You are a world-class marketing organization and you need to create a lot of new product-related content to very tight deadlines. You know you’ll need a small army of freelance writers who can take on the work and deliver great quality at a quick speed. How do you go about finding this team, and what should you look for as you source the candidates? Here are a few pointers to help you build your writing dream team.
One size rarely fits all
The first thing you need to do when planning a new project is be clear on the nature of the writing task. Does it need any pre-existing knowledge—for example, subject matter expertise, inside knowledge of an industry or familiarity with a geographical location? In many cases, freelance writers can research almost any topic and grasp the basic concepts so that they can complete the project. If you ask your writers to create a set of summary articles (e.g., a list of 10 leading antivirus programs along with a summary of their key features), even without detailed knowledge they can quickly read a range of similar articles and websites and come up with their own top 10. Is that good enough? Well, if the aim is to provide a general overview to a non-specialist audience or to strengthen your search engine rankings around a keyword, then you’re probably on safe ground.
But for some writing tasks, knowledge of the subject matter alone might not be enough to guarantee success. Where the content needs to be highly structured and the task involves following strict rules with comprehensive style and tone guides, what you really need is someone with a track record of writing within a very specific set of guidelines. Andy Jarosz, Content Strategist at RWS Moravia, shares an example: “A client asked us to create a high volume of travel-related descriptions, written to a very tight brief. We started off by recruiting freelance travel writers and bloggers and quickly found that their skills weren’t a particularly good match for the task at hand. They were used to writing in flowing prose and letting their literary enthusiasm run wild, but for this project, they had to write in a completely different style. Some could make the switch to the required formulaic approach, but for many, the urge to be creative was too strong. When we switched to writers with a background in technical content creation or product descriptions, we immediately had better results.”
This difficulty with switching styles happens the other way around, too. You might have a great copywriter who is an expert in your subject matter and who has excelled at writing your user guides or FAQ pages, but ask them to craft a page of compelling marketing copy and they’ll struggle to drop the fact-heavy, repetitive approach they’re familiar with.
To minimize this risk, it’s a good idea to test writers before engaging them so that you’re confident that they can deliver what you’re asking for. Try to make the test as close as you can to the real assignments the writers will receive and include any technical elements you’ll need, such as html tags, formatting or external links. That way, you’ll discover your candidates’ strong and weak points before you assign them a big chunk of work with a demanding deadline.
Where do writers hang out?
If you need to build a large team from scratch, you might start by posting an online ad on a social network such as LinkedIn or a recruitment site like Indeed. There are thousands of freelancers looking for paying gigs, so be prepared to sort through a mountain of responses if you follow this route. For general writing work, don’t get too hung up on qualifications or direct experience. Many great writers ply their trade in areas that might not immediately appear relevant, and you’ll probably find that the best candidates in your selection test may not have been the ones with the strongest CVs.
If you’re expanding an existing team, you shouldn’t overlook one of the most effective approaches for finding the right talent: the writers you already have. As Andy explains, not only are they likely to know fellow writers who might be available and a good match for your project, but they’ll also have their favorite forums and sites where they look for work, some of which may be hard to reach. “We asked our writers where they normally find work, and several mentioned secret, invite-only Facebook groups. These are forums where freelancers share tips and jobs along with no-holds-barred views on their experience working with and (very importantly!) getting paid by their clients. Some of our team even offered to mention us in their groups and share a link to our job posting. We gave them a few suggested sentences and it was ultimately up to them how they presented the opportunity to their peers. We would never see the posting, so there was a lot of trust involved. Thankfully this approach generated a high number of suitable applicants.”
If you’re recruiting from multiple sources, it’s very important to capture data on where your candidates come from. That way you can analyze the relative success of each source. You might discover that an ad in an expensive industry magazine yields fewer responses than expected, but that a very high proportion of these candidates pass your writing tests and go on to become productive, reliable writers. This would prove a much better investment than a cheap ad that brings in thousands of low-quality applicants who fall at the first selection hurdle. Getting the right data can save you hundreds of recruitment hours and can ensure you have your team in place as quickly as possible.
Protect your investment
Congratulations! You’ve worked hard to build a great team of writers who have gone on to deliver quality work and meet your deadlines. Even though the project may be over, you shouldn’t simply let the writers disappear from your radar such that you have to start from scratch when the next project comes along. Make sure you keep in touch with your freelancers and take the time to know their skills and areas of expertise. That way, when you or one of your clients comes calling with a specific request, you’ll know exactly who to contact.
Need help with a big writing project? Let us help take the strain out of recruiting and managing a team of content producers.