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!)
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!