While running the writers’ website, Writerfind.com, I often get asked “Why hire a writer” and “What can a writer do for my business?” Here are some answers, based on my own experience and that of professional writers who are asked this question.
Any company, whether large or small, can benefit from hiring a freelance writer. A large company, which already has staff for marketing and communications functions, can supplement staff when there is a surplus of work. A smaller company, which does not have its own communications staff, can hire a freelance writer as and when needed, and can thereby save money by paying the writer per project instead of hiring an employee.
A freelance commercial writer will help you communicate effectively with your customers and employees. You can use writers to create advertisements, brochures, catalogs and sales letters, as well as for company newsletters, technical documentation, annual reports, website content, and public relations materials.
The first place to start when hiring someone is to do a job analysis. Identify the critical success factors or job-specific competencies by interviewing top performers in that position.
Some additional ways in which your business can benefit from hiring a freelance commercial writer:
1. A fresh perspective. Because you run your business, you’re obviously very close to it. Being very close to your business is not always a good thing – it can prevent you from getting a fresh look at how your business appears to outsiders. A professional writer from outside your business can provide a fresh perspective and a makeover for your company’s communications.
2. Improved sales. A professional copywriter can revamp your company’s sales material with more persuasive copy. She can improve the effectiveness of your sales materials, either print or online, by identifying, from her extensive experience, what kind of copy will bring in the best results. She can create a newsletter for distribution to your customers, bringing increased sales, and create copy for your website so that it can be readily found by the search engines. She can focus on your products and services from the perspective of your customers, and create a message which focuses on benefits to them.
3. Professional contacts. Professional writers have their own networks of contacts. When they work with you, they add you to this list, and they are more likely to direct their other contacts your way.
What to Look for when Hiring a Freelance Commercial Writer
Hiring the wrong writer can be disastrous and costly, both in money and in time spent. Following the steps below should help prevent such costly mistakes.
1. Determine whether your project is suitable for outsourcing. As a general rule, the projects you outsource should be either specialized or one-time. If the project is specialized, or does not require ongoing management by a skilled employee, hiring an expert freelancer can be far more cost-effective than using in-house staff with a learning curve. Your company’s writing projects are often better managed by writers who are specialists in their field and have a broad range of writing experience than by in-house employees who do not have that depth or range of experience.
2. Clarify your requirements. Before hiring a writer, specify in as much detail as possible your requirements and the scope of your project. You need to know exactly what you need done before you communicate this to a freelancer and seek quotes. Writing down your requirements can aid the process of clarifying what you need, both for yourself and for the writer you hire.
3. Find writers. Once your requirements are clear in your own mind, you need to let professional writers know about your project and seek bids. This process usually involves sending or advertising a request for proposal (RFP). You, the buyer of services, are seeking bids on a project from sellers, the freelancers, who view your RFP. An RFP normally consists of a description of the project, along with an estimate of the time it will take and how much you think it will cost. You also can specify a time limit for the bidding process. A realistic price is important. The temptation is to post a low price, but you will sacrifice quality by doing so, as the only takers are likely to be the bottom feeders. Providing a detailed description of your project is also important, as it puts freelancers in a position to be able to research and prepare their bids, and make estimates of time taken to do your project.
An RFP is guideline only - it is not set in stone. The project and its estimated price or time requirements can be modified if this becomes necessary. Indeed, sometimes, it is preferable to omit a price estimate – this way, you can test the market and determine the going rate projects of this kind.
You can find professional writers in your local Yellow Pages, on the web through a Google search, or by visiting online directories which list professional writers and editors.
4. Select writers. After you have received a few bids on your project, you will need to go through a selection process to determine which writers you would like to work with.
Some professional databases screen freelancers – however, even in these cases, you would do best to check the freelancer's reputation yourself.
To evaluate a freelancer, you can examine the work that she has posted on the web. Often, by using search engines, you can find more examples of a candidate's work than she has sent to you, and you can also get in touch with the freelancer's previous clients. As well as examining the references you're given, which are likely to be the best ones, you can search for and contact the writer’s other clients on the web.
Additional considerations to keep in mind when deciding on whom to hire:
- Cheaper is not better. Avoid choosing a writer by price only. Through the website for professional writers which I run, Writerfind.com, I’ve had companies asking for professional writers to work for 1 cent per word. This is way below what any self-respecting professional writer would be willing to accept. “You get what you pay for”, as they say – if you are only willing to pay 1 cents per word, then you’ll probably end up with low quality. (More information on standard rates is supplied in the section below on freelance rates.)
- Experience counts. Newbie writers may be cheaper, but if you want quality, go for a writer who has a couple of years or more of experience.
- Look for a professional website. If the writer has a professional website, this can indicate that she has a serious commitment to her profession. The website could include samples of her projects, a biography, references from previous clients or employers, and a description of areas of expertise. Examining the information on the website should give you an idea of the writer’s creativity, level of experience, and educational background.
- Distance is not always as much of a handicap as you may assume. Many professional writers say it is not always necessary to meet clients – they can communicate just as well using email or phone. Simple, standard projects are safest for distance contracting, where determining exactly what you want, and how long the task will take, can be done with minimum interaction. Many writing projects fall into this category.
5. When you have selected a writer, you'll need to prepare a formal agreement - a contract that describes the expectations of both parties regarding the quality of work, when the work or its installments is to be submitted, what will happen if the freelancer does not deliver on time or to expectations, and what is to be done if either of you decides to terminate the project before it is completed.
Some points to consider when creating the contract:
- Deposit. If the freelancer does not know you, he or she might require as a deposit a percentage of the fee. Offering this demonstrates good faith.
- Additional expenses. The job might require phone calls, couriers, international postage costs, or other items. You should decide who will cover these costs.
- Performance standards. Your freelancer may be unable to complete the project for some reason – perhaps because of illness. She may do an unsatisfactory job. Would you be willing to pay a kill fee in such cases? You need to consider how you would deal with such possibilities in your contract.
- Payment arrangements. Consider the time frame for payments, and whether you will pay in installments as key milestones of the project are completed. Perhaps, on the other hand, you prefer to pay a lump sum when the project is complete. Consider also whether your payment will take the form of a flat fee or whether you will pay by the hour. Such decisions will need to be made in consultation with your writer, of course.
6. After the terms of service have been signed, and the project has commenced, make sure to keep up to date with the progress of the project and provide the writer with the information she requests. As key milestones in the project are reached, make sure to pay the invoices promptly.
|What to Watch Out For|
|Plagiarism. Writers who charge very low rates may be plagiarizing material. If you suspect plagiarism, copy may be checked online at www.copyscape.com|
| Non-native English writers. It can be tempting to cut costs by hiring a writer from a country whose native language is not English. Such a writer may speak the language you need your material written in, but probably won't fully understand the colloquial use of subtleties of the English language.|
Note: the rates below are estimates only. They are based on the assumption that that the writer has relevant education and experience in the area of expertise listed. Rates quoted by freelancers may differ according to skills, experience, education and location.
|Type of Writer
||Area of Expertise
||$45 - $90/hour
||$50 – $80/hour
||Checks spelling, punctuation, grammar
||Checks grammar, consistency, formatting and index
|Web content writer
Search Engine Optimized Content
|Science or medical writer
Nicole Bishop, Ph.D., is the Founder and the Managing Director of the website www.writerfind.com, which lists professional freelance writers who are available for work globally. She has a background in education and communication. For article Feedback contact Nicole at