How to Find Your Perfect Independent Copywriter
If your 2020 was disrupted like most people's, you may have found yourself needing to outsource some of your marketing or other types of writing and editing.
WHY is working with an independent contractor a good route to go?
Among the most convenient aspects of hiring a Contractor is A) In the long run, you save money because you pay only for work done, and B) Both parties have the freedom and motivation to build a relationship that fits their needs and to easily terminate one that isn't working.
Sounds good, but you may have questions:
Where do I start?
How does it work?
How much does it cost?
How do I find someone who can write to my industry?
As a Marketing Content Manager working with multiple contract writers for ten years and an independent contract copywriter for three years, I thought I'd share tips from my own experience successfully writing in a variety of industries with very little prior knowledge of those fields.
Finding an Independent Contractor
Vetting complete strangers can be time-consuming, so word-of-mouth is always a good way to find someone with proven qualities you're looking for. In today's gig economy, more people than you may realize are using independent copywriters and content creators, so ask around for recommendations. All my clients have come from my network of relationships and their colleagues.
If you decide to go with an unknown person, don't hesitate to ask for references. If a Contractor you interview doesn't think they are a good fit for your needs, ask them for recommendations from their personal network.
You can hire Contractors through a creative staffing agency or find help through a freelance site, such as:
Guru (Best for Experienced Gig Workers)
Toptal (Best for IT Professionals)
Fiverr (Best for Creatives)
Meeting of the Minds
A good relationship with a writer can become a valuable extension of your team. It starts with a great first conversation that will cover these topics:
View the writer's portfolio or ask for samples similar to your content needs.
Set up a meeting to discuss your needs and the copywriter's availability, process and pricing model:
Discuss the writer's experience and core strengths: technical writing, marketing, storytelling, social media, ghostwriting, editing, etc.
Discuss rates (per hour? per project?) What is included? How is invoicing handled?
Your content needs.
Team members Contractor will be working with.
A simple contract to protect both parties. Most contracts don't contain minimum commitments, but many corporations do stipulate maximums (such as hours per month).
This conversation will tell you alot about the fit, but consider a small project first to see the quality of the writing, timeliness, and how well you work together.
Here's a deeper dive into the HOW:
Budgets & Timelines
To get what you need, your content goals, process, timeline and budget must be clearly stated. Some copywriters will work creatively with a client's timeline and financial constraints:
You write, contractor edits. (You do an information dump, and they organize and clean it up. This is ideal for highly technical information.)
Contractor writes, you edit. (Most people find it easier to edit and rearrange than to write the initial piece.)
Contractor writes and makes the revisions you request.
You stretch your project(s) across multiple pay periods.
Per-project fees or bundled pricing (Bill of Materials) may be an option to eliminate invoicing surprises.
Retainers can be more economical if you need a lot of writing done. (They also ensure your writer is available when you need them.)
Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)
I began my marketing writing career in the field of technology (with no existing knowledge of it at the time), but now also write in endurance, camps, community orgs, faith, nonprofit, domestic violence advocacy, financial, health and wellness, fiction and journalism spaces, with topics as diverse as special needs children or student-athlete sudden cardiac arrest.
Sometimes you need an expert in your field. But even if your writer has very little experience in your particular industry, they will likely have experience drawing out the information they need from conversations with you, SMEs in your organization or existing documentation you may have. They can produce high value content with the in-depth specifics you and your team know, but written and organized in a reader-friendly style. Be sure to factor in some time for them to get acclimated to your industry's jargon and vocabulary.
Invoicing and Payment
Find out how projects are invoiced and when payment is expected. Ask about the payment method(s) your writer prefers, but most will accept payment through your preferred or standard method, whether it's check, auto-deposit or online payment platform.
Discuss your preferred platform for content delivery:
A Word doc to your email or uploaded to your project management system.
A Google Doc that multiple team members can access and edit.
Access for the Contractor to your SharePoint, DropBox or other internal CMS
Direct input to WordPress, where all you have to do is double-check and publish.
Find out what other skills and experience your writer brings to the table that could be useful, including:
Google or Facebook ads
Email marketing platforms
Project management platforms
Be the Ideal Client
By necessity, Contractors are flexible. They value their reliable clients and will bend over backward to do excellent work in a timely manner. (If they don't, reconsider your choice of writer.) They mold their output to your timeline and are used to delays, dropped projects, frequent changes of direction, rush jobs and silent periods with no communication or work. It's the nature of the beast, but they do have limits.
To counteract this uneven work environment, ideal clients:
Respectfully provide feedback when warranted.
Understand the writer may not be at their disposal at any given time.
Pay Contractor's invoices according to the agreed-upon terms.
A relationship with a valued Contractor can pay off in big ways. You save money by avoiding the overhead of a full-time employee you don't always need or can't afford as your priorities shift. You gain content expertise and custom work product you might otherwise not have the time or resources to create. And you cultivate a relationship that is there for you, on-again, off-again, as needed.
Gina Calvert is an independent writer, editor and graphic designer, available for a chat at any time about your unique communications and collateral needs. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to start a conversation! References are available.