Finding a good content writer can be tough.
Once you find your perfect writer, you’ll have to work hard keep them on-side long-term.
Over time, content writers can drift into other long-term contracts, change their business priorities or raise their prices. It’s not uncommon to strike up a relationship with a content writer and find that you lose touch with them, or find that their rates have inexplicably risen out of your price band.
(I say ‘inexplicably’ – really, there’s often a reason for it.)
Abiding by a few simple rules makes everyone’s life easier. Here are a few tips that we’ve found really help to build loyalty between us, the content writers, and our clients.
Mind Your Manners
I won’t spend too much time on professional etiquette, since (hopefully) most people in business practise it anyway. But there are a few basics to bear in mind when working with freelance helpers.
- Aim to pay your bills well within the requested due date. People who pay quickly are generally considered a priority during busy spells; tardy payers can expect their work to be pushed back. That’s because late payments can be costly to pursue, and there’s less of an incentive to get involved with that client again.
- Give freelancers plenty of notice when asking for new work. Most content writers work for several people and may be booked up days or weeks ahead. Almost all freelancers will be able to accommodate new work at short notice, but if you keep dropping work on them unexpectedly, they’ll probably start charging you more to compensate for lost evenings and weekends.
- Don’t expect freelancers to do work that you wouldn’t expect of full-time staff. Don’t expect freebies, and don’t assume they’re on-call at 9pm.
- Say ‘please’ occasionally.
You’ll Pay When Writers Correct Your Work
When you hire a content writer, it’s tempting to want to tweak their articles to your liking. Sometimes, clients change what I’ve done quite substantially and then ask me to proofread their changes.
It sounds easy, but it’s actually much more difficult than the alternative method: asking the writer to make the changes themselves. This is why:
- When a client changes an article, it isn’t just a correction task any more. In some cases, it’s like writing a new piece. Clients don’t always activate revision tracking (and sometimes, change tracking isn’t even an option in the tool they’re using). It’s difficult for writers to see where the changes have been made, forcing a complete read-through.
- Content writers also tend to have a logical flow in their mind when they write an article; like a map that sets out the course for the piece. If you change things around, you’re going against that writer’s blueprint, and it can actually be very difficult for them to work with your changes without instinctively wanting to put everything back where it was.
Although your actions are well-intentioned, you’re giving the writer a lot more work when you alter their piece and ask them to review the results. It’s best to avoid this if possible. If you can’t avoid it, expect to have to pay extra for it.
Don’t Publish Under Another Name Without Asking
Most professional content writers understand that much of their writing work will be used under other people’s names. That’s part of the job. If you’ve asked someone to ghost write for your company blog, it should be quite obvious that their content is likely to be published under an employee’s name.
But when you’re asking for pieces that are more editorial, the line becomes a little more blurred.
- Consider all the implications when choosing an author the piece. Take Google Authorship, for example; in many cases, it’s actually better to put the content under your content writer’s name rather than struggle to set up Authorship for a fictional person. It gives the content more credibility and saves you some valuable time.
- Content writers build up portfolios. They’re more likely to promote the content they’ve produced if it’s under their own name. They’ll probably push it out via their own social channels and link to it on their own websites. This can help you to gain social traffic and link juice that you may not have received otherwise.
Mathew and I set up Authorship for all of our clients who ask, mainly because it helps to improve click-through rates and gives the content a human face. But in many cases, the author issue is also a question of courtesy. It doesn’t hurt to let the writer know your plans.
Make Your Deadlines Crystal Clear
If you have a deadline, or an acceptable window for delivery, make sure you state it.
Once it’s agreed, don’t change it.
All too often, people order content without a deadline, or ask us to create the content ‘when we’re ready’. The next day, we get an email asking why it hasn’t been done yet. This can be a little disheartening, to say the least.
- When ordering content, give your writer enough notice to schedule it. But also give them some kind of notification of your due date for delivery.
- Remember that freelancers work for dozens of people and have very busy schedules. It’s sometimes impossible to bring forward work at the last minute, so try to avoid it. The most successful projects are the ones organised and planned effectively by the client before the writer’s even involved.
Beware of Mixing Writers
If you have a large amount of content to produce, it can be tempting to hire several different freelance writers (i.e. people who don’t know each other, and don’t work together) to get the job done. If you’re going to go down this route, be very careful.
I was once asked to write three or four individual pages of website content for a client. The rest of the website content was farmed out to other writers. The project manager was in the ridiculous situation of approving content for a 12-page website written by three or four different people, all of it totally mismatched.
In some cases, team writing works, but only if your writers are working on distinct tasks that don’t overlap. If you’re asking them to produce all of the content in one block, you’ll run into problems.Content from different writers is inevitably going to look different, and the onus will be on you to make it all fit together.
It’s far better to plan ahead and hire one writer, or company, rather than trying to build virtual writing teams.
Any Other Tips?
Got any other prerequisites for a great client/ freelancer relationship? Let us know in the comments.