to speak specifically to that person. Without that information, the writer has no idea who to target.
Let’s get back to my chef analogy, you know the one who only eats Chef Boyardee. Imagine asking him to cook dinner for your best clients and some potential clients. There are going to be some important people in your life at that dinner. Let’s put your boss there too. You’re up for a promotion. It’s important this night makes a good impression.
The chef asks you what sorts of things you’d like to serve.
You: Something everyone will like.
Chef: Any vegetarians?
Chef: Any allergies or intolerances?
Chef: Do they like Mexican?
You: I don’t know.
You: Not sure.
What does that leave you with?
If you create a vegetarian dish just to be safe and your boss hates veggies, you’re sunk. You serve a delicious pork roast, and it’s not in keeping with some guests’ religious beliefs. You serve Mexican smothered in cheese and half the people are lactose intolerant.
If you spent a little time figuring out who was coming, and what they liked, you could wow them. You find out they’re all huge beef eaters and you serve up meat on a sword Brazilian steakhouse style. That makes a much bigger impression than going with a table full of mismatched food trying to accommodate everyone.
People will come away from your party regaling the fact that you put in so much effort in planning the menu. You want the same to be said of your content. You want your audience to think, it’s like she read my mind. This is exactly what I wanted and needed.
Working with a writer can be an enjoyable journey. You’ll likely find out things about your audience you didn’t know. If you want to get your “money’s worth” let them do what they do best, create actionable and compelling content. A freelance writer must stay on top of the industry in a way that most employees do not. Freelancers who don’t stay on top of changes and best practices, don’t eat. If you don’t understand why they’re doing something, ask. Learning from them is an added benefit.