Freelance writer hiring process
If you decide to go the job board route of hiring a freelancer, you’ll need to craft a compelling job ad that not only encourages people to apply but also encourages the right people to apply. But how do you write an effective job description that does just that?
What to write in your freelance writer job ad
Think back to those goals and expectations you made earlier and think about the ideal writer who could make these goals a reality. Key to a good job description is striking a balance between what you want and what a writer will be looking for.
Have an ideal vision, but be flexible: your unicorn writer probably doesn’t exist, and if you ask for too much you may deter perfectly qualified writers. For example, if you’re looking for a freelance writer with a specialized knowledge in finance, it’s a lot to expect from them to be a skilled programmer in case you need some posts for your side blog on web development.
You can’t expect someone to be an expert in all areas. Likewise, just because someone is an expert in something doesn’t make them a good writer. Someone who has worked in one area of an industry may have a more narrow viewpoint than a writer who has been following all facets of that industry for years.
How do you navigate this, then? Look for someone who has a track record in writing effective content in several key areas related to your business. This will show they have keen research skills and a flexible approach to their work. Be sure to ask for a link to their portfolio or some relevant writing samples.
You should also talk about what’s in it for them. Why should a freelance writer apply for your job and not another company’s? Some reasons could include having an author byline on your blog, real creative input and the opportunity to produce high-quality content, networking opportunities, and competitive payment.
So how do you whittle all this down into a job ad? Just take it paragraph by paragraph, be clear, to the point, and don’t include anything that doesn’t need to be there. The template below should be a good starting point.
Basic Job description template:
Information about your company and what it does
What the freelance writer position entails
The kind of content you need
Why your company is great to work for
How to apply
Many job board websites give you the opportunity to ask some filter questions before a candidate applies. By including some specific questions on non-negotiable traits you’re looking for, you’ll more easily be able to distinguish who is suitable and who isn’t.
Some questions or things to ask for could include:
By including a short survey with the job application, you can quickly disqualify applicants who don’t reach your criteria without having to trawl through every individual application.
Judging writing samples and assigning a test piece
Most people can write, but not everyone is a writer. This might seem obvious, but it bears saying: the first thing you should look at while judging a writing piece is whether or not they can write well. Does the piece flow? Is the grammar up to scratch? Is it a struggle to get through? How well is it researched? Does it reach the level of expertise you require? How relevant is it to your company’s niche?
Even if you’re happy with the writing samples provided, it’s still a good idea to do a test piece so that you can see if they can adapt to your content style. Someone may be a good writer, but that doesn’t necessarily make them a good fit.
Give the writer a sample topic to write about and detail exactly what you expect from the piece. Link to articles on your site as an example of your style, or if you don’t have content on your website yet, link to articles from other sites that you would like to emulate.
Don’t ask for too much; the writing assignment should be simple enough. You don’t want to turn them off by asking for something excessive. This means asking for a piece that is reasonable in length; a 500-word article on five tips for boosting your content marketing strategy is a much more realistic ask than requesting a 2000+ word definitive guide to creating an entire marketing strategy.
While the onus should be on how well your writer can write, it’s definitely a good idea to have some face-to-face communication via Skype to establish whether you’re actually on the same page. Try not to get bogged down in obtuse interview questions and focus on what’s relevant to the role at hand. Ask them to tell you a little bit about their writing experience and writing process. Oftentimes a more casual conversation can be more revealing than an intense interrogation.
Examples of questions that will help you get a glimpse of their work style, process, and dedication as a writer include:
What are your project management techniques?
Freelance writers work with several clients; you want to make sure that they’re adept at delegating sufficient time to each one and don’t get stressed out in the process. High levels of stress don’t tend to translate to good writing. This will also give you a fair idea of how good they are at keeping to deadlines. Like we mentioned previously, you don’t want to be hounding them.
What are your favorite blogs/online publications?
It’s important that your writer is well versed in your field, and a good way of keeping up to speed is reading blogs related to that subject area. It’s okay if they mention some that aren’t directly related (you want a well-rounded individual, after all), but if they don’t mention any publications related to your niche, that’s a big red flag.
How do you begin with researching a new project?
With this question, you can gauge if they tend to do sufficient research. It’s all well and good checking out the competition, but since you’re a new client, they should also mention researching your current content in order to get your brand’s voice right. Flying by the seat of your pants can work in other areas of writing, but when it comes to well-researched Web content and copy, it’s really not ideal.
When it comes to tried-and-tested interview questions, there are some classics that have been around since the dawn of job interviews that you might be tempted to ask just because it’s the done thing. Of course, you can throw in a few, but they’re not going to tell you much about your potential writer’s work acumen. All it will reveal is how good they are twisting answers to silly interview questions to suit whatever it is they think you want to hear.
Commonly asked interview questions to avoid include:
What is your greatest weakness?
Do you really want to know? And do you think they’re going to give you an honest answer?
Why do you want this job?
If you’ve done a good job screening and filtering applications and resumes, then you’ll already know the answer to this question: they’re a talented writer with experience in your field, looking for a new freelance writing gig.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Gone are the days are a job for life; you’ll be hard pressed finding someone with an honest answer to that these days.
And many, many more. To avoid getting scripted responses from your interviewees, we really recommend putting thought into the questions you ask and sticking with things that are relevant to the role.