5 Mistakes Companies Make When Hiring Freelance Writers

5 Mistakes Companies Make When Hiring Freelance Writers

For many businesses, the demand to consistently publish high-quality content is filled by freelance writers. Finding the right person to create content for your site can significantly enhance your content marketing initiatives. Finding the wrong person is a discouraging waste of time—for both parties.

When posting ads for hiring freelance writers, too many companies make critical mistakes. These mistakes limit the freelancer’s ability to customize pitches, and they hamper the employer’s ability to look at a few key elements that illustrate the writer’s talents.

If you’re struggling to find quality freelance writers, consider if you’re making the following mistakes in your job posts. By avoiding these mistakes, you can evaluate potential writers more effectively, eliminating the time and budget impacts that result from vetting and hiring the wrong candidates.

1. Asking for an Upfront Quote but Providing Minimal Expectations

If someone asked you for a quote to paint their house, you would need more details before you were comfortable providing an amount. How big is the house? How much trim is there? If the house is 500 square feet with minimal trim, it might take a week to paint. But if it’s 4,000 square feet with multiple windows and chair rails in every room, it might take a month.

In the same way, asking for a quote on writing a 2,500-word article is an insufficient amount of detail. Where will the topics come from? What are the expectations around conducting research? Does the writer need to choose keywords, or is that information provided? Do you have a designer who will take care of creating images, or does that responsibility fall on the writer?

All of these details are crucial for a writer to provide an accurate quote. If the writer underestimates your expectations and provides a quote that’s too low, the relationship is doomed to be short-lived.

There are a few options for avoiding this problem:

  • Include more details about your expectations in the job post. The more details you include, the more accurate writers can be with their quotes.
  • Ask for quotes after narrowing prospects. Review writing samples, evaluate subject lines, and narrow down your pool of potential candidates. Then, begin a discussion with the writers you’re interested in. Ask for a quote once you feel confident that they’ll be a good fit and after they’ve had an opportunity to clarify your expectations.
  • Include what you want to pay in the job post. You have a budget, and that budget has an allocation for content. Instead of asking writers what they would charge, just tell them what you can pay. Writers who need to charge more than what you can afford won’t reply.

Many business ask for rates because they think they shouldn’t pay $300 per piece if the writer is willing to do it for $150 per piece. But there’s a tremendous amount of value in paying writers more than what they charge their other clients. If you pay the highest rates, your work will always be priority, and that writer will be more likely to stick with you long-term.

2. Asking for Per-Word Rates

Many companies are still paying freelancers per word, but that payment model is ineffective for a variety of reasons:

  • Successful digital content demands comprehensive coverage. In some cases, comprehensive coverage may require 500 words; in others, it requires 4,000 words. It all depends on the topic. Dictating a word count regardless of topic limits a writer’s ability to create comprehensive content.
  • Expected word counts encourage fluff. Some topics may only require 500 words. But if you’re paying by the word and expecting 1,000 words, the writer will inevitably add 500 words of fluff.
  • Paying by the word makes it difficult to anticipate fees. If you pay a flat rate per piece or per month, you know exactly what amount you’ll be invoiced for. If you pay per word, invoice amounts will be different every month.

Instead of asking for per-word rates, consider the benefits—to both you and the writer—of establishing a flat rate per article or a monthly retainer. You’ll still need to provide a length approximation—there’s a significant difference between writing a 700-word piece and a 4,000-word piece—but as long as the length is an approximation, you’ll avoid the issues that come with dictated word counts.

These payment models make things easier for both you and the writer in terms of budget/income expectations. They also provide the writer with the flexibility to compose the amount of content that’s needed for comprehensive, quality coverage of each individual topic.

3. Specifying a Subject Line to Use in Replies

More often than not, job posts for freelance writers request responders to use a specific subject line in replies. This is usually done for one of a few reasons:

  • To measure the writer’s attention to detail.
  • To make sure the writer read through the entire job description.
  • To allow emails to be filtered into a specific folder upon receipt.

These are all valid justifications. The problem is the subject line a writer uses provides you with an opportunity to judge his/her ability to craft compelling headlines.

Allowing for a customized subject line provides a quick way to narrow your pool of candidates—it’s a simple way to determine who will write the types of headlines that engage readers and inspire clicks.

If you’re concerned with attention to detail or want to make sure the writer read the full job post, ask responders to answer a specific question—or use a specific phrase—in the body text. To auto-filter replies, create a custom email address that can be used solely for job responses.

4. Sitting on Applications for Too Long

Occasionally, companies will put out a call for freelance writers, but they’re not yet ready to get started working with a writer. There are other things that need to be finished first—maybe the budget isn’t solidified, the site is still being developed, or you’re waiting on leadership approval.

These companies post a job, collect applications, and sit on those applications for a month before replying. I’ve had people reply to my applications as many as six months later. It’s rare, but it happens.

Waiting too long to reply is problematic for a couple of reasons. First, it can be a red flag. If a company takes a month to reply, it’s likely that they don’t have an established process for working with freelancers. How long will it be before you send assignments? How long will it take you to review drafts? Will you pay on time?

Additionally, good writers often find new work quickly. If you wait a month to reply, your favorite candidate will likely have already found other clients and projects to fill any capacity they might have had when they originally responded.

5. Skimming Writing Samples

It’s critical to evaluate writing samples in the same way you would consider a piece of writing specifically submitted to you for review and publication.

Personally, my writing style is somewhat academic. I write for a B2B audience. I use compound and complex sentences. I don’t often write in one-sentence paragraphs. My tone is professional.

For some companies, that’s perfect. For others, it’s too stiff and impersonal. It doesn’t bother me when my style isn’t right because I’m looking for clients who prefer my style of writing.

To avoid this issue of mismatched styles, I take care to choose writing samples that reflect my natural style and tone. But it doesn’t always work. Although my individual writing style is apparent in every writing sample I send, I’m still occasionally asked to complete a trial that ends with being told that my writing style isn’t casual enough.

The problem is that prospective clients often just skim the writing samples to determine if someone is an effective writer, but they don’t look at them in the same way they’d consider a trial written specifically for them.

Going through the process of vetting freelancers with trials is time-consuming on both sides. To minimize the chances that you’ll go through the process only to determine that the writer’s style isn’t a good fit, you should do two things:

  • Include an example of the style you’re looking for in your post. Ideally, you’ll link to your existing blog. If that’s impossible because you don’t have a blog or don’t want to disclose your company upfront, provide a link to a post on another site that highlights what you’re looking for.

  • Evaluate writing samples in the same way you’d evaluate a trial. If you’ve provided a sample of what you’re looking for but the writing samples you receive still aren’t a good fit, eliminate that candidate from consideration.

Some writers can switch style and tone based on the publication. If this is the case, they will send samples in the requested tone. They won’t struggle in the trial—or long-term—to provide the types of writing you’re looking for.

By avoiding these mistakes, you can increase your chances of finding the right writer, and establish partnerships with freelancers that are beneficial, enjoyable, and profitable for both parties.