San Diego Freelance Writers

Four Steps for Setting Your Freelance Writer Up for Success

Freelance marketing communications writers operate best when you follow a few fundamental steps. They set the writer - and you, more importantly - up for success.

If you've never worked with a freelance marketing communications writer before - and even if you have - you'll find that it's not like working with an employee. Professional freelance writers don't need you to manage them, but they do need you to tell them what you want as clearly as possible and help them over the hump.

A big step in this direction is to concretely define the project in the first place, and here are four more steps for setting your freelance writer up for success on your writing project.

  1. Work out a method. Even though you're not going to manage the writer, you should know how she's going to approach the project. Professional writers do not fly by the seat of their pants, any more than a building contractor does. You should ask the writer, "So, what method do you follow in writing a piece like this?" and you should be prepared to ask (and pay) the writer to modify it if needed for the success of your project. Suppose the writer says, "My fee includes interviews, research, a first draft and a final draft," but your boss wants to see an outline before the draft (always a good idea on a long piece). Or suppose the writer wants to work in isolation, but you want to schedule a couple of phone sessions with her and work collaboratively. These are substantial differences, and a professional writer will work out a modus operandi that suits both of you.
  2. Describe your ideal readers. This is the single biggest way to set your writer up for success. The writer understands writing, but you understand the members of your audience (or you should, anyway) and what has their hair on fire. When you describe them properly, your writer can deliver an "ideal-reader optimized" piece that outlines your products in terms of their business problems. This is very different from simply telling your writer how great your products are: Nobody cares about that, but everybody cares about solving business problems. You should plan to describe your ideal readers in terms of the business problems your products can address. With that image in her head, your writer can deliver copy that readers will care about.
  3. Explain the messaging. Have you worked out messaging for the product yet? Are you defending yourself against competitors? Have you established what it is that makes you unique in your industry? How do you want to sound to your audience: Prudent? Aggressive? Revolutionary? Cocky? Large companies create brand books and messaging platforms to encapsulate this information, but even small ones should work toward some consistency in the way their audience perceives them. Messaging matters to your writer, and from existing materials and a few interviews with the right people in the organization, your writer should be able to pick up on your messaging and weave it into the content she writes for you.
  4. Include a call to action. A professional marketing communications writer will ask you, "What do you want people to do once they've read this? Click on a link? Buy something? Tell their friends? Storm the Bastille?" If the piece doesn't include a call to action, why bother writing it? Be sure your writer understands your goal for the reader. This follows the maxim of starting with the end in mind, and helps the writer guide the reader toward it all the way through the piece.
Remember: It is completely appropriate for you to follow steps like these when hiring a writer. They're designed to set up the writer for success, but ultimately, they're even more essential to setting yourself up for success.

John White of venTAJA Marketing is a marketing communications writer of white papers, technical articles, Web content and case studies for technology companies. He also publishes a newsletter with more tips on working with your writers.
Photo credit: Trevor Rickard