When you haven’t hired a freelance writer or marketer before, there are things you’re just not going to think to ask.
Or, if you’ve had things go wrong before, you may be afraid of repeating the same mistakes but be unsure of how to prevent them.
I’ve seen some companies who pay very little come in with super-high expectations, while those who pay well trust the knowledge they’re paying for.
It’s a jungle out there, and writers have to navigate it, often without guidance if they’re new to it.
It’s just as challenging for businesses. That’s why I’ve put together these potential questions to ask before hiring a freelance content writer.
They’ll mean you know if the writer is a good fit for you, and if they are, what you’re getting for your money.
What are your rates?
This is an obvious one, but I want to include it for several reasons.
I’ll caveat this one by saying that you should know the average rate for writers in your industry. For instance, the fintech niche pays considerably more than the parenting niche.
Having a vague idea of what you’re willing to pay is important.
As a freelancer myself, I much prefer it when prospects come to me with a budget in mind. It’s super frustrating when you find a client you really want to work with, they don’t tell you their budget, ask what your prices are, then they ghost you because you’re more expensive than they had in mind (meaning they did have a budget and didn’t want to say it).
Transparency is underrated and can really help your brand stand out from your competition.
Do you have any relevant writing examples?
It’s a big win if someone has writing examples relevant to your industry—it shows they’re an expert.
But if you’re on a lower budget, don’t discard someone just because they don’t have relevant writing examples. Any example that shows they’re a competent writer, and a background that shows they have experience in your niche (for example, a pet owner with a blog about something unrelated), shows that they’ll be perfectly capable of writing about the topic you have in mind.
So does their ability to research. Some people are naturally curious, meaning we like to write about a variety of things, and being a freelance content writer or marketer gives us the perfect excuse to learn about a new industry or trend.
What’s your process?
Every writer works in a slightly different way. Some stages you’ll be included in, others you won’t.
For example, for longer content, I often run my plan past a client before I start to write. That way they can offer feedback and comment on anything they’d like fleshing out or moving around. This is really good for spotting any holes in the piece, or ways to make it flow better, at a stage where issues are much easier to fix. Kind of like outlining helps to streamline the novel writing process.
It also speeds up the time it takes to write a first draft and means that what you receive will be more in line with what you had in mind.
What’s included in the package?
It’s much better to have an understanding of what’s included in your package before you commit to anything. Some writers only allow for one round of revisions in their price, while others (like myself) have two as default, even if they’re rarely needed.
You need to know what you’re getting for your money so that you can make an informed decision.
If you find the right freelancer for you, it’s unlikely you’ll need to do too many edits. In the early stages you may need to, as you get to know one another, but the more you work together, the less feedback there should be.
How long will it take you to deliver a first draft?
I’ve noticed a weird paradox: clients who want faster turnarounds pay less than those who are more flexible with deadlines.
This is a pattern I’ve seen again and again.
If you’re someone who’s expecting a lot and paying less, please stop. Writing is a skill that takes years to learn, and by paying people who write content less—or by churning it out—you’re devaluing both writing itself, and your brand.
Longer, higher quality content will get you far more leads than something that’s churned out over a couple of days to rank for a bunch of keywords.
Every writer puts together first drafts at different speeds. Every writer edits at different speeds, too.
And of course, you want them to edit the post before sending it to you so that you’re not focusing on silly typos, you’re focusing on making the content the best it can be.
If you have a deadline because the content is part of a funnel for something (which, ideally, it should be), be upfront about this. Many writers will be flexible, but some will already have other commitments and they won’t be able to squeeze you in. If that’s the case, usually they’ll be able to recommend someone who can.
How long do edits take?
If you do want changes made on something, it’s important to be realistic about how long that will take. If you’re a business who takes forever to provide feedback on something, it’s unrealistic and unfair to expect a quick turnaround. The writer will have moved on by then and will have to adjust their schedule to fit you in.
Editing is also a very different skillset to writing. While most writers can flick that switch fairly easily—and it gets easier with time—that doesn’t mean they can magically ditch everything and prioritise your work first.
Do you charge extra for last-minute jobs?
Anything with less than a 48-hour turnaround is a headache. It means adjusting schedules and possibly personal commitments, and switching brain power to focus on something that may not have been on our radar a few hours earlier.
This is why many writers charge as much as double for a last-minute job.
I’ll be honest. I don’t advise last-minute jobs. I think errors are more likely to occur when there isn’t enough time to be objective about a piece.
Objectivity is key to being able to edit something, and even professional writers need a break from something and don’t work on just one piece at a time. They need that space from the project so that they can edit it objectively.
Even those of us who’ve been writing for years find it more beneficial to take time between writing and each level of editing because we may learn something new and relevant, find a great stat, or just pick up on something we hadn’t considered before because we were in a different frame of mind when we wrote the post.
What’s important to you?
Not everyone will be able to answer this, especially if you phrase it as, ‘what are your values?’
Until recently, I wasn’t sure, either.
However, recent events have made me realise how important transparency and readability are to me.
When it comes to content, I like posts that are in-depth but don’t overstay their welcome. Unnecessary padding just to attract algorithms irritates me. Nobody ever reads that stuff anyway (I’m looking at you, online recipes).
Working with people who share your (and your business’s) values means you’re more likely to have a successful relationship because you’re starting from the same page.
It’s therefore important that you can explain to freelancers what’s important to you upfront, whether that’s punctuality, reliability, honesty, grammar, or something else entirely. If they know what’s expected of them, they can make an informed decision about if you’re the right business for them, just like you can decide if they’re the right freelancer for you.
Knowing what you want—and being upfront about it—will mean your relationship with any freelancer progresses smoothly. Clear communication can never be underestimated. It could be the difference between a long-term relationship and a failed product launch.