ShakespeareWhen you’re looking to outsource a writing project to a freelancer, it isn’t just a matter of posting a classified ad and browsing through a stack of resumes. It takes consideration to find a writer who can take on your project, in terms of skill, knowledge, and style — but when you put forth the effort, you can find a writer who can complete a project you’ll be proud of.

The Creative Brief

The first step you can take towards finding the right freelancer for your project is developing a creative brief. A brief is a description of the project you have in mind: the format, the length, the due date. Any information that you can add to clearly describe what the project entails belongs in the brief, including topics you expect the writer to cover and special sources of information you want to use. You don’t need to include information about your budget in a creative brief, although most writers are going to want to talk price immediately after seeing your brief. It’s a good idea to put together your budget for a project at the same time you develop your creative brief.

You can also leave out descriptions of your ideal writer from your creative brief. While you may have a specific idea of how much experience a writer should have, the fact of the matter is that years of freelance experience is rarely a good indicator of skill. Your creative brief should focus on sharing the concept of what you want your final project to look like. If, for instance, you want a blogger who can help you write content for your site, your creative brief should reflect the length of posts you want, topics, the general approach or slant you want a writer to use, and any other information that can help you describe a project.

A creative brief serves more than one function. First and foremost, it can serve as an advertisement to help you find prospects. You can post your creative brief on craigslist.org, Freelance Writing Jobs, and thousands of other sites to solicit responses from prospective writers. You’ll want to add just a little bit of information to your brief, of course: requesting writing samples and mentioning a general budget can limit the number of responses somewhat. Equally important, though, is that a creative brief can help you speed up your hiring process. It gives you a chance to be very clear on what you want, so that you can find a writer who fits your needs — and get started on your project as soon as you find your writer.

The Right Writer

Depending on the kind of project you have in mind and the pay you’re offering, you can easily get thousands of responses to a listing for a freelance writer. Sorting through all those prospective writers can seem like an insurmountable task at first, but with a little tweaking of your advertisement and a little practice, you can find a freelance writer in no time.

When you’re looking for a writer, you specifically want to ask for samples of past work. While I mentioned that looking for a writer with a certain number of years of experience doesn’t make sense, you still want a writer with the skills to handle your project. There are some cases when you set the bar fairly low — for instance, if you have a low budget for a project, you’re unlikely to get a writer with a perfectly polished style. But you do want to know that a writer meets your needs for a project, no matter what they are. The easiest way to check that fact is to take a look at a writer’s samples. You’ll want to request samples similar to your project, preferably pieces written recently.

Sorting through samples can actually be done faster than you might think. After glancing over the second or third blog post, article or website, you can usually eliminate writers who don’t fit your project quickly. Narrowing down from there can be a bit harder: you may wind up with three or four different writers you’d like to work with. But availability, budget, and other factors can usually lead you to just one writer.

You may be tempted to ask writers for a sample written specifically for your project, such as a sample description or a blog post. While a few writers may be willing to provide you with such a sample, many freelance writers will simply refuse. Asking for such samples can eliminate the best writers from your prospect pool: the reasons range from the number of dishonest individuals that have used such requests to get free content to the fact that many of the best writers simply don’t have time to put together something that may or may not actually be published.

The Deal

Once you have a particular writer in mind, you’ll want to set out the terms of your project. Many freelancers have set rates for their services; others are willing to put together a project estimate. The nature of your project can dictate which option is best for you. For instance, if you’re looking to have copy written for a website, a price for the full project may be more practical for you. But if you’re looking for a writer who can provide you with a blog post every week indefinitely, a per-post rate may be the best option. Take a look at the way your preferred writer operates and discuss which options will work best for both you.

In addition to setting a price, you’ll also want to establish how you’ll handle details like payment. Does the writer expect half of the fee for the project up-front? Does he or she expect payment to go through particular channels? Ask these questions to make sure that both you and your writer can focus on the project at hand. If your chosen freelancer has been in business for a while, he or she might have a contract for client projects. If so, take a look at it: if it clearly outlines the terms of your agreement and the project, having a contract in place can protect both you and the writer.

Image credit: claudiodivizia / iStockphoto

###