Bringing in a freelance or contract writer to supplement corporate communications, public relations and marketing departments is becoming the norm rather than the exception. One significant reason for this trend: The explosive growth of content marketing and the increased emphasis on using it to expand a business’s visibility and influence in the marketplace.
The need to create and disseminate quality content marketing products, such as e-books, white papers, videos, webinars, blog postings and newsletters, has put a significant strain on lean in-house teams who still have to keep up with their traditional activities.
Fortunately, lots of contract writers are eagerly waiting to offer up their talents (including yours truly). I also know as someone who once hired contract writers when I was in the corporate world that hiring a freelance wordsmith can be daunting. In addition to finding a writer who can string words together coherently, you also want someone who keeps the prima donna theatrics under control, meets deadlines and has an overall understanding of business writing.
Begin the Search
So how do you find the right person for your content writing needs? Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
- Ask for referrals from professional organizations — Chances are you or someone you know is a member of a professional communications organization, such as the International Association of Business Communicators or the Public Relations Society of America. In many cases, local chapters of these organizations have referral lists. If not, contact one of the board members for suggestions or see if the chapter has a LinkedIn group where you can either post a query or scroll through its members to see who might be a fit.
- Perform a Twitter search or LinkedIn search — Search keywords (e.g., content marketing, content writer) or hashtags (e.g., #contentmarketing) to find who’s talking about these subjects. If someone catches your eye, take a look at his or her Twitter stream or social media profiles to determine if you want to even make contact.
- Put out feelers within your company or organization — Ask non-writing colleagues within your organization for recommendations, especially if your subject matter requires specialized knowledge. Chances are someone on the HR, product management or technology team has a suggestion.
- Turn to your PR or marketing agency — You may be able to include some content generation within your retainer. If not, your agency likely has in-house writers for an extra fee or a list of outside contract writers to whom they turn when they need an extra hand. If this is the case, they’ll either serve as the go-between for those writers (keep in mind that you’ll likely be paying more than if you worked directly with the writer) or they’ll pass on names directly to you.
- Explore online freelance job boards — These are the sites where you can post jobs or look through writer profiles. This is my least favorite option for a couple of reasons: 1) Some of these websites are the equivalent of the puppy mill where profits take precedence over quality. Read more about content mills from the perspective of the writer here. 2) Even with the more reputable freelance writer sites, such as oDesk, Elance and Guru.com, keep in mind that not all writers are pre-qualified before they are allowed to offer their services or respond to jobs postings. Also remember that despite my qualms, you may find a hidden gem.
The time is now to start building a roster of go-to writers, even if you don’t have an immediate need. I think we can agree that panic purchases conducted without due diligence — whether the purchase is for contract writing services or a replacement AC system — is not the best way to conduct business. Also, if you’re relying on one outside writer, the day could come when that writer is too busy to take on your last-minute project. Make sure you have a few options for those days when time is tight and bosses are pushing for results.
Coming up next week: How to “interview” a potential contract writer.