Your Network – YES!
The first place to look is your professional network. If you know a graphic designer or marketing professional, chances are they already have a freelance writer in their network. And because good writers are so hard to find (ask anyone about their freelancer frustrations and you’ll see what I mean), you’re better off getting a recommendation from someone who has worked with the writer already.
Questions to ask:
- Is their copy solid on a first draft or are there a lot of problems?
- Are they responsive and easy to get a hold of?
- Do they have solid professional experience?
- Do they have experience with my industry or type of writing?
- Do they have an online portfolio I can look at?
Remember that writing for businesses is different than writing for consumers, just as writing for social media is different than writing for training purposes. Good writers are pretty diverse and can write for just about any medium or audience, but do your research to make sure they've got what it takes.
LinkedIn – YES!
You can often find a writer by searching LinkedIn for freelancers and seeing if you have any connections in common. This is the next best thing to a personal recommendation from your network, because you can check out their professional presence and get a feel for how they interact with others in a business setting. Most career freelance writers will have a solid profile on LinkedIn.
Be sure to take a look at how well connected they are and how thorough their profile is. It’s a good indicator of how they run their business and if they do, in fact, run their writing business as a business. If you’re looking for a writer that will get the job done, you need one who is serious about what they do.
Freelancing Sites – NO!
If you want bottom of the barrel writing that generally requires massive edits or rewrites, then go to a freelancing site like Elance or Freelancer. I have worked with many clients who initially hesitated to pay for professional writing, and instead went to one of these sites and hired cheap help. Can you guess what happened for most of them? It wasn't pretty, and in some cases it was downright ugly.
The reality is that it often takes a hard lesson like getting completely dropped from Google or a sharp decline in conversions to make companies realize that writing is powerful and worth paying for. You’ll hear this story time and again when it comes to graphic designers, too.
But here's what you need to know. A writer who works through a freelancing site is likely to be:
- Frazzled and tired
- Prone to errors due to a high workload
- A less experienced writer
- Not able to devote much time to the work
Think about it this way: if a writer is only charging $5 or $10 to write a blog post, how many of those do they have to write a day in order to buy their groceries? And do you think the writing will be thoughtful, targeted, powerful, and solid? Or will it be slapped together as quickly as possible?
Professional writers charge fair fees that allow them to take time to understand your business, draft the copy, edit it, and make sure it's effective. You simply can't get this level of work for $5 or $10 (or $25 or $50, for that matter).
Agencies – NO!
Agencies like Creative Circle will most definitely offer high quality talent, but you will pay a whole lot more for it than you would if you just worked directly with a writer. And to be honest, a lot of professional writers choose not to work with agencies because they take such a huge cut of the fees. I am one of those.
I think an agency is fine as a temporary fix or as a last resort if you can’t find someone a different way, but remember that the hit to your budget will be significant. Agencies always have a steep markup for any type of contractor they source; it's how they thrive. But luckily, freelance writers almost always work 1099. So why not save yourself some money by cutting out the middle man?
But what if I need to hire someone as a vendor, you ask? Does this mean I have to go through an agency?
The answer is absolutely not! Just look for a writer who has an LLC or something smiliar, because they will have an EIN and you can bring them on as a vendor without any issues. Problem solved.
Google – MAYBE.
Google can be notoriously difficult for freelance writers because we really don’t have heavy website traffic like news or retail sites do. So while you can use Google to find a writer, beware that the great ones may still be buried somewhere in cyberspace.
Sometimes writers will pay for ads and sometimes they’re lucky enough to make it onto page 1. But I find that of all the independent professionals I know - from design to photography to writing to personal training - none of them are easily found on Google. So working your network is still the best way to go.
Craigslist – MAYBE.
I admit that I’ve posted my information on Craigslist more than a few times over the years. So yes, I think you can find a good writer that way. But I also think you have to be very selective, because most of the writers you find there will be similar to (or a step above) the ones on the freelancing sites.
Here's what to look for on Craigslist:
- A link to a website and/or portfolio
- A professionally written post
- No unsubstantiated claims of greatness
Writers who say, “I’m a great writer! I can write anything!” are probably not the ones you want. Desperation and lack of career focus, with only a subjective opinion about themselves to back up their qualifications, are not what you should be looking for in a writer.
Your Best Resource is Your Own Investigation
To sum everything up in one sentence, the best way to find a great writer is through word of mouth or by researching them yourself (without a middle man like an agency or freelancing site).
But maybe you've found a great resource for writers that I haven't listed. Would you like to share it? Add your favorite spots in the comments below!