A while ago, I wrote a piece about how to tell if you need to hire a content writer. But hiring a content writer can feel like a big decision since you’ll typically have a long-term relationship with this person or agency. Bigger businesses always have their own policy for hiring freelancers and agencies, but if you’re a smaller business, you might have no idea where to start. To help you out, I’ve complied some questions to ask your potential content writer.
Ask them what they like to write and how long it typically takes them to produce a piece. Ask them what kind of tone they’re best at (conversational, formal, etc.). Ask them how familiar they are with on-page SEO and keywords (they should be very familiar).
You might also ask them if they are familiar with the system that your website is on (such as WordPress). This means you should also know how you expect them to hand in their work. Do you want them to put their posts in the backend of your site for you? Or do you want a Word document/Google Doc?
This seems like a given, but let’s talk about it anyway. Obviously, you never want to hire a content writer without seeing some examples of their work. You need to know that they can write well and that their style matches what you’re envisioning.
In case you don’t know, clips are basically pieces of written work, typically published pieces of work. New content writers will typically provide clips that they’ve created just to show you their work, and you’ll need to decide if that works for you. More experienced freelancers will be able to send you links or word docs of pieces they’ve written for websites or clients. Clips are important so be sure to ask for one or two.
So, this is a complicated topic among freelancers simply because potential employers often want the sample for free. Typically, you don’t want to ask your potential content writer to work for free. It’s just not fair to them, and their clips should be sufficient. If you really want a sample for some reason (like their clips don’t quite match what you need), then a free sample should be a maximum of 300 words, and a longer sample should be paid. Every freelancer is different so be sure to ask them what their sample policy is.
When writers mention their niche, they’re referring to their point of expertise. They have specific knowledge and experience in these areas. If you want to hire someone who knows a lot about your industry, you’ll need to ask them about that during the consultation.
This is also when you can discuss how much research a writer potentially needs to do. If a writer spends hours researching each topic for you, they’re going to charge accordingly. But you also need to make sure they know how to do that research. How experienced are they at finding good sources? Do they know how to properly credit those sources? These are important things to consider.
This goes beyond, “Can you write the topics I’d like you to write?” You probably want to hire a writer who can also generate some topic ideas for you too. Writers who belong to the niche you need might be able to do this better since they’re so embedded in your industry, but general writers can do this too. You want a writer who is willing to collaborate with you.
More than that, you need to ask how much keyword research they do. Keyword research is basically when you figure out what people are searching for. Some writers will or can do keyword research for you. They have access to systems that allow you to figure out how much volume each keyword has and how difficult it is to rank within that keyword. Some writers will expect you to provide them with the keywords you want to hit. So, make sure you know what your potential writer does.
Most content writers, and definitely agencies, are going to require you to sign some sort of agreement. Some might call this a service agreement, and it might be super basic. They might just have a due date, payment required, and scope of work (how many blog posts, how many words, etc.). Some freelancers might have more complicated contracts that might include things like who owns the rights to their work and what happens if one of you backs out. Some contracts might include a “kill fee,” which means if you decide not to use their work, you owe them some money anyway since you were put in their schedule, and they probably did some work for you already. Ask your content writer what they need.
Finally, just as a final tip, don’t expect them to give you a price during your initial consultation. Most freelancers will need to get back to you later. It takes time to factor in the scope of the piece, how long it’s going to take, and how much research will be required. It’s only after all that that they know how much it’s going to cost.
These are some of the basic things that go into hiring a content writer. It’s important you can envision a good relationship with this person. You’ll be working together a lot, and you don’t want to work with someone you don’t like. There should be good vibes all around.
Got more questions? Comment below, and let me know what they are! Ready for your own consultation? Reach out to me!