How to hire the perfect freelance content writer for your business
Updated: Jan 26
The right freelance content writer can transform your team’s marketing efforts by crafting consistent, high-quality content that connects with your audience. But how do you find a good content writer to support your company without wasting time and money on the wrong ones first?
The tips below will help you find writers with experience in your industry and show you how to choose the best freelance content writer for your business.
1. Search for (your industry) + “freelance content writer”
Experienced writers develop a niche over time, and you can narrow your options quickly by searching for a specialist.
A writer specializing in your industry will already understand your general audience and be quicker to pick up the specifics of your service or product than a writer with a generalist background. This also makes it easier to evaluate their writing samples since they will be similar to the content you want to publish.
2. Check their portfolio for repeat clients
Most freelance writers have an online portfolio featuring past work, and you can learn valuable information about them before you even read an article. The first thing to look for is whether they’ve completed multiple projects with the same client.
Repeat work is a clear sign that other marketing teams have found this writer’s work acceptable (at the very least) and, equally as important, that they were easy to work with.
If you don’t see repeat client work in a writer’s portfolio, don’t take it as an immediate red flag. They may have curated their samples to show what they consider their best work rather than publishing everything. Read one or two of the samples, and if you like what you see, ask the writer if they tend to work with clients on a long-term basis(and ask for samples to confirm it).
If they say no, it’s time to wave the red flag. No freelance writer wants to look for new clients constantly, so repeat work is the ultimate goal. If the writer seems to have a “one and done” approach to clients, it’s because those clients have chosen not to use them again.
3. Read at least two writing samples
Writers collect their work in a portfolio to show prospective clients their style, skill, and areas of expertise. Use this to gauge whether the writer has the level of talent you’re looking for. Never ask a freelance writer to complete an unpaid test project so you can see if their writing skills fit your needs. No one should have to work for free, and just asking for this is a red flag that will send experienced writers running the other way.
You can choose the samples you want to read by checking the writer’s portfolio, but it’s faster and easier to ask them to send you a couple of relevant pieces. This saves you from wading through dozens of options and ensures you’re able to look at samples that most closely match what you need.
When you evaluate the samples, look for the following:
Clear, concise writing
Logical topic organization
Consistent and appropriate tone
Authoritative sources cited
Try not to let lousy site design or formatting affecinion, as writers don’t have control over these.
4. Discuss work processes
Work processes are often overlooked when it comes to hiring a freelance writer, but nothing derails a client-contractor relationship faster than mismatched working styles and expectations.
Ask prospective freelancers about their work processes to ensure they mesh with your needs. Here are some good questions to ask:
What is your typical turnaround time?
What’s your communications policy? (e.g., email only, no Slack, schedule calls through Calendly, etc.)
Does your rate include revisions? If so, how many?
Do you do ghostwriting, or is a byline required?
How do you submit deliverables? (e.g., Google Docs, Word, etc.)
5. Be open to rate and contract negotiation
Don’t be discouraged if the writer’s rates are outside your budget. While they aren’t likely to lower their rate, you can negotiate the scope of work to find a budget-friendly solution.
For many people, the word “negotiation” conjures up images of confrontation, which makes them reluctant to engage in the process. But there’s no reason to be intimidated. Negotiation is just a conversation. Both parties state their needs, and if any are at odds, they work together to find a suitable compromise. It’s teamwork, not a battle. (At least it should be. If the freelancer is defensive or dismissive during negotiations, walk away.)
Scope-of-work negotiation example:
One of my clients asked for a 2,000-word, from-scratch article but couldn’t afford my rate. To fit their budget, we agreed to cut the word count in half, and they supplied a comprehensive outline with sources to reduce my research time. It’s a solution that worked for both parties, which is what the goal of negotiations should always be.
Contracts are another area where it’s essential to work together to find terms that are amenable to everyone. Experienced freelance writers always use a contract, whether it’s one they supply or one from the client.
If the freelancer is supplying the contract, look over it carefully. Ask questions to clarify anything ambiguous, and let them know if there’s something in the agreement you’re uncomfortable with. The writer can answer your questions, discuss your concerns, and adjust the contract if needed.
If your company is providing the contract, the writer may need changes made before they can sign it. The most common contract issue freelance writers see from company contracts is non-compete agreements.
Clients sometimes include language prohibiting the freelancer from writing for other companies within the same industry for a set time. Agreeing to this would cripple a writer's business, as this is the industry they have experience and expertise in writing about. As a compromise, consider naming only your top competitors as off-limits while the writer creates content for you.
Contract negotiation example:
I have a marketing agency client that has a wide variety of their own clients in industries ranging from beauty to pets. The contract they provided stated that I couldn’t write for other companies within any of the industries that their clients were in. I explained that I couldn’t agree to that because it conflicts with my business model, and they let me know that their real concern was ensuring freelance writers didn’t cut them out of the loop by pitching their clients directly. We compromised with language stating that I wouldn’t work directly with their clients for a year. No problem!
Once you have the rate and contract specifics worked out, you’re ready to get started on your first project with your perfect freelance content writer.
Start your search for a freelance content writer
With the insider information in this article, you can streamline the search for a freelance content writer and ensure you hire a skilled and reliable writer right from the start. You’ll be rewarded with high-quality content that engages your audience, brings in new leads, and establishes your brand’s authority.
Are you looking for a B2B technology or ecommerce content writer? Get in touch to see if we’re a good fit!