I’ve worked with lots of clients who were relieved they found me. I don’t mean that in an ego way, what I mean is that many clients don’t get the kind of responses they want for their writing opportunities. Most of the time this has to do with the job posting. I’ve been doing this long enough to read between the lines and I still like to take a chance every now and then that something that sounds a little iffy, might actually be something really great, but not all writers work that way.
Guide to Finding and Hiring Good Writers
The first thing you have to understand is that no matter how legitimate you are, and no matter how great your opportunity is, there are plenty of postings out there every single day that are junk, or even worse, that are scams. Professional writers learn how to filter these out to avoid wasting their time applying for jobs that will not pan out. So, you need to write your job posting in a way that does not trigger these filters.
Put Some Effort Into Your Post
Most scams work based on volume, so the more postings a scammer makes, the better. Obviously, this means making short posts or doing a copy and paste all over the Internet. A post on Craigslist that reads “Need freelance writer for project, great opportunity, email …” may not garner the kind of attention you would like.
Avoid Scam Sounding Phrases
New writers are the easiest to scam. New writers tend to be hungry to get business. As such, many scam postings try to sound like hitting the jackpot. So avoid things like saying that you are paying $5 for 10,000 words this time, but there will be a lot more and those will pay $500. Experienced writers don’t believe that "there will be a lot more where that came from." Feel free to mention a trial period. Something like, "Pay is $10 per 300 words for the first three months. If after that, we both like how this is going, then we can discuss a higher rate." Or even better, say $20 after the first 10 satisfactory articles or whatever.
Don’t Make Me Join
I’m a professional freelance writer. If you want me to write for you then treat me like a professional. Have you ever heard of a gym asking a personal trainer to join the gym before they will interview him? Have you ever heard of an insurance company making someone buy their insurance before offering them a job? No, because it is ridiculous.
If you want people to join your mailing list, website, or organization, then offer great things to people who need them, don’t try and make me join to apply.
By the way, the "go here and fill out this form" stinks of scam. Don’t be surprised that all of your most promising candidates just drop out after you send them an email asking them to go to a website and fill something out. After all, they already applied. Say yes or no, don’t turn this into one of those bad thrillers. "Come to the phone booth alone and I’ll call with further instructions."
Match The Requirements to the Reward
You wouldn’t believe how many postings I’ve seen where someone wants a ton of stuff for a $300 job. Good freelance writers have a busy schedule filled with projects they are already working on. The only reason they are reading new postings is because some of those projects will be coming to an end and they want to have a full pipeline ready for the next month. That means they can’t be taking 45 minutes to apply to a position they might not get, and even if they do, won’t be very profitable. If you are looking for a writer to handle a 600-page manual and the contract will pay $10,000, then by all means request a cover letter, resume, samples, and that the writer fill out an online form with details as well as write a specific sample for you. But, if you are offering $10 per page to help with a 5 page marketing brochure, you should be happy with a resume and links to some existing samples.
Don’t Post ANY Requirements
If you really want to separate the wheat from the chaff, don’t post any requirements with your job posting. Instead, use the responses as a way to gauge who is a professional. A professional freelance writer will respond to a job posting with no requirements with a courteous email summarizing themselves and a link to their website and samples. Some professionals will write to request the requirements. These are professionals who probably came from the print world where such things are very common. Either way, you can eliminate anyone who responds with sloppy language, bizarre text, or no references, no website, and no resume.
You Aren’t Getting a Resume Unless You Ask
Most professional writers, and most people who hire them know that the world of writing is the one place where you can PROVE that you are good at the job before you get it. Sure, a high-level Unix administrator might have the title Senior Unix Administrator and might have six years of experience at a top company, but he still might not be any good at his job. Maybe he is surly, or won’t take direction, or insists on belittling users. You will never know that by reviewing his resume.
A writer on the other hand can show you things he or she has already written. Sure, they may be surely, but if they are freelancing from a remote location, who cares? You can see from a writing sample that a guy with no experience in finance can write better than the guy who spent 20 years as a bank president just by reading over a few pages that they have written before.
For this reason, most professional writers won’t bother sending you a resume unless you specifically ask for one. If you do ask for one, make sure there is a reason. If you want someone with insider experience to write for your Realtor website, then a resume showing some experience as a real estate agent is a good thing to see.
Don’t Worry About RELATED Writing Samples
A writer can either write, or they can’t. Now, some writers can only write on one topic, and others can only write technical articles, while others cannot write technical articles. But, as long as you can see a sample that is in the same universe as what you are looking for, then you can judge the writing. What you want to see is writing covering at least two diverse topics. That way, you will know if the writer is a one thing only writer or can do anything.
For example, if someone can distill complex medical subjects into easily readable articles and also has written great legal articles, then you can be pretty sure that person can distill complex financial subjects into easily readable articles even if you don’t see any financial samples.
I’ll write an article on how to evaluate writing samples in the near future. In the meantime, I hope this helps.