“A reliable business professional with above-average writing skills” is a far better choice as a freelance writer for your website than a “magnificent writer with below-average business skills.”
Of course, a reliable professional with magnificent writing skills is the cherry on the cake. They do exist. Most of them charge a pretty penny.
Writing is a professional skill
It’s the eternal Inside Joke among writers: “Oh, anybody can write! If only I had the time!”
Haha. No. It’s not true. Writing is a skill honed through years of experience, sharpened by churning out hundreds of thousands of high-quality words.
When you hire a plumber, you need someone who:
- Fixes your clogged toilet for an agreed-upon, fair price.
- Is easy to work with.
- Writes their invoice promptly and doesn’t surprise you with additional costs.
- Doesn’t steal the cutlery or the family car.
If you get a plumber who not only unclogs your toilet, but washes it as well, makes it sparkle…then ends it all off by stealing the family car (or your wife), well, you’re deep in another kind of shit.
That’s the first thing to know about hiring a good freelance writer: He has to be a professional. He has to know business. He has to know the difference between a cut-rate price and a fair price. He has to come up with the goods, and he has to put the client first.
The Number One Requirement of a freelance writer for your website
Yes, the writer needs to have a command of the language in which you want him to write. But that’s easy to spot. One or two email conversations, or a short phone call, can immediately scratch off the frauds.
The obvious things aside, the Number One Requirement of a freelance writer for your website is professionalism.
“A professional wants to build his business, and will put you, the client, FIRST.”
A professional won’t shove some cut-rate service off on you and insist you pay for it.
A pro won’t send you an article riddled with grammatical errors.
A pro will do his research. A pro will go the extra mile.
A professional wants to build his business, and will put you, the client, first.
When I take on writing jobs, I want to build relationships that are mutually beneficial in the long-term. It’s the simplest rule in business: Deliver a good service that brings high Return On Investment to the client. And then get paid for it.
Good business is symbiotic. Bad business is parasitic.
Good freelance writers are chameleons
It would be great if the writer you hired was an expert in your business’s specialization. Maybe your business deals in high-level medical equipment. Maybe it’s a fashion store. Maybe it’s into something more obscure.
Patrick O’ Brian, the illustrious author of the Jack Aubrey seafaring novels, was a terrible seaman himself. And, yet, reading his novels, you’d think he had spent half his life in 18th century vessels.
A good writer researches, and researches thoroughly. It might mean a longer runway, but if he’s a pro, he’ll take the time to do it.
A good freelance writer must be able to adapt, to write on a vast array of subjects. If he is a pro–a real pro–then he’s making a living out of his writing. You can’t make a living in anything if you’re too specialized. There just isn’t enough business out there to keep the show going if he specializes.
So, a good freelance writer must be a chameleon, able to adapt to the environment in which he is writing today. Maybe yesterday he wrote a travel article, tomorrow he might write something historical. The next day, well, business calls for a personal essay.
This applies, also, to writing style: He must be able to write in a literary tone, conversational, or journalistic.
The best freelance writers can write in many different fields, using many different styles.
Ask the writer to show you samples of his work to verify if he is able do this. If he doesn’t have something which matches exactly the tone and style and subject matter you’re looking for, but is clearly flexible and versatile as a writer, chances are he’ll come up with the goods when the time calls for it.
What should a writer for your website charge?
A fair price.
Nobody wants to work for free, and nobody wants to get ripped off.
I do not recommend hourly rates for writing jobs. I’ve written about this in depth elsewhere, so I won’t cover it here. But, in summary, when you’re looking to hire a blog writer, you need to know the following about hourly rates:
The better the writer is, the faster he will writer. This means he will earn less every time he improves. This means he will not seek to improve.
Hourly rates are nebulous things. More complex subjects require more hours of research. If you want a good article written for your website that brings traffic, it’ll need to be thoroughly researched. At the same time, you don’t want to pay astronomical prices that were not budgeted for.
The only fair pricing strategy for hiring a blog writer for your website is to get charged per word.
I usually charge a fixed price based off the nature of the work, and the amount of words the final article will contain. More complex articles will require more of my time, so I charge more per word.
But the client knows the total price.
I also try and charge a certain number of dollars or euros or pounds for a range of words. So, for example, “X dollars for between 1,000 and 1,500 words.”
This gives the client some predictability, and gives the freelance writer some degree of security for his work.
Ghost writing a novel is different. But the subject is too in-depth to cover here.
When selecting a writer for your website, try negotiate a price per word, or for a range of words, rather than per hour. That’s the relationship that, in my experience, has the best hopes of succeeding into the future, because it is mutually beneficial.
Summary of how to choose a good freelance writer for your website
- Seek out professionals first, and “magnificent writers” second.
- Can the writer write in a wide range of subjects? Have him show you samples of his work online.
- Can he write in different styles–literary, conversational, journalistic?
- Is he seeking a long-term business relationship? If yes, you’re likely to get better service.
- Of course, the writer must be able to write fluently in the language you require of him. But that’s a given.
The best freelance writers treat their writing as a business. And they will treat you, the client, as their number one priority. They will go the extra mile, do their honest-best to get you a good product.
They’ll put you first.