Marketing Works Today

Integrated Digital Marketing & PR Consulting from Brown Ltd.

How do you find and hire a professional writer?

More and more “writers” are appearing in the market.  They blog, write email, use Twitter, and are rabid Facebook users.  There is no shortage of channels for them to express themselves.  Are these the people you should hire?

According to Technorati, currently there are 133 million blogs indexed since 2002. An average 900 thousand posts on blogs happen every 24 hours. As printed newspapers get skinnier or disappear, more web channels are opening up from publishers, businesses, organizations, and others.

More than 72% of bloggers are classified as hobbyists, meaning that they report no income related to blogging.  Some actually write pretty well.  Of course they get to choose the topic.

But writing well doesn’t mean they can write to achieve a goal about your subject. You  have a stake in your topic, are risking your investment, or will spend your time and budget on this project.

If you are going to pay someone to write, I’m assuming you don’t just want them to express themselves.  You want something out of the deal.

Your goal may be to inform, persuade, enhance your image, increase the value of your brand, sell a product or service, drive traffic to your site or event, increase leads, expand your email or mailing list…. or much more.

If you were going to hire someone to run a company, you would want someone with a track record of success.  If you were going to hire someone to coach a team, you would want to know their win/loss record.  If you were going to employ a person to engineer a new product, certainly you would require someone with the right education and experience, and the actual physical item they made, so you can see and touch how well they did.

Hiring a writer is no different.

The bigger the track record of measured success, the better writer they may be for you.

The better the client list they have served, chances are they will be able to hit the mark – at least their brand name clients think so.

And if their portfolio (samples of their work) demonstrates a fit with the goals you have for the project you want to hire them for, chances are they are the best writer for you.

Sounds simple right?  Unfortunately, the mix of art and goals makes it more complicated.

First, before you look for a professional writer, you should have clear goals and scope of work.  It would also be helpful to know your budget for the project.  Then start the search.

As an advertising & PR agency hiring manager, former managing editor, and video producer, I’ve reviewed thousands of portfolios and hired hundreds of writers and other “creatives.”  if their portfolio has major clients and/or reputable national publishers or broadcasters, they get more than a double-take.

Goals are more important than art.  Almost anyone can write a great email to home, but very few can write to meet the clearly stated and measurable goals.

Professional writers are great communicators.  They have learned and practiced the steps to nail down the scope of a project up front, research the topic, write using the style necessary for the goal, and lead you though the review process.

Very experienced pros can help you publish, distribute, and measure your results.  Leaders in the field can put a team of creatives together and provide a turnkey service.  I have over 1,400 contacts in my cellphone for just this reason.

If a candidate’s portfolio shows great prose but their work hasn’t had to achieve measurable results, maybe they should be an essayist or write novels; but, not work for you.  Your goals are more important than their art.

Some great professionals in an organization I belong to, the American Medical Writers Association,  brought up a discussion recently about “Content Mills.”  These companies are signing people up to write for a few bucks an hour. I wish I had the time to do the research and write an article about them.  Ads from content mills are dominating Career Builder and other job sites now – right there with the jobs for selling AVON.

If you search for professional writers or freelance writers on the web you will run smack into many of these content mills on the first page.

From a quick Google search, the news is that the mills are making big bucks running a virtual sweat shop.  Anyone that can type fast can work for them.

These typists are known for a lot of plagiarism and fast “rewrites” of legitimate work they find on the web. If someone brings a content mill generated portfolio to me, I wouldn’t bother to look.

If a “writer” hasn’t been paid real money to do work, pass.  They aren’t a pro and your goals will get lost in the process.

This surge in the supply of writers isn’t surprising.  I saw this type of growth in the 1980’s when desktop publishing erupted.  Buy a computer – open an ad agency.  Early this decade, when video became affordable with digital cameras and post production on the desktop – buy some software and become a director and producer.  Now with the web and “cheap publishing channels,” more people are opening up a writing shop.

However, the marketplace has a way of lifting the talented to the top.

Great talent has the genes (and I’m not talking about Levis) in addition to the education and experience.  Professional writers either have it or they don’t.  You have to think about hiring a writer just like you would think about hiring an accountant, an engineer, or any other professional.

Do you want your accounting to run you aground?  Do you want your product, that an engineer makes, not work.  I’m sure you don’t want your communication to fail either.  Don’t try to find a writer on the cheap.  Chances are you will regret it.

The best source to find writers is to ask people you know that have a well-written website, collateral material, news stories, white papers, blogs, newsletters, etc.  Ask who wrote the copy.  Relationships and referrals are the best way to find reliable talent.

One of the top places to look for experienced professional writers is on LinkedIn.  I’ve had a lot of positive results hiring writers, illustrators, graphic designers, web designers and developers on this business site. You can also check in with reputable professional associations like:

• American Advertising Federation
• American Medical Writers Association
• American Society of Journalists and Authors
• International Association of Business Communicators
• National Association of Science Writers
• Public Relations Society of America
• Society of Technical Communication

Or you can contact me.  If I can’t help you, I have a list of top writers and will be glad to connect you.

In all cases make sure you check their portfolio, references, and ask how they, or their client, measured the results vs. the goal of what they wrote.

Professional writers usually have a portfolio online.  Mine is www.RMichaelBrown.wordpress.com

Good luck in your search and remember, hire a pro!

