Compelling, relevant content is the key to your marketing success. Hiring a B2B freelance writer or content producer is one way to quickly get leads into your funnel and later nurture those leads into conversions.
But how do you hire the perfect SaaS or marketing freelancer?
Well, you can hire me and skip reading the rest of the post. Or give it a read and learn what you need to know to hire that perfect content marketer (and then hire me later).
Why is content important?
Content is the fuel that makes everything run. You use content in your digital marketing, email marketing, customer marketing, product marketing, demand gen, channel marketing and more.
From an inbound marketing perspective, I’ve seen relevant, well-optimized blog posts written years ago by a content freelancer for $400 continue to generate thousands of views each month, converting many of those unknown visitors into known leads. Now compare that to your typical B2B paid search campaigns that spend more than $10,000 each month for a similar number of leads.
Already, the freelancer-created blog post is the better choice by a factor of several hundred. But it doesn’t stop there. That blog post can be leveraged into an eBook or webinar that you use as the lead magnet in those PPC campaigns, as well as in your lead nurturing campaigns.
I’ve seen some companies take that freelancer post and turn it into a podcast episode, or a video, too.
When content doesn’t work?
You can find plenty of articles, Tweets, and other rants about how content doesn’t work. What I have found is that the real problem in those cases was that the person or the business hadn’t taken the time to understand their audience, the pain points they are experiencing, and the questions they have about any product or service that may relieve those pain points. Instead, content is being created for the wrong audience or the content that is being created is all too sales pitchy.
In today’s world, your buyers are spending up to 90 percent of their buying journey online and without ever reaching out to your sales team. You have to be able to match content with each stage of their journey.
Another big reason why folks may blame the content for not working is because they never had a plan on how they were going to use it and promote it. Too often, I have seen (and created) content created that then gets placed on the proverbial shelf. Then a year or two later, there is a push to create a new piece of content eerily similar to the first, and also doomed to the same fate. Read on to see some of the questions you need to ask and answer prior to creating any content, whether in-house or with a freelancer.
How do you know you need a freelancer?
The short answer is you need a freelancer when you don’t have the time or staff resources to produce optimized, high quality content on a regular basis. This applies to solopreneur businesses, startups, and enterprise companies. Hiring a freelancer like myself allows you to concentrate on other parts of your business.
Why hire a freelancer instead of hiring someone full-time?
A freelancer is going to be considerably cheaper than hiring someone full-time to do the work. Even hiring the most expensive freelancer is going to save you at least 20-30 percent annually when you factor not paying benefits, health insurance, social security, etc. But there are also savings from not having to pay them while they are getting up to speed with your company and industry, something that I’ve seen take six months or more for some folks. You don’t have to pay for office snacks or a computer. The list goes on.
And your current content needs may only be having one pro freelancer blog post per week on your site. That would be four a month, and at $500 a post that is $2,000 a month or $24,000 a year compared to $100,000 or more that you would be spending to hire someone when you consider the fully baked costs.
By the way, companies that publish 16+ blog posts per month got almost 3.5X more traffic and about 4.5X more leads than companies that published between 0 – 4 monthly posts.
Why hire a freelancer when I can get a guest poster for free?
When I was managing the Act-On Software blog, I received hundreds, if not thousands, of emailed pitches for a guest post on the site. It is a popular link-building tactic. But 99 percent of the time, the post you get from a guest poster may or may not actual be relevant for your audience, may just be a slightly different version of a post they’ve posted many times elsewhere, and will require plenty of editing on your part.
I think there are times when a guest post is a great co-marketing tactic you should pursue with strategic partners (I recently wrote about co-marketing tactics on the Act-On blog).
Why hire an expensive freelancer?
Similarly tempting as the guest poster is the freelance writer that will write you a 1,000 word post for $50. While it can be tempting to hire someone who’s willing to work for low wages, chances are the results won’t be up to your standards.
A pro freelancer, like myself or Sharon Hurley Hall, will cost you $400-$500 per blog post. But you get the assurance that the post will be original, well researched, well written, relevant to your audience, optimized for search, and turned in on time. Enough said.
What is the difference between a freelance writer or a content producer?
This post is mostly about hiring a freelance writer for your content projects. But you may not need a writer, but instead someone who can come in and help optimize and update the older content you already have produced.
Or you may have a relevant blog post that needs a small boost to help get it from being on Page 2 of the search results to Page 1. You could hire someone like myself to take that blog post and leverage it into a video or an on-demand webinar that could then be embedded into the post making it stickier for viewers (and as a result interpreted as more valuable to the search engines).
Your audience may really want to get your content via a podcast or video series. You may need to boost a product marketing page on your website with an explainer video. You may need someone to write emails for your automated nurture programs. You may need to create a customer testimonial video or written case study.
It all goes back to having a content strategy as a company and deciding what kind of content is best going to serve your audience. And at that point, you have to make a decision as to whether you’re going to create it in-house or whether you’re going to outsource it depending on the skills, capabilities and timing that are available to you.
