11 Mistakes to Avoid When Hiring a Freelance Writer
To help you navigate hiring a freelancer and avoid common pitfalls, we asked 11 professionals, including freelance writers, content strategists, and talent acquisition managers, to share their insights. From not paying attention to a freelancer’s expertise to hiring someone who can’t respond within a reasonable time, discover the top mistakes to avoid when hiring a freelancer.
- Overlooking the Freelancer’s Expertise
- Unaligned Freelancer Engagement
- Allowing Scope Creep
- Wasting Time With Poor Communication
- Disrespecting Freelancer Pricing
- Subjecting Freelancers to Unnecessary Bureaucracy
- Selecting the Wrong Freelancer
- Prioritizing Writing Ability Over Business Knowledge
- Setting Unclear Expectations and Requirements
- Hiring Low-Cost, Low-Quality Freelancers
- Ignoring Red Flags
Overlooking the Freelancer’s Expertise
Before hiring a freelancer, ensure they can provide examples showcasing their expertise on your topic. It is totally acceptable to request links and/or posts that validate their knowledge of current trends. If you are reviewing their LinkedIn profile, it is essential to read the recommendations.
Pay close attention to current posts, and how recently they have added new content. When something is outdated, ask the freelancer to provide you with a recent sample. Finally, when reading reviews, evaluate all comments, not just positive feedback, before making a final decision.
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Freelancing is the best way to balance passion-driven work and flexibility – giving people the opportunity to have full autonomy over their career and how they want to work on a day-to-day basis. Whether you’re working at home or on-the-go, freelancers can choose the projects they want to pursue, then craft their work experience around it. As a freelancer, you have the freedom to travel the world, spend time with your family, and manage your own schedule.
As we continue to navigate a volatile economy plagued by layoffs and firings, independent work is a great vehicle for financial security. By not being tied down by a singular employer, you can take on more projects, be your own boss, and further develop your own service offerings with new skills – such as AI. With businesses relying on freelancers more than ever before, freelancers today can expand their horizons and work on projects of all shapes and sizes.
Unaligned Freelancer Engagement
Organizations can avoid mistakes by structuring freelancer engagement in alignment with business goals and strategies. When a client comes to me, they haven’t always thought about whether they want high efficiency (where I manage every aspect of a project) or low cost (where I only execute specific pieces of a project).
If you’re a new startup willing to make reasonable compromises for lower costs, bring in a freelancer on those pieces where you carry the greatest risk. If you’re a more competitive, fast-moving company, bring in a full-service freelancer who can execute high-quality work that matches your velocity.
Aligning your business strategy to freelancer engagement ensures you’re putting dollars in the right place and helps you avoid mistakes in costs and execution.
Allowing Scope Creep
Once a freelancer agrees to and completes a project, in-house groups may want him/her to “sit in” on an upcoming project without managerial consent or review the contract. As copywriters, this is known as “out of scope”, and negotiations should be redone. Key word: should. If clients can be as vigilant with their budgets, we should be able to do the same.
Wasting Time With Poor Communication
No one wants to waste their time. No one wants to spend hours on a flat-fee freelance project only to be asked to start over because it wasn’t what the client was looking for, or because there was some simple miscommunication in the correspondence.
I believe the biggest mistake a client can make when hiring a freelancer is not meeting with them in person, or over video or phone before the project nails down the strategy and tone, asks questions, and builds rapport and trust.
When the only communication with your freelancer is over email or through text, the directions are sometimes vague or open to interpretation, resulting in dozens of email exchanges for clarification, stunting progress, and delaying the project.
Open communication and being available to meet for just a few minutes before the project starts can save everyone hours, if not days, and possibly a lot of money.
Disrespecting Freelancer Pricing
Companies should avoid haggling with freelancers on pricing. Most freelancers offer highly intentional, fair pricing based on many factors, including the extent of their subject matter expertise and expected project durations. If companies want high-quality, long-term work from a freelancer, they should budget accordingly. Otherwise, companies will have to recruit constantly and negotiate with their part-time talent.
Subjecting Freelancer’s to Unnecessary Bureaucracy
One reason freelancers don’t work for a company is that they said goodbye to corporate bureaucracy. One misstep I see with clients is asking the freelancer to work in a lot of internal systems: updating projects, filling out forms, chasing people down, and other activities that take away from the project focus.
Here’s a better idea: Assign those tasks to an employee who can do them faster and at less cost. It’s not an “it ain’t my job” attitude; it’s about making the most of your freelancer’s time—and your budget.
Selecting the Wrong Freelancer
There are two strategies for hiring a freelancer: choosing someone to execute your vision or choosing someone to figure out what you need. I’m a freelance writer myself and have also hired other freelancers, such as graphic designers and data analysts.
When hiring someone to complete a very specific task, it makes sense to pick someone with execution strengths—their ability to strategize or brainstorm on your behalf isn’t as important. Often, this may be someone at an intermediate level.
For projects in areas you or your team don’t have any expertise, it’s worth paying someone more who knows more than you. For instance, when I work with my graphic designer, I don’t see the layout or design. Instead, I describe the aesthetic I want with any visual examples I can find, then let her work her magic.
Prioritizing Writing Ability Over Business Knowledge
The most significant error I see when companies hire freelance writers is focusing on writing ability over business knowledge and domain expertise. You have your pick of talented freelance writers, including many highly capable former journalists who are available to write content for them.
However, hiring people who don’t understand your business inevitably leads to a lengthy process of briefing them on your customers’ personas and your value proposition. The material may not stick, and you will end up with content that does not speak to your audience or achieve its goal of engaging readers in a dialogue that will lead them to take action in the ways you want.
Setting Unclear Expectations and Requirements
One mistake to avoid when hiring a freelancer is not being clear about your expectations and requirements. It’s important to understand the project clearly, the deadline, and the services you expect from the freelancer. If you’re not clear about your expectations upfront, it can lead to misunderstandings, delays, and ultimately unsatisfactory work.
To avoid this mistake, take the time to define the project requirements and communicate them clearly to the freelancer before starting the project. This will help ensure that both you and the freelancer agree and clearly understand the work.
Hiring Low-Cost, Low-Quality Freelancers
One of the biggest mistakes agencies and individuals make is hiring low-cost freelancers to cut down on expenses. I’ve encountered multiple job postings where recruiters want best-in-class deliverables but at the lowest prices, which is unreasonable. To maintain their profit margins, they would accept freelancers who quote the minimum rates without considering the risks it can bring.
Often, those who quote the cheapest are inexperienced or deliver subpar-quality work. And if you don’t have a good quality assurance team, they can bring losses rather than profit.
However, there can be a few freelancers who aren’t aware of the standard market prices, hence quite low, but deliver quality work. To find those jackpots, thoroughly check each applicant’s previous work samples or ask them essential questions regarding the project to test their knowledge.
Ignoring Red Flags
If you reach out to a freelancer during normal business hours in their time zone, and they don’t respond within a few hours—even if it’s just to let you know they’re not in the office that day—see this as a giant red flag. If they don’t respond to calls/texts/messages now, what will their customer service be like once you hire them? Successful freelancers understand that they’re in a service business and act accordingly.
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