Five Rules To Live By When Hiring A Writer

Published by 42 Comments

This is a guest post from Anne Wayman, who is a freelance writer, ghostwriter and blogs about writing at aboutfreelancewriting.com, a blog for freelance writers. She’s also taken all three of my programs, Blog Mastermind, Membership Site Mastermind and Become A Blogger Premium (yay Anne!)

So You Want To Hire A Writer?

Until you’ve actually worked with a writer you have no way of knowing how well that writer will write for you. Even when you’ve checked every reference, and read every sample, a writing project can still go wrong.

As a writer who has been hired by many clients, I have developed five questions that when answered clearly almost always result in a satisfied customer.

It boils down to this…

The writer needs to know exactly what you want written.

Sound obvious? Good. I have, however, found some clients don’t understand what they need or how to communicate it. These rules will help you get clear with your writer:

1. Where/How are you’re going to use the piece?

Let your writer know where and how the piece you’re commissioning is going to be used. It makes a difference.

For example, sales letters sound much different than those aimed at academia. An article for the publication The Atlantic is dissimilar to one written for Woman’s Day or Wired. Your writer needs to know exactly how you’re going to use the work.

How the content will be used generally controls the length. For example, blog posts and other web writing tend to be short because people scan rather than read deeply onscreen. This article you are reading now has about 870 words. It’s often harder to write short pieces than longer ones.

Length for a print magazine article will generally be in the neighborhood of between 1,000 to 5,000 words, depending on the publication. Books generally run 50,000 words or more.

Giving the writer a range of the words or pages you expect helps frame the project.

2. Does the piece need to read like you wrote it?

Good writers can make a piece sound as if you wrote it. This is ghostwriting and usually takes more time because the writer needs to work in your voice. If it is important to you, find out how the writer wants to learn your voice – through interviews, or samples you’ve actually written, etc.

On the other hand, if you simply want it written and it doesn’t need to sound like you, the writer will have an easier time and the project can probably be done more quickly. Make your real needs known.

3. How or where will the writer get the information?

Generally, the writer will look to you to provide the information needed to do the writing. This could come through conversation face to face or over the phone, by email, through written material you provide, or some combination.

Sometimes you’ll want to hire a writer who already has the information or knows the area you want written about; the writer will need your spin on the topic to get it right.

How you provide the information will influence the price. You probably don’t want to pay writer’s rates for transcriptions. If you want the writer to travel to you, expect to pay all their expenses. Writing is not research. If you expect the writer to do any research at all, expect to pay more than if you provide the information for them.

4. How and when will the writer be paid?

Prices tend to be established by bid or by negotiation. There really aren’t standard or established fees for writing. In writing like so much else in life, you’ll get what you pay for. The higher priced writers have earned their way there by being good.

Writers are usually paid either a flat fee for a piece or by the hour.

Generally writers expect some sort of good faith deposit up front. It’s totally okay to break up the project in small bites so you’re not investing a ton of money without seeing results. Occasionally you’ll want to put a writer on retainer so you know they are available to you at all times.

No matter how you and your writer reach a price it must be clear to both of you how the writer will be paid – cash, check, PayPal, credit card, etc. and when that payment will be made. For the most part writers expect to be paid when they invoice, not net 30, 60, or 90 days later. If you need to pay net 30, etc., make it clear up front in your original negotiation. Make sure the amount and the method are spelled out in your agreement with the writer.

5. The best agreements

Yes, you need a written agreement with the writer. An email that spells out the specifics is fine, and often it makes sense for the writer to generate the agreement subject to your approval.

The best agreements spell out the goal or purpose of the project, the specs, how the writer will get the information, how quickly the writer will get draft to you, the number of revisions, how the project is to be paid for and what happens if the project goes awry.

With these elements in place you’re apt to get exactly the writing you want. Good luck!

Anne Wayman
www.aboutfreelancewriting.com

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42 Comments

  • Great tips and thanks for posting them. I’ve hired writers in the past and have been very fortunate in some cases and in others, the stuff I got back was plain crap, lol. Eventually I realized that I needed to be more specific, and I started doing that more than before.

