We share lots of tips for freelance writers here at Freelance Writing Jobs but we don’t often delve into the client’s point of view. Since several members of the FWJ community have asked about how clients qualify writers, I felt this worthy of exploration.
“But Deb,” you might be saying to yourself, “You’re a mere blogger. How are you qualified to talk about hiring freelance writers? You’re not a client. You work for clients.”
Those are very good questions. Blind trust is never a good thing, and we should always ask to see what isn’t obvious. The truth is, I’ve hired dozens of freelance writers over the past 20 years. Not only for this network, but also for clients, when I was an editor for several sites, and for both the publishing and graphic design firms I worked for in the 80’s and 90’s. I can tell you some of the methods I use to research freelance writers, and if there are any freelance writing clients in the peanut gallery, I’m sure they can chime in as well.
How to Choose a Freelance Writer for Freelance Writing Jobs
If your potential freelancer has an online presence you can give him a Google. This will bring up his greatest hits and show you where he was published and even what groups and organizations he belongs to. However, you can’t rely on solely a web search for accurate information. For example, many of the freelancer’s clients might be offline or private clients. The freelancer might also have valid but non-bylined experience.
Go beyond Google to learn about the freelance writer you wish to hire. Also consider not every writer chooses to have an online portfolio. Some writers only take clients via word of mouth or because the client reaches out to them. Just because a freelancer doesn’t have a price menu or big flashing advertisement on her blog, doesn’t mean you should write her off as a candidate. Her subtlety might indicate she’s more selective about who she chooses to work with.
Ask for a current copy of the freelance writer’s resume. This will list all of his past and present client and give you more valid research points than Google. You will have a list of companies to investigate and perhaps even people to call. The timeline will indicate how long this candidate has been writing, and, also, other experience relevant to your project.
Here’s the thing about references: the freelancer is not going to give you a list of unsatisfied customers so you’re going to have to use your best judgment. Every reference you check will probably turn out rosy. Glowing testimonials are fine and dandy, but don’t be afraid to ask the freelancer if she’s had any clients or projects that didn’t quite work out. The issue might not have been the freelance writer’s fault. Due diligence is always a good thing and it doesn’t hurt to check before learning the hard way this person isn’t who she says she is.
Again, not all freelancers choose to build online portfolios. Offline they might have files filled with magazine and newspaper clippings, white papers, research reports, grants or business plans. Ask qualified candidates to send scanned copies of some of these projects so you can see if his or her writing style agrees with your vision.
Non-Freelance Writing Experience
Not every freelancer is a long time freelance writer. Perhaps your potential freelancer was a staff writer who is trying to break into freelancing. You may also be contacted by people who are experts in their niches, and are good writers, but have no online experience. Their samples and resumes might be enough to tell you if this writer is for you.
Don’t Take Things at Face Value
Don’t take anything at face value. Not every freelance writer chooses to keep an online portfolio or sales page. If you’re curious why, ask. If you have any questions about experience, ask. The important thing is to not make assumptions based on a web search. Granted, a web search can be very revealing. However, many times you have to dig deeper than the obvious to learn about a writer’s true experience.
Do you hire writers? What methods do you use to find the best person for the job.
Great advice Deb. I’ll probably keep a lot of this advice in mind for later on. Excellent advice for others looking for writers too. You can find out a lot just by asking, I’d be happy to answer questions such as you mentioned. Cool post.
.-= Christopher´s last blog ..8 How Phrases That Can Hold You Back =-.
Hiring writers is one of the hardest parts of my business, to be honest. There are a variety of problems that pop up. The hardest problem is discerning if they can do the work before I hire them for a big gig. I will often try to break a larger project into pieces and offer them a small part of it to see how they do. If it’s good, then I offer the rest of the project. The problem with this, of course, is that it really slows down the process. On the other hand, having to rewrite 30 articles because I hired someone without trying them out would cost a lot of money and still require me to do a ton of the work on my own. This is why we hold on tight when we find someone that meets our standards. It’s just too hard to keep casting the net.
I do have an idea, though, that may make things easier in the future. I’m planning to pick a topic and ask each new writer to write an article about it. I won’t write on spec myself, so it’s unfair to ask someone else to do so. So, it needs to be a topic I can do something with. Anyway, I can then use these to choose the top go-to candidates the next time I need to bring someone on board for a gig. The idea is to do this in advance so I already have my first-choice writers lined up as soon as a good job comes in the door. It should save having to filter through tons of less-qualified candidates once a job has been accepted and the deadline is looming.
Sorry for rambling. I kind of just ended up typing this out for my own benefit and thought it might be helpful to others in the same boat.