How to hire a freelance writer for your small business in 5 easy steps

Find your scribe

Overwhelmed by content creation? As small business owners, we’re tempted to do everything ourselves. But if your blog is bogging you down when your time is best spent elsewhere, it’s time to hire a freelance writer.

If you’re ready to outsource some writing projects — anything from blog posts, to email newsletters, to social media posts, to lead magnets and more — we’ve got some tips to get you started off on the right foot.

How to hire a freelance writer you’ll love working with in 5 steps

Many small business owners dream of outsourcing tasks, but figuring out where to start can be overwhelming. So how do you hire your first freelance writer? Here are my top tips on how to hire a freelance writer for your small business.

  1. Know where to look.

  2. Check out their portfolio.

  3. Make sure they understand your business.

  4. Start with a paid test piece.

  5. Evaluate and decide if you’d like to move forward.

If you want to hire a freelance writer, it’s imperative to make sure you determine these five things ahead of time.

1. Know where to look

A good writer is hard to find. That’s why the first thing I’d recommend you do is ask for referrals. See if your fellow business owners have worked with any freelance writers and if they’d recommend some to you.

Here are some other places to look for freelance writers:

  • Facebook Groups. Joining Facebook Groups for business owners can be a great way to connect with service providers. Post to the group and let them know what kind of freelance writer you’re looking for.
  • ProBlogger job board. For a fee, you can post an ad to the popular ProBlogger job board for 30 days. Expect to get a lot of applicants, which can be both a bad and a good thing. You’ll have to sift through a ton of emails, but you’ll also get a greater variety of applicants to choose from.
  • Your website. If you have a blog for your business, you can add a call-to-action that says something like, “Write for Us.” There, you can include your submission guidelines, plus a way for freelance writers to contact you.
  • Google. When all else fails, there’s always the good ol’ Google search. This simple formula works well: “freelance writer for [insert niche].”

Pro tip: Don’t just hire the first freelancer you come across. Do your due diligence!

2. Check out their portfolio

Once you’ve found some prospects, the best way to tell if a freelance writer is high quality is to check out their previous work. Do they have pieces that reflect the style you’re aiming for? Have they worked with brands similar to yours? Is their writing on par with your standards? Every freelance writer should be able to provide you with a link to their portfolio or additional links to other published works, so don’t be afraid to ask!

3. Make sure they understand your business

Finding a freelance writer who specializes in your niche is ideal. For example, if your business sells accounting software, your best bet might be to find a freelance writer who specializes in writing for SaaS businesses. Even if they’re not a specialist in your exact niche, someone who has a basic understanding of your industry can excel after some research on the topics you want them to write about.

4. Start with a paid test piece

Before locking into a long-term commitment, I always recommend a paid test piece to start with. This gives both you and the writer a chance to see if you’re a good fit for each other, plus the writer will be compensated for their work.

5. Evaluate and decide if you’d like to move forward

Once the writer submits their paid test piece, read it carefully. Make sure it reflects your brand’s tone of voice, and most importantly, make sure it’s accurate. Look for quality, but don’t expect perfection on the first try. Remember, you’re both still getting to know each other. If something minor is off (for example, the writing is too formal for your brand’s fun tone of voice), let the writer know. This is something that can easily be adjusted.

Another thing I like to do to vet writers is run the piece through Grammarly, a free grammar checking app. If you upgrade to the paid version (Grammarly Premium), not only will it alert you of any grammar mistakes, but it also will notify you of any plagiarism. This should go without saying, but if you find any instances of your writer copying another person’s work and pretending it’s their own, do not move forward with them! Find a better freelance writer elsewhere.

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Photo: Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

What to say in an email to a freelance writer you want to hire

It might be intimidating to reach out to potential writers if you’ve never hired one before, so here’s a template you can use:

Hey [first name],

My name is [your name], and I’m the owner of [your business name with a link to your website]. I’m looking to hire a freelance writer to create [blog posts, email newsletters, an eBook, etc.] for my business. I expect this project to be about [insert number of words] words long, and some of the topics include [insert potential topics so the writer can get a feel for your niche].

