5 Critical Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Writer
If you're reading this article, it's probably because you've considered hiring a writer but you're not quite sure where to start. (Or, maybe you're a writer and you want to see what all the hot gossip is about.) Hiring a writer, content strategist, or anyone that works in this industry can be overwhelming, especially when your business is your baby. How can you determine not just who is the most professional writer for you to work with, but a writer who can put into words what you cannot? A writer that can read your mind and say what's in your mind and in your heart, while also accomplishing other goals that you have for your content?
It's no easy feat, but perhaps asking the writer - and, yourself - these questions before making any hiring decisions, should help you with the decision.
1) What's Their Experience?
The first question you'll want to ask these prospective writers (assuming you have several candidates) is "What is your experience?" And, not just general experience, but experience in your niche.
I'll be the first person to tell you that there can be a brand new writer that's fresh off the farm that can write just as well as - if not better - than a writer with 20 years of experience. While I've seen this happen many times and I am a big advocate for giving new writers a shot, the fact of the matter is 95 percent of the time, a new writer is simply no match for a writer that has hundreds of bylines under their belt.
An experienced writer not only understands how to create what you're looking for, they can do it in a timely manner and with very little error - if any at all. Though they will charge more than a new writer, there's a very good chance that you won't have to worry about receiving an article that wasn't quite what you were looking for. And, isn't that what you want in the end? A writer that can execute your needs without having to be micromanaged? (Though, I know plenty of clients that will still micromanage, anyway...stay tuned!)
Unless you have the budget and the flexibility to give a new writer a chance (and, again, I totally support this because I've been in their shoes before), save yourself time and money (and, maybe a headache, too) and go with a writer that has meaningful experience. You'll be glad you did.
2) What Are Their Skills?
Experience is no doubt important, but it's not the only attribute that matters. It's only natural that a certain skill comes with years of experience. But, when you're interviewing a writer, you'll want to know about their specific skills and what new skills they have that other writers may not. Skills should constantly be attained and fine-tuned no matter how many years somebody is in the biz, and you'll want to make sure you're hiring a writer that wants to continuously improve themselves.
For example, one of the downsides of hiring a writer with 20 years of experience versus a writer that's new could be the difference in their familiarity with technology and digital marketing. A writer that's been doing it for a long time may not know as much as, say, SEO or direct response copy, as a writer that grew up in the Internet Age. But, that's not necessarily true. A person with years of experience may know how important it is to stay up-to-date on these trends and learn what they need to to stay competitive, while a new writer may not see the use in updating their skill set so soon.
There is, by no means, a correlation between age and skill set. But, all the more reason to ask before hiring and confirm that this writer has the specific skill set you're looking for.
3) How's Their Communication?
Experience and skill set aside, none of that really matters unless this potential writer is communicative. Any questions or concerns you have should be asked in an appropriate manner before beginning any work, and you should thus receive an appropriate response.
WARNING: Writers hate it when potential clients ask way too many questions that can be answered by looking at the writer's portfolio. If it hasn't already been answered in the first email, the resume, the portfolio, or the dozens upon dozens of clips the writer has sent, then go ahead and ask. And, make sure you contact them within business hours and in the platform that they wish to be contacted on. (All this and more in the next episode of "Things Writers Hate"!)
As long as you are respecting the writer, they should respect you as well. If you ask for a deadline, they should provide the work by the deadline and acknowledge any comments you've suggested before having the writer develop the piece. If you're hesitant, consider doing a paid sample with the writer.
4) Are You Clear on What You Want?
Part of the reason you may be looking to hire a writer is because you know that you need content, but that's really the extent of it. Therefore, it's okay if you want to consult a writer to tell them your ideas and see what they come up with for you. However, after a writer provides you with their insight, you have to ultimately decide if that's the direction you want to go in or not. Otherwise, it may be worth taking some time to think about what your goals are and what you're hoping to do - or, deciding if you want to give the writer permission to run with the ideas that they have.
It's okay if you're not sure exactly what you want in terms of your content, but, it will certainly make the writer's job - and, your job - much easier if you give it some serious thought before reaching out.
5) What Happens When the Job Starts?
So, you've decided on your writer. You have a good vibe going and you're pleased with their skills and experience. The writer has told you that they are ready to get started whenever you are, and you're almost done preparing everything that's needed for the job. But, what happens once the job starts? Are you providing the writer with a contract, or are you expecting them to create one for you? How does payment work? Are you supposed to pay upfront, or after the writer submits the first job to you?
If your writer is experienced, they will be able to answer these questions - and, will likely provide you with these answers - before you even need to ask.
If you're looking for a writer, I'm happy to help. Contact me now to start talking!