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Filed under: Advertising, Blogging, Branding, Content Development, Content Marketing, Lead Generation, Marketing Measurement, Non-Profit Marketing & PR, Print, Public & Media Relations, Traffic, Writing, , , , ,

5 Responses

  1. Dear Michael,

    This is a great article, and I am glad I stumbled across it through the LinkedIn group we share. I also spent 11 years in Palm Beach County as a journalist/writer/author/producer and am disappointed we did not cross paths when I was living there.

    I think the points you make about people seeking a professional writer are valid, although I am not sure if you specifically mean a copywriter or all types of writing. The research you have supporting how many bloggers exist and the swell in writers is pretty thought-provoking.

    There is one point I disagree with though, where the goals are more important than the art. I think they are both the same. For a writer to discount his or her art … that place where the creativity and gifts come from for the sake of a goal, well, I disagree, if that is the point you are making. I have found as a writer in all aspects and media …. that creativity is immeasurable, and goals are measurable and can change. I believe they are equally valuable.

    The challenge I see is to get writers who solely focus on art is to get them realizing, if they want, that it is a business … with goals and all the business necessities it takes to become a success.

    And yes, I’m in the same mindset that if I cannot write or edit a client’s project either due to time constraints or I am not the perfect person to carry out the client’s mission, then by all means, I refer that person to someone else. It’s about the work.

    Kind regards,

    Christy Heady
    http://www.christyheady.com

    • Mike says:

      Christy:

      Thank you for your thoughtful post. My article is directed at copywriting and commercial writing where the goals are to increase traffic, leads, prospects, brand perception, and sales.

      Although we use similar techniques that artist’s use, the content we create must focus on driving results. It may in fact be quite artful, but it may not. A couple of examples:

      One of my productions, “Everyday Heroes and Leaders” brings tears to the eyes of the audience quite often – especially the police, fire, and military crowd. It has an “art” feel to it.

      In fact I believe the best commercial messaging in all media types has an emotional appeal as the primary tool of persuasion. Logic kicks in after the emotion driven decision is made… a truism about almost all commerce.

      But the goal was not art. The goal was to use the devices that artists use to change the perception of the Motorola brand in the business and government sector from a two-way radio technology company to a full-service communications company – that helps people work together.

      You can see the spot on my portfolio here:

      http://www.rmichaelbrown.wordpress.com/2010/05/02/everyday-heroes-leaders/

      The campaign was so successful that the Business and Government Division was the only profitable Motorola division during the tech wreck before and during 9/11.

      An example of less artful content is what is usually offered in direct response/direct mail sales letters. The wording still entices the emotions, but maybe not using techniques that appear to be art. Again, the goal of the language is to drive results. The language might be artfully used; but, it doesn’t appear that way when you read it. You know they are trying to sell you something. It’s obvious.

      I’ve learned to use fictional techniques, 3-act plays, etc. in non-fiction, news, and marketing. But I wouldn’t call what I do art. I’m informing and selling stuff.

      Mark Twain, Michael Shaara, and Somerset Maugham – that’s art.

      My world is about the goals. The math is more important than the feelings and entertainment. Clients pay me to bring them more traffic, leads, prospects, better brand perception, and sales. If I create something that looks and feels like art, and doesn’t do what they pay me for, they won’t be clients for long.

      I hope that makes what I meant more clear. What do you think?

      Thanks again for your very thought provoking post. Responding to a challenge is what makes us all better. I learn from it because it forces me to think hard. I appreciate the push.

      Mike

      Email: MikeBrown@BrownLtd.com
      Web: http://www.BrownLtd.com
      Freelance Writing & Producing: http://www.RMichaelBrown.Wordpress.com
      Marketing Works Today: http://www.BrownLtd.Wordpress.com
      [c] 561-756-1674
      Proud Marine Dad

  2. Thanks Mike, for your reply saying to go ahead and post.

    No point in beating round the bush: my business is an answer to the very issue Mike is talking about here.

    Wordfruit is the go-to place to get top copywriters.

    It’s a job site. Post a job, and only Wordfruit copywriters have access to your job details.

    All copywriters at Wordfruit are vetted. All of them are accomplished and expert writers.

    So you get quotes and applications from only the best.

    Referrals are a great way to go too – as Mike mentioned. Of course, any method that ensures you get a good copywriter, who is suited to the job, will get you results.

    If anyone has any questions about Wordfruit, please do post them up, and I’ll nip back to answer them.

    Cheers, Richard
    http://Wordfruit.com

  3. Thanks Steve:

    Great thoughts. Each of us can’t possibly handle the wide range of assignments that come our way and clients really appreciate it when I’m honest, say I’m not the right guy, and turn them over to a top talent that can help them with their specific project. I spend a lot of time keeping my contacts list in my smartphone up-to-date, currently at 1,473, with well known talent and channels so I can be ready when for any situation. Thanks again for your post.

  4. steve gorges says:

    Hi Michael,
    Great article. You’ve obviously ‘been there’. One point I’d expand on is that I’ve often found that pros I’ve worked with are happy to refer another writer who better understands what’s needed to make the goal. They’re able to pre-qualify a suitable writer who can not only tackle the project but also is a good fit for the way I work and / or the client’s culture.

    Regards, Steve

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R. Michael Brown
Marketing Consultant, Public Relations Consultant, Freelance Writer: West Palm Beach, Florida

"I help organizations increase sales, and pump up the value of their brand, using media, for the lowest cost per customer."

Digital Marketing and Public Relations consultant, writer, and producer with over 20 years experience launching brands like DiVosta Homes, IBM Multimedia, Nextel, Motorola business and government sector, and SunFest Jazz Festival.

MikeBrown@BrownLtd.com
561-756-1674

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