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!