    These suggestions have given me a little more to think about when specifying what I need written. Especially point #3 – How they will get the information. I think I need to be more specific there.

    However, I’m finding more and more that I like writing my own content. When trying to establish a brand, it’s important for the content that you have in various places to be consistent. Every individual has their own differences in how they communicate with their audience and by being the only source of content, people know what to expect when they see your name attached to something.

    • Eventually, small sites end up being written by the owners. I tried too and now I write all my stuff myself despite having to spend some time on them.

  • I did have issues with offshore writers, so I moved on to hiring native speakers. All was good thereafter.

    • Hahahahahah! I know exactly what you’re talking about. English is a wonderfully diverse language, but the version that gets used on the other side of the planet isn’t really what you want to use to engage your audience in. Unless your targeted audience is primarily resident in that poart of the world.

  • With the scenarios above, you can now see the real effects of hiring a ghost writer . Paying for a cheaper ghost writer may save you money initially, but that’s being very short sighted. However, there are some very good ghost writers who charge cheaply for their services. They’re probably just starting out and want to get testimonials. They are very, very hard to find. If you find one, don’t let go of them.

  • Good advice. I’ve outsourced writing work for some blogs before and you really tend to get what you pay for. Like most other things, quality doesn’t come cheap.

  • Great tips! I think that it will be very helpful to me in the future. But now I just write all aritlcles by myself, because I really want to write by myself, I want to improve my English, I guess writing articles is a great way to learn a language.
    Anyway, thanks for these great tips, I got them :).

  • Great advice. I’m amazed at the number of people I’ve spoken to who’ve hired writers they’ve not been happy with. It’s up to both parties to lay out precisely what is required.
    They’re are a number of Q & A style agreement sheets available that can be of use and I think one of these and a good set of terms and conditions will keep everyone happy.
    Why sour a good business relationship because of a lack of communication?

  • I’ve had some very unpleasant experiences with writers in the past, this post will hopefully help me avoid them next time. Thanks!

    • I am sure that like the writer, there are other writers too reading this advise. They too will know what to expect and be prepared. A win win situation all around.

  • Good guidelines. For readers’ reference, as a publisher, I also pay writers by the word or by the page. This is more quantifable on a content basis than an hourly rate,

  • Hmmmmm….I just noticed that treatingbackacne has highjacked my name on you top commentators list. Please ban the idiot!

    • And now my url is linking to my name again after posting the previous comment….weird….

  • Thanks for posting this Yaro, it’s a pleasure to be here.

  • I usually hiring my friends who graduated from english literature, so the language problem won’t become major issue for me. and of course, sometimes i write articles by myself, because it’s a good way to improve my english. thanks for the tips anyway.

  • Hiring a writer is an extremely good idea. There are many reasons why you could use more content, whether it is for a blogpost, website content or for marketing purposes. Hiring a writer makes it possible to produce substantially more content. The tips above will ensure that you have the best possible experience with such a writer.

    • Right!! A freelance writer knows the business. They are experts in creating content, no matter if you need a sales letter or website copy. Although you may be a solid writer, you are not an expert. Once again, you should focus your time and energy on areas that you excel at and leave the writing to an expert

  • First of all, great guest post Anne Wayman, it truly shows your natural gift for writing =D

    I do remember my first experience in hiring somebody to do some articles for me, it didn’t turn out too good, I over-paid and they basically just copy/pasted alot of the information from the internet, had I known some of these basic rules and principles, i would of made a better decision, and have related better to the writer too.

    Till then,

    Jean

  • No contract is worth the paper it’s written on unless you are friends. There are always loopholes. There are people who will blatantly disregard the contract and dare you to do anything about it. Unfortunately, legal battles are too expensive for small stuff. Make connections with people so you don’t have to hire strangers.

  • Who will the piece be read by, is another very important detail. This ties into your point about how will the piece be used. Knowing your audience is crucial to writing copy that will be effective.

  • I think Anne’s Number 1 point absolutely deserves its placing at number 1.

    Though I would have liked her to elaborate a bit more on knowing the audience.

