Best way to find a freelance writer

candidates when you want to choose a freelance writerWhen you want to choose a freelance writer, how should you go about it? You know nothing about any of the four candidates in the picture; which should you go for? Well, you could do what a lot of people do, which is to find someone prepared to work for the lowest rate (currently US$0.01 a word) and give the job to them. That approach would have two advantages:

  • It would keep your costs to a bare minimum; and
  • It would mean you wouldn’t be saddled with lots of work, because – as countless websites throughout the world will show – you’d get very few visitors and a tiny number, if any, of those few would convert to paying customers.

Minimum cost and minimum work afterwards: it’s a win/win!
Unless, of course, your intention when you set out to choose a freelance writer was to increase the amount of business you’re doing. In that case, it’s a total bust because – as I said in this post – you get what you pay for. So let’s be serious and examine the steps you need to take if you want to turn “How to choose a freelance writer” into “How to choose a GOOD freelance writer.”

Whatever the language, choose a freelance writer who is a native speaker

I was born in Britain and I’m a native speaker of UK English. As it happens, in a long international sales career I mastered a couple of other languages.
And as soon as those words are out, I have to hold my hands up and say, ‘Actually, I just lied to you.’ I didn’t “master” any languages; what I did was to learn to speak and understand them well enough to get by as a salesman, to close the deal and to know when people I was talking to were saying one thing to me and something quite different among themselves.’ If you asked me to write something for you in Italian, for example, I’d refuse because I’d know that my performance would be unsatisfactory.
If you want someone to write for you in English, make sure that the person has a native speaker’s command of the language. I lived for some years in North America and my American English is good enough to write for clients there. I have some more to say about that in this post, because translating American English to British English and British English to American English isn’t as simple as you might think. I also did business in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa and the way I write works there just fine.
But India? I did a lot of business in India and I spent a good deal of time there. I like the place, I like the people and I love the food.

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Yum yum, pig’s bum! As we used to say when I was 10 and I should really have stopped by now. I could eat Indian food every day but I would not try to write for a customer in Indian English because it simply is not the same as British English. The differences are too great for me to be sure of getting it right. Just as they are too great to be sure that an Indian brought up in India could write something that would pass for British English. By and large, however good their command of grammar and punctuation might be, they cannot bridge the gap.

Before you choose a freelance writer, prepare a brief that says exactly what you want the writer to do for you

I’ve already written here about the importance of a brief and what it should say. If something goes wrong with a freelance contract, more often than not the reason is one of these two:

  • The assignment exceeded the writer’s capabilities. Avoiding that situation is what this page is about; or
  • The brief was either not sufficiently detailed or it was inaccurate – the customer asked for one thing but wanted another.

What next? Expect a formal proposal

After the initial pleasantries, the writer should submit a proposal. The proposal should set out:

  • What the writer proposes to do;
  • The fee, and what you get for the money. A normal freelance writing contract will provide for an original draft and up to two rewrites for the fee;
  • The deadline by which the writer proposes to complete the assignment;
  • A statement of the writer’s qualifications for this assignment. It should include: a CV or resume; links to other work done by the writer, as well as one or two examples included with the proposal; and testimonials from customers.

The proposal may or may not also include a description of how the writer intends to go about the work. I usually prepare an outline before starting which, if the client asks to see it, I will send for approval before beginning work, but not everyone works that way and lack of an outline should not count against an experienced and qualified writer.

There’s more!

But this page has already passed the maximum number of words research says visitors will read, so I’ve put everything into a PDF entitled Guide To Finding A Freelance Writer. To get a copy, send back this form with “Please send Guide” in the Comments box.

If you’d like more detail about how freelance writing works from the writer’s point of view, you might find my book interesting.

Return to John Lynch, Freelance Writer and Copywriter