What Can a Freelance Writer Do For You?
A freelance writer is an independent contractor who usually telecommutes (works from home). You might hire a freelance writer for a small project or on an on-going basis to do regular work, part- or full-time. Freelance writers can tackle any writing or editing project you may have, including: articles, reports, web content, proofreading, press releases, reviews, business plans, ghostwriting, e-books, brochures, letters, print ads, speeches, presentations, newsletters, scripts, contracts, questionnaires, training manuals, and more. Freelance writers can also do research, planning, brain storming, organizing, and branding. Additionally, many modern freelance writers are very knowledgeable about search engine optimization (SEO).
Where to Find a Freelance Writer?
It is fairly easy to find a freelance writer since the advent of the Internet. Some of the most popular web sites for locating freelance writers are Elance, iFreelance, and GetAFreelancer. The way these three sites are set up is that people or companies with writing projects post what they need done. Freelance writers who are members of the web site can place bids on the projects. When the desired time period is up, the buyer chooses a bidder.
Elance is probably the most established of the three sites. Elance offers dispute mediation, an optional escrow service to pay your freelancer, and allows the freelancers to verify their credentials (such as previous employers or degrees earned). Elance does charge a project fee of 6-8%. Ifreelance and Getafreelancer basically just provide a way for buyers and providers to connect (no extras like mediation and escrow). All three of the sites allow the freelancers to create profiles where they can describe their background and skills and provide writing samples. The professionalism on Getafreelancer is, in my opinion, noticeably lower than the other two sites.
Do not overlook Craigslist for posting your writing project. A company called Freelance Daily compiles a list of all the freelance writing jobs posted online (Craigslist, Monster, etc.) every weekday and e-mails them to subscribers. The Freelance Daily goes out to thousands of writers. Additionally, you can also hire a freelance writing firm to handle your project. Many firms bid on jobs on these sites, but some do not.
How to Write Up Your Project Proposal?
The more detail you can provide for your freelance applicants the better. A good project description, like a good job description, is thorough, accurate, and informative. How many pages is the project? How many words should the articles be? Does the project involve research? Do you have a sample you can provide? Do you have a web address you can include? What is the subject matter involved? Is it double-spaced or single-spaced? Will the writer retain rights to the work product or will you? Will the writer’s name be printed on the work product giving him or her credit?
To assist you in providing the proper details, you should know that, on average, a full 8.5″ x 11″ piece of paper full of single-spaced writing in 10 or 12 point font contains about 500 words. A similar double-spaced page contains about 250. The average blog post or web content article contains 300-500 words. Also, remember to ask for a resumé and three writing samples in your project proposal.
Some other tips are to consider checking your writer’s work with CopyScape. CopyScape is a website designed to check if a document has been published somewhere else already. Even if just a portion of the document is plagiarized, CopyScape can identify that. Additionally, many providers on freelance writing sites are from India or other countries where English is not the native language. If you only want to hire a native English speaker, please specify that in your proposal. Also, if you want the writer to turn in documents in a non-traditional format, clarify this in your proposal. If you expect anything other than a .doc or .rtf document, let the applicants know. If the writer will need special software, clarify this as well. Lastly, if your project requires proofreading or editing, specify whether you want the freelancer to use traditional proofreading symbols or just “laymen’s terms.” If you want the proofreader to use a certain reference manual like the APA (American Psychological Association) or Chicago Manual of Style, specify this.
Terminology to Know
Be familiar with the correct terminology. Here are a few terms to help you out:
Blogger/Blogging – A blog, or web log, is like an online diary or journal. Blogs may contain personal or business-related content. Blogs are typically updated with new content on a regular basis. Typically, blogs provide a place for readers to leave comments and feedback. People may subscribe to blogs, like newsletters. A blogger is someone who posts blog content. Blogging is the act of posting content to a blog.
Copywriting: Not the same as “copyright,” which refers to intellectual property. Copywriting refers to writing “copy.” Copy is any text that promotes a business, service, person, or concept, i.e. marketing materials. Many copywriters work for advertising agencies, newspapers, or magazines.
Ghostwriter: Someone who is hired to write for someone else. The writer allows the person who hired them to claim his or her writing as their own.
Light Proofreading–Correcting misspellings, grammar and punctuation mistakes, verifying references, and ensuring consistency
Medium Proofreading–Light proofreading plus checking for tone, structure, run-on sentences, voice, tense, disjointed ideas
Heavy Proofreading–Medium proofreading plus condensing wordiness, smoothing out transitions between paragraphs, readability, eliminating cliché s, and any other correction or comment that may be noticed by the proofreader
Re-Write: Many companies are in need of having news items or similar content re-written. If this is what you need, specify that candidates will not need to create original content but rather just re-work or re-arrange existing content. The price for this should be less than drafting original copy.
Web Content: Any content on your website, to include text, pictures, videos, or logos, is considered web content.
White Papers: Articles that express an organization’s standing or philosophy on an issue. White papers are in some ways reports that may provide results of a recent project or conclusions made by recent research.
How to Select a Writer From All the Qualified Candidates?
Most likely any clear and concise project proposal you post is going to leave you inundated with applicants. Expect anywhere from 5 to 40 applicants per post. How do you determine who is the best match for the job?
What many buyers do is ask the freelance applicants to write a sample article, give 10 ideas for sample blog posts, proofread a sample page, etc. By creating a “sample test,” you can weed out applicants in a number of ways. First of all, some applicants will be too busy to do your sample. Dedicated applicants who really want the job will make time. Second, applicants will turn in the test after your due date, misread directions, and otherwise expose their weaknesses. You can also consider conducting phone interviews at the final stage of the process. Still unsure? Hire the top 2-3 candidates on a conditional basis for a short project and decide after that.
How to Charge and Pay for Your Freelance Writer?
You have a lot of flexibility on how you pay your freelance writer: per word, per article, per page, per project, hourly, or on a pre-arranged flat fee. As far as paying your freelancer, PayPal is probably the easiest way, unless the writer is going to be on your payroll getting paper checks. If you use Elance, you can use their escrow system.
Other Issues to Consider
If you are doing a long-term project, consider setting milestones for the project, i.e. breaking it up into a series of small projects with intermittent due dates. You can also use a website like BaseHQ to keep track of the project with the freelancer. This site provides a common workspace for two parties working long-distance on a similar project.
Also, if your freelance writer is working with sensitive material for your company, consider having them sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement. This document will bind the freelancer into keeping your trade secrets private.