What questions should you ask a freelancer?
Before you ask a potential freelancer any questions, you should ask and answer a few yourself.
- What content do you need created?
- What content has performed well in the past?
- How do you plan on using it, and when do you need it?
- What are your goals?
- What is your budget?
- How will you promote the content?
These are questions you should be asking regardless of whether you’re planning on hiring a freelancer. You should expect a freelancer to ask you these questions, too, to get a better sense of what you need and they can help you be more successful with the finished product. In the end, it’s not about soothing your ego, it is about closed/won deals.
Once you have that prep work completed,
All companies will want to know about a freelancer’s experience, past clients and be able to access examples of work.
You should consider the general readability of their work. Is there an order to it? Is it more than just regurgitated talking points you’ve seen over and over again on the web? One way to check whether a writer is really a good writer is to look at samples that have been produced on several different websites. You’re looking for consistency. Do they sound like they’ve been written by the same person? Is there a discernible style? Because if there is, then the likelihood is that that’s the person’s style, and not the result of a good editor.
My four key freelancer questions
Below are a few of the most important questions I think you should ask your prospective freelancer.
- What is their production process?
- What is their communication style?
- Why are they freelancing?
- What do you get for your money?
There are about a billion posts on the topic of what questions to ask a freelancer. I think most of those questions are table stakes questions that, of course, the freelancer should be able to do. They should be able to write an optimized post for search. They should be able to write in a number of formats. They should be open to 2-3 revisions during editing. Yadda.
Look, I am a former newspaper journalist. I have written about nuclear reactors, outlaw motorcycle gangs, selling on the open energy market and hundreds of other topics. I’ve interviewed murderers and other criminals, as well as their victims and relatives of victims that were killed. I have interviewed scientists, grandmothers, judges, presidential candidates, children and those living with mental health challenges. And I have done so with empathy and accuracy. I’ve written authoritatively, quickly, and with few (if any) mistakes. I have an MBA. I was on the board of the Search Engine Marketers of Portland (SEMpdx) and ran their digital marketing conference. I’ve worked with dozens of businesses, across a range of industries.
You don’t need to ask me, or other pro freelancers like me, whether we have specific knowledge about your market niche. Sure, it is nice to have. But most pro writers are pretty good at quickly getting up to speed, and doing any necessary research.
How your freelancer works
But you should ask me about that research and how I would go about writing a blog post or eBook for you. That conversation may create opportunities to access your product or service so I can get a firsthand look behind the curtain. It may present an opportunity to access any original research you’ve purchased or produced that could be incorporated into the writing project. It could also identify key thought leaders within your industry or within your company that could be interviewed, or otherwise leverage their expertise in the proposed content piece.
How will we communicate during the project?
The second question is equally important. Asking about how a proposed freelancer prefers to communicate with you over the course of the project, or explaining to them how you’d like to work together is very important. Do you need a daily or weekly update. Is this an email or is it a phone call? Do you want access to the draft as it is being produced? Similarly, are you the best person to contact if the writer has a question during the project? Or is there someone else they should reach out to for questions? I’ve worked on video projects where I needed logos, fonts, color guidelines, etc., and the person I was chatting with (a designer) was not the person that hired me (corporate comms director).
What do you get by hiring an expensive freelancer?
The full answer to this question is worthy of a post by itself (note to self). In short, you’re getting a well researched, well written, well structured, and optimized post that is between 1,000 and 2,000 words long (a sweet spot in length that has been found to generate more backlinks, social shares, and search traffic).
Additionally, I will create image pull quotes from the text like the example below. I will also create relevant screenshots that support the post, and break up the copy. I will search your website or query you on relevant calls to action that can be included in the post.
I will work with you on identifying primary and secondary keywords for the post. You’ll get a plan for how the post fits into your overall content strategy and any topic clusters you’ve created. And I will use a number of free and paid tools for grammar, keywords, headlines, links and more.
Why are they freelancing?
This is important for a number of reasons. First, they may have a full-time job and are freelancing as a side hustle to make some money for a vacation or a new car. There is nothing wrong with that, but you (the client) need to understand that you’re not going to get immediate access to them during a project.
There is no license or other qualification standard for calling yourself a freelancer. By asking the question, why are you freelancing, you can start to sniff out the imposters from the pros. Maybe they’ve been laid off from past work because they were always turning in assignments late.
I quit a great job as a senior content strategist at Act-On Software in the fall of 2018 to focus on being a stay-at-home dad for my adoptive children. As a result, I am typically unavailable between 2-7 pm Pacific as I pick up my children from school, play, make dinner, and put them to bed. My available work hours are between 8:30 a.m. and 1:45 p.m., and again after the kiddos are asleep. But as we used to say in the Navy, we do more before dawn then most people do all day. That holds true for my production and my commitment to my awesome clients.
Let me know what questions you ask when you’re hiring a freelancer. I will add them to the list.