There are thousands of great freelance content writers bidding for your custom. Google searches prove it. Many will have their own plus points and specialisms; some may offer cheap prices for blogs. When you’re searching for freelance help, it can be difficult to dig deep into their skills. In truth, every business is different, and there isn’t a writer on the planet that could comfortably cover every niche. If you’re disappointed with your writer’s performance, or you need a new voice for your brand, run through this checklist to figure out which content producer is the best fit for you.

Knowledge is Power

When content marketing was in its infancy, the emphasis was on quantity, not quality. Unscrupulous marketers would order hundreds of cheap articles on a subject and post them, rapid-fire, onto a blog. knowledgeMany marketers had no intention of actually presenting an article worth reading, so it didn’t matter that so many didn’t make sense. As inbound techniques have matured, marketers have become smarter. They know they need to attract human readers and assert authority on a topic. If you hire a ghost writer to produce content, they should be able to write confidently about your sector, and without excessive corrections or rewrites. We tend to write for business and IT clients, as well as small businesses. We don’t take on work from businesses that are vastly outside our specialisms, unless we have the knowledge to write confidently about them.

Take-Away: Lack of knowledge leads to lack of depth in content. If your writer is faking, your readers will see right through it. Look for a writer that specialises in your niche and ask to see portfolio examples.

Turnaround Time and Deadlines

When we work with a client, we give an estimated turnaround for each chunk of work. This gives our clients chance to prepare for the delivery of that content, or schedule other marketing activity around it. We’re not always spot on with these estimates, but we keep in contact and adjust deadlines when necessary. Naturally, timescales slip, and the scope of a project can change. Sometimes people get ill, or have to deal with emergencies. Occasionally, things just take a long time. But you should be able to rely on your content writer to stick to hard deadlines you’ve set, barring illness and Acts of God.

Take-Away: If you find that content is always delivered late, and it’s affecting your own workflow, explain this to the writer clearly. Ask them to suggest a different way of working that would be mutually acceptable, such as pushing deadlines back, or breaking work down into smaller deliverables. It may be that your writer doesn’t realise the time pressure you are working to.

Availability For Work

We’re a small company, and we don’t outsource, because we like to work one-to-one with clients. If we don’t plan around our holidays, work gets delayed. Our clients have been given a list of our expected Out of Office days for the whole year to avoid that kind of disruption. If your freelance writer is taking sudden holidays, or disappearing for a week with no contact, it may be a sign that they are too busy to take on more work. Any small business can suffer from being over-burdened, and rushing causes quality to decrease.

Take-Away: Your freelance writer should be available for ongoing work, if that’s in scope, and should let you know if they’re planning to be away from the computer. If they don’t, consider whether they are as committed as you expected.

Quality vs Cost Savings

People often ask me what a typical price for a writer is. It varies so much that it’s impossible to say. You could probably buy an article for £1 from a content generator, but it would not be a particularly good investment. You could spend £500 on serialised content for a particular sector or niche. When it comes to human writers – rather than computer-generated content – quality and cost are directly related to each other. A good quality content writer may be cheap initially, but will soon have more work than they can manage. Raising the price helps them to moderate demand. On the flipside, a content writer that isn’t as value for moneyspecialised will need to drop their price slightly to get work, which means their articles will be a whole lot cheaper. The tip here is not to work on price comparison alone, but to find a content writer that adds value, and whose content pays dividends. If you spend £20 on an article that generates £100 in sales, that’s a good investment. If you spend £200 on an article that generates £2,000 in sales, you’re quids in. Conversely, you might buy 100 dreadful articles for £100 and get your site de-listed from Google.

Take-Away: Look at value, not cost. A perfect blog writer, totally in tune with your brand, could attract thousands of customers. That’s the writer worth paying for.

Pros and Cons of Outsourcing

Many businesses work well with ‘content mills’ – large agencies that farm out writing work and take a cut of the fee. This is not an arrangement we offer. We don’t outsource to a team, and we have personal relationships with our clients. If you suspect you will need a broad range of articles on varying topics, potentially with very short turnaround, a content mill could give you the response that you need. In all other cases, we would advise caution if the company outsources, since you may not get consistency over time.

Take-Away: Agencies provide a convenient way to get quick content about anything. For consistency, or niche topics, choose a company that does everything in house.

Find a Content Writer Today

If you’re looking for a small business writer, or someone to write about technology and cloud, I might be the perfect person to take on your content production. If you want someone to write about fine wines, or medical journals, I may not be the right choice. The principle of quality and best fit always applies, regardless of cost, and it should be the deciding factor. To find the perfect writer, look for someone in your niche. Review examples, look at value, and probe your chosen writer for their ideas and experience. Read published articles they’ve written (under their own name, ideally), and review the standard of grammar. During the project, continually communicate, feed back and adjust the project requirements until you’re happy with the way it’s ticking over. And if something’s wrong, feed back and negotiate to find the right balance for all. Once you find the perfect content writer, they’ll be worth hanging on to. The right person is out there. You just have to find them.

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Claire Broadley

Technical writer, blogger, and editor at Red Robot Media
Claire Broadley is a freelance technical blogger for Red Robot Media. She works on technical and business blogs. If you'd like Claire to write for you, contact Red Robot Media now.