Is this something you’d be interested in? If so, please send me your availability and rates. I’m also happy to hop on a quick call to discuss the project more.

Thanks,
[your name]

Now, if you have a fixed budget for this project, let the writer know. Otherwise, you can ask them for their rates, but don’t be surprised if they respond by asking what your budget is.

How much to pay a freelance writer

How much should you pay a freelance writer? Ooph — that question is a minefield riddled with a million different answers. The truth is, you can find someone willing to write a 1,000-word blog post for $20; on the opposite end of the spectrum is a writer who charges $500 for it. Here’s some information, along with some hard numbers, to give you an idea of what to expect:

The different ways writers structure their rates:

  • Per word
  • Per article/project
  • Per hour

A writer’s rates vary depending on a few things:

  • Experience. You can expect to pay more for a writer who’s been a full-time freelancer for three years than a writer who just started freelancing on the side a year ago.
  • Type of content. Generally speaking, creating copy for a sales page costs more than, say, writing a blog post.
  • Article complexity. You’ll pay more for researched pieces where the writer needs to cite scientific studies, conduct interviews, etc. If you provide the research, however, that rate might decrease.
  • Timeline. Need the blog post done by tomorrow? Expect to pay a rush fee for a writer to accept this. Remember, they’re having to clear their schedule to accommodate you.
  • One-time vs. long-term project. Rates usually go down if you “buy in bulk.” For example, a writer who typically charges $250 for a 1,000-word blog post might be willing to drop that to $225/post if you contract them for four blog posts a month.
  • Additional services. Do you want the writer to conduct keyword research to make your content SEO-friendly? Would you like them to share your blog posts on social media? Additional services typically incur extra costs.

Here’s some data on what freelance writers charge, based on a survey by ClearVoice:

  • Per word: $0.10 to $1, with 60 percent charging $0.10 to $0.19.
  • Per project: $25 to $500+, with 40 percent charging $100 to $300.
  • Per hour: $15 to $100+, with 47 percent charging $30 to $50.

Again, don’t be surprised if you reach out to several freelance writers and their rates vary widely. In the end, base your decision on your budget, the writer’s ability and their fit for your business.

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How to manage a freelance writer for success

To help your freelance writer succeed, you’ll want to set expectations and provide them with everything they’ll need to complete the assignment.

Set deadlines

Writers live by deadlines. We expect projects to have due dates, and even if there is no hard deadline on your end, it’s best to provide one for each writing project so your freelancer can plan their projects accordingly. Being too vague (e.g., “send it along whenever you have a chance!”) almost guarantees unclear expectations for both parties.

Provide information and research (if needed)

Expect questions. For example, if you’ve hired a freelance writer to write a newsletter announcing your company’s latest product release, they’re going to want to know a bit more about the thought that went into the product and the teams responsible for its development. Your writer will look to you for those answers, so don’t be put off by all the questions.

Give prompt feedback

Writers thrive on feedback. One of the worst things a client can do is receive an article from a writer and then go silent. If there’s something you’re unhappy with, communicate that openly with the writer. They’re a professional and should be able to craft something you love. Make sure to check the contract to see how many revisions (if any) are included in their prices. Some writers will charge a fee for extra revisions.

Free up your time with a freelance writer

Figuring out how to hire a freelance writer is half the battle. The other half is finding the right one for you. Don’t be discouraged if you have to do paid test pieces with a few writers before you find a good fit. It’s all part of the process, and we writers understand that!

Once it’s all done though, you’ll breathe easy knowing you’ve outsourced a laborious task to an expert — and freed up time to work on what you love.

Editor’s note: Looking for writing talent to create content for a blog? Make sure your blog is up to the challenge … check out GoDaddy’s Managed WordPress.

Amy Rigby
Amy Rigby is a writer and marketing consultant for startups and small businesses. An avid traveler, she has visited Machu Picchu twice, run across the world’s widest avenue in Buenos Aires, and eaten her fill of gourmet cheese in Paris. Amy founded WhereverWriter.com to share travel and business advice for entrepreneurs who want to live a location-independent life. Follow her adventures on Twitter.