    The more you know about your readers’ attributes, issues and where they are in their life cycle the better you will be able to write for them and engage with them.

    Great blog… thanks Yaro

  • For many online marketers, hiring a ghost writer is a very affordable means to an end. Not only financially but time wise as well. The internet is all about information and content and writing is the preeminent method used to make use of this inherent feature of the net. This article contains information on the why and how of hiring a ghost writer so that you, the budding or seasoned marketer can spend your valuable time or other productive business projects that demand the type of attention that only you can give to your business.

  • Great guidlelines, I think I should link some of my clients (past and present) to this article.. unfortunately a lot of people don’t know what hiring a writer entails or how seriously the process should be taken

    • @Music man, you should definitely do that! Who knows… it may lead you to new business ;-)

      Till then,

      Jean

  • Always have agreements in place – it’s better to be safe than sorry. Even with friends…you never want business to ruin your friendship.

  • With these guidelines, even the writers get to know what to expect and both sides stand to benefit.

  • Hey Yaro,

    These are some really great tips, I especially liked the third one. When the cost is important factor, which in every case is, you need to save your writer’s time by providing him all the possible information, so that he spent most of his time on writing , rather than on researching.

  • Great information. Hiring a writer for me is way off into the future as I am enjoying immensely being the primary writer of my blog. I find #2 rather curious. To try to write in another’s voice must be difficult. I think that what makes a good writer unique is their own style coming onto the page.

    Best,
    Bob Bessette

  • Very informative article outlining several aspects I think many people overlook.

    I’ve worked with many freelancers over the past eight years and I can tell you that for me personally, the most crucial aspect is defining VERY CLEAR GOALS. It’s crucial to both parties that what is expected is CRYSTAL CLEAR.

    This sounds so obvious, but I think it’s a real problem – on both sides – of the freelance business.

    • Right !! Setting clear, powerful goals with your ghost writer can put you on the path to success. …

  • I have been using freelance writers for years now. It is one of the best moves I have made with my websites. It frees up so much of my time and allows me to concentrate on my strengths. I could take the time to write everything myself, but for the time it takes, it makes more sense to outsource.

  • Hmmm…yeah the idea of hireing a writter can be good but what’s the fun in all of this. as maybe i said it in the passt if there is no fun all this businessis becoming like a regular job and to be honest i dont know if i would agree this.

    • Article writing is becoming lucrative freelancing option with people that find these types of projects desirable. However, it is commonly perceived that getting the right job in this industry is difficult unless you have a very good catch. This isn’t really set in stone because freelancing is like any other industry. All it takes is getting experience producing quality work.

  • Hi Anne!

    Excellent post: very clear and concise. The way you clearly define some intial issues for both sides of the table makes it a win-win post for both writers and those seeking to hire them. Kudos!

  • Great post. This is a must read for beginners. I will definitely recommend it to my readers since I have gotten some enquiries by mail.

  • Hello Yarak,

    a few days ago I visit your blog the first time and now I have to say to you: “Great work and keep on” The information you give in every article I read is extrem nice. I will come back everyday you write new articles.

    When I am outsourcing content creating work I look up for students because they are high professionals in their niche. They get a lot of information through profs and events. Try it you will see you will get professional content! Not every student but the most ;)

    Cheers,
    Volksphone!

  • My experience is that the content written by the owner is best. I`ve tried to hire people many, many times, but never have I got what I really wanted.

    Yes, it does save so much time. And it might seem that it`s not worh to spend hours writing yourself.

    But in Affiliate Marketing Business, relations with your readers/customers is the most important. So I prefer giving my best to my customers by talking to them myself.

  • I have considered hiring a writer for some of my smaller projects, but was reluctant due to the fact it may not read as though I wrote it. I’m afraid the writer’s style may not compliment my style. I wonder how many “jobs” are tweaked to give the feel wanted?

  • What worked for me is hiring a writer who had practical experience with the topic we were writing about. Definitely, this gets to be the most pricy, but I felt that every penny of it was worth. Ultimately, I ended up hiring my writer as a consultant.

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