by Corey Eridon HUBSPOT
Hiring a freelance writer to feed your blog with content comes with some bonuses -- namely, they cost less than hiring a full-time, in-house employee. But many marketers and business owners have been burned by freelance writers who are unresponsive, deliver poor quality content, disappear when they get busy with other projects (or a full-time day job), and miss deadlines. Working with freelancers like that not only presents scalability issues, but it also takes up so much of your time researching, interviewing, and reviewing writing samples that you could probably just use that time to blog for yourself.
So how do you get it right the first time? How do you ask the right questions to weed out the unreliable freelancers, and pick the ones that will create great content for your blog on a consistent basis? Here are the questions you should ask and indicators that will let you pick out a super star freelance writer for your blog who you can rely on for a long time to come.
Starting with open-ended questions like these should give you a good indication of how experienced the freelance blogger is -- if they can pointedly answer these questions, they are experienced enough to know what's important to mention in their response. If you're met with vague or generic answers, or they don't ask intelligent follow-up questions that help narrow down their focus, they might be a generalist that isn't specialized in your industry or blog writing, specifically. Or worse, they're simply unprepared for your interview -- not the person you'd like responsible for diligently creating content.
What types of content do you create?
Sometimes you'll encounter a freelancer who writes a great whitepaper, but when faced with developing a compelling blog post, he or she can't quite pull it off. Get your candidate talking about the types of content they write -- blog posts, press releases, ebooks, printed books, business proposals, manuals, etc. A good freelance writer is capable of writing more than one content type, but listen for which assets they emphasize most, as some offer more transferable writing skills than others. Former journalists, for example, are more likely to make great bloggers than technical writers.
About what industries do you write?
Freelance writers can usually write about more than one industry, especially those that make their living off freelance writing full-time (more on that later). But if on their resume or during your interview, a candidate claims they are adept at writing about every industry, it's more likely they are spreading themselves too thin. They are probably okay at writing about a lot, but not great at writing about anything. A good freelancer knows his or her limitations. If you're interviewing someone who claims such a thing, ask for writing samples around your industry and those related to yours. For example, those in the marketing industry would also ask to see samples of writing about technology and business to see if their claims really hold up.
Describe the tones in which you're comfortable writing.
Great freelance writers can adapt their tone based on the company for which they're writing. If you've written a content style guide, you already know the exact tone for which you're striving. See if they mention words that match those you've placed in your style guide -- objective, humorous, balanced, lighthearted, etc. If your candidate is able to do this, they are likely naturals at adapting tone on a client-by-client basis. It also means they've probably read your blog content and have the ability to distill style and tone on their own. That's a skill that is honed with experience, and you can be confident that they can tweak copy to make it sound appropriate for the business at hand.
All of the great freelance bloggers are capable of doing these things, and incorporate it into their regular writing process. Subpar freelancers, however, may position these as extras or add-ons -- or just something they don't know how to do. Ask these questions to separate the wheat from the chaff.