Way back in January, Angela Tague, one of Volume Nine’s top contributors, took some time to answer some of my burning questions about how to better communicate with freelance writers. And by “some” time – I mean enough time to create not one, not two, but three posts-worth of advice.
So … three months later, here I am finally answering a few of hers.
Thanks for your tips, Angela. I hope you find these helpful!
AT: Sometimes I feel like I’m in the dark about the overall marketing strategy related to the blog posts or online content that I’m writing. Why isn’t it common for content marketers to let writers know the timeline or duration of the project? It would make it easier for us to budget our time and projected income if we knew how long the project was contracted to last.
BD: I can see how that would be frustrating! In my experience, a lack of information on our part is simply because we don’t have it. Sometimes we have not been able to meet with the point of contact by the time work is supposed to start. Other times the approval process on the client’s side takes far longer than originally anticipated, and we have no idea when to tell you to start work. It’s not at all uncommon for the entire plan to change at a moment’s notice due to a client’s priorities changing, a lack of budget or a staffing change.
You might also find that the marketers you are working with don’t want to make a promise they can’t keep. For example, sometimes a project start date might get pushed back weeks, months or even years. I would hate for any of our writers to clear their schedule for a project, and then be left without income. I’d rather know for absolute certain that we need content before I send out writing requests.
Last – and this isn’t something I love to admit – but it’s entirely possible that the content marketer dropped the ball. Don’t ever hesitate to send a friendly reminder to your point of contact that you are looking for some answers!
AT: How do you select writers for specific projects? Do you browse Twitter and LinkedIn? Is there a hashtag or favorite website you use to find us? How can we become more visible to content marketers?
BD: We find our writers in dozens of ways. We do have a page on our website where freelancers can apply to be a part of our team. And yes, we do read all the applications. If we don’t have an immediate need for a writer, we keep applicants in our back pockets for future projects.
With you, I actually can’t remember if we approached you, or you approached us? What I can remember is that I remembered you! I was already familiar with your writing from the work you did for us through a writing service several years prior. So in that sense – familiarity goes a long way, as does word of mouth.
We have a pretty solid team of writers now. At this point we’re really only recruiting when we have a big project coming up, when we get a bunch of new clients at the same time, or when we need to find a subject matter expert. In those situations, we will actively recruit with promoted social media posts or head to a freelance site like Upwork.
AT: How much leverage is there with pay rates? Are the payment guidelines set by the client or the content marketing agency?
BD: Payment guidelines are determined by a number of factors, and some of it depends on the rates a writer has set for him or herself. However, just because a writer sets their rates low, that doesn’t guarantee they might beat out another writer for the same job. Rates that are too low could set off signals that the writer is inexperienced or provides low-quality material.
Another factor is what the client is paying the agency for the project. If an agency offers very little in terms of compensation, it could very well be that they aren’t making a ton of money on the project themselves.
I personally believe that the level of complexity should also be considered when determining pay rate. A 600-word blog about “Denver’s Best Happy Hours” is going to be far easier to write than a 600-word blog about two-factor authentication. And last, while I can’t speak for every agency, I think it’s safe to say that the longer you work with a company, the more leverage you earn. If you prove yourself as trusted and reliable, your agency will turn to you first for those high dollar accounts.
AT: What can freelance writers do to submit cleaner, more impressive copy? Do you see trends or have tips that we could benefit from to make our editors happier?
BD: We run every blog post through a tool called Grammarly before we send it to the client. There are both free and pro versions – and both are great. If all our writers used that tool, we could save a lot of time on our end.
At Volume Nine, we deliver SEO-friendly copy to our clients, which is a huge differentiator between us and companies like us. Our Content Marketing team is trained in SEO and we’re responsible for optimizing copy before delivering it to a client. We don’t expect our writers to be SEO experts, but it’s always nice when we get a piece of content from a writer who has clearly taken the time to brush up on some basic SEO best practices.
AT: What does a content marketer expect from a freelance writer after the content has published? Is it automatically expected that we share the information across our social networks, or is that seen as going above and beyond? How do you feel about content marketing agencies paying for pageviews?
BD: We don’t require our writers to share content after it’s published because in many cases, months may go by between the time the content is delivered and when it’s actually published. However, I know that you take the extra time to share the posts you write, and it is very much appreciated. I would encourage all writers to take that extra step and engage with their clients’ content – even if they don’t have a byline.
Familiarizing yourself with the brands you write for will help you become a better writer, it helps get the content you wrote out there – and agencies do notice!
AT: Which websites or apps do you wish every freelance writer knew about?
BD: Well funny you should mention that – we just wrote a blog about our favorite low-cost content marketing tools!
As for me, I seem to be using these tools almost every day lately:
- Help A Reporter Out – One of our clients prefers we include quotes and data from industry experts in every blog post. We used to spend hours searching for just one quote but with HARO, we spend about 5 minutes posting a request, and the expert advice comes pouring in.
- Google Docs / Spreadsheets – I am mentioning this ONLY because I actually have interacted with writers who don’t know how to work in Google Docs. If you are a writer, and you don’t know how to use Google Spreadsheets, stop reading this post and start investigating immediately.
- Grammarly – I mentioned this one earlier. Just install this tool on your browser, and you can edit documents, your email, and social media posts – for free! We use the paid version of Grammarly at Volume Nine, but the free version would work just fine for a party of one!
- Graphiq – OK, so I barely ever use this one. But I should – so I’m going to go ahead and start now. Graphiq’s library is filled with 10 million “visualizations” (or as I like to call them – graphics) that you can use in your content. But these aren’t just any visualizations – they can act as sources of data from the worlds of politics, sports, trending news, economy, entertainment, you name it.
For today’s purposes, I’ll go with some entertainment piece. Check out which countries are watching The Leftovers (which is my favorite show ever, and I can’t believe this is the last season.)
So that’s all I have for you right now, however, I’ll leave you with one final note. At Volume Nine, we are committed to finding and utilizing skilled freelance writers and we are continually adapting so that we can better communicate with them. We believe this symbiotic relationship shows our dedication to both our writers and our clients.
If you’d like to learn more about our savvy Content Marketing team or how you can add great content to your website, contact us at Volume Nine today!