Panicking about new writers? Are you unsure of the best way to proceed with your first business writer? Read on for tips that will save you time and money. Working with unfamiliar writers can be nerve-wracking, particularly for those businesses on tight budgets that need top-quality content quickly.
Vetting Quality Writers
Thankfully, vetting quality writers becomes much less stressful when the following method is used.
Always hire new writers for short, general jobs first. Don’t trust a critical or large job to a stranger. Instead, collaborate on a number of small assignments. This allows you to develop a rapport with the writer and get a clear picture of their skills and writing style.
Test a Writer’s Fit with a Small Job
Small jobs also benefit the writer by helping the writer understand your company and its vision. This comprehension is crucial for a long-standing professional relationship. Remember that you’re not simply looking for someone who can write; you’re trying to find a writer capable of producing content that speaks with your company’s unique voice.
How small is ‘a small job’? These are usually assignments that:
- Take no more than 6 hours to write
- Have a delivery deadline of 7-14 days
- In a few cases, a 30-60 minute telephone or Skype voice call is needed to transfer information to the writer
For example, product or service descriptions are excellent for testing out new writers because they’re short and give the writer an opportunity to demonstrate their skills. The goal is to have the writer develop positive, unique and informative text that describes the product or service. The written copy should not be too general and needs to differentiate the product or service from your competition.
Communication is key to the successful writer-client relationship. When asking for a small job for the sample, give the writer expectations that fit your needs, or choose expectations that you feel are practical. Try to avoid being too open-ended with how the work will be used, the job timing and price. Give the writer enough detail that they can create the content you want. Sometimes giving extra references, online sources or additional details can help improve the quality of the writer’s final product.
Example of What to Ask For
Hello! I’d like you take a look at the following offer. It’s a product description for a mobile delivery truck tracking system – pretty straightforward – and you should be able to complete the job in only a few hours. Provided that the article meshes well with our needs and expectations, we will offer you a much larger batch of similar product descriptions in the near future.
Here are the details for the present assignment:
- $50 per hour, paid within 30 business days of delivery
- Max time 2 hours / $100
- 300-325 word product description for Mobile Delivery Tracking System
- Delivered via email as a Microsoft Word document (.doc or.docx)
- Document should be double-spaced in 12-point Times New Roman font
Start Date: Immediately
- Friday 3 December 2012 before 7pm Perth time
- Friday 3 December 2012 before 4am Pacific time
Use the existing description as a starting-off point (see attached engineering file).
Please do NOT mention nor include links to any other vendors selling this or similar tracking systems.
DO include our company name, website and URL. Our name should occur ONCE in the description, and not in the first or last sentence.
The description should be a single paragraph. If necessary you may break up the content with some bullet points after the introduction.
Please do NOT put any generic “fluff” in the lead-in. The description should be packed with information that prospective clients can use to make a purchase decision.
Please recommend two coordinating tie-in products and include the website URL for each. These MUST be products that WE sell (for example, you could recommend the mobile apps or range-extending antennas). We want to keep our customers in-house as much as we can. Maybe mention that we provide end-to-end business consulting, customized training and support packages (space permitting).
How does this sound to you? I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Example Response from a Writer
The preceding email format is concise and gives the writer lots of crucial information. Based on it, a writer might give the following response:
Hello! Thanks very much for your message. I’m definitely interested, but I’d like to clarify a few things before committing. Please let me know your thoughts; if you’re amenable to these modifications, I’m available to begin writing immediately.
The hourly compensation is a bit lower than what I usually receive for comparable jobs. Normally I ask for $60-$65 per hour, but because you mentioned the possibility of larger assignment batches in the future I agree to your proposed rate for this first assignment, only.
If I take this as a demonstration assignment at $50 per hour, I would like a 50% deposit, and I’ll attach an invoice with the article. This is a small job, and I’ll need to set the terms to net 14 days from date of delivery. If we find we have a fit and can build a further relationship, I am willing to discuss net 30 for larger jobs and my standard hourly rate.
My rate for revisions on this article will be $50 per hour, billed in 15-minute increments and is not part of the limit set for the first deliverable. Before I start, I’d like to speak with you so we can come to a consensus about a cap on revision hours. Of course, you may also elect to complete the revisions yourself, or outsource the revisions elsewhere. Please do share the final copy with me so that I can bring my future work further inline with your expectations.
If revisions are necessary on this initial assignment, I will need to know by 2 pm, 5 December so I can incorporate the revision work in with my existing clients. There’s no need to contact me if accept the article as-is. Regrettably, I will not be able to accommodate revision requests received after that time and meet your current deadline.
Please let me know your thoughts. Thank you!
Negotiating with the Writer
You may find that these examples are enough that you can emulate and create your own email to a writer. If you are someone who wants to know more about why these topics were mentioned and what can be negotiated with a writer, read on.
Keep in mind, this is small writing job request sent via email:
- Don’t place excessive demands on the writer’s time by asking for telephone conferences unless it’s absolutely unavoidable, such as a new product or service where no reference materials exist.
- Requesting phone calls and video chats is more appropriate with larger batch jobs. Some writers charge for teleconferencing, so it’s wise to know and set billing expectations for voice calls before scheduling calls.
- It is prudent to inquire about formal contracts. Standard template contracts can be found for larger jobs, such as large batches of articles or entire e-books. Some writers also prefer to use contracts or standard terms & conditions for shorter assignments.
If you’re still concerned about branching out and working with new writers, you’ll find the following detailed analysis of the emails helpful. Let’s look at the email from the client to the writer and then the response from the writer to the client.
1. Friendly introduction
Courtesy is always advisable. Acknowledging that there’s a human being at the other end of the email shows respect and encourages the writer to think favorably about the work.
2. Salary range and limits
Include this information right after your introduction and make it easy to spot. Using a bold font or bullet format is a nice touch. The price of the job is one of the most important parts of your offer, so don’t make your writer search around for it. If you’re new to hiring writers and unsure of the compensation you should offer, you can find the rates for similar jobs through online sources like PeopleBank (Australia) the Society for Technical Communication (USA). Knowledge of the fair market value for this type of content will help you formulate a competitive offer.
3. Delivery specs
If you already have a preferred format in place, you can simply cut and paste it into the email. If not, remember to consider factors such as legibility, formatting and document type. Microsoft Word documents are by far the most common file format. If you or your writer are using another program, watch out for extra line-breaks and errant character that may be picked up during conversion.
4. Scheduling: start date and deadline
Consider how quickly you need this content. Many writers add a surcharge for rush jobs, so whenever possible you can save time and stress by assigning a more relaxed deadline. Don’t forget to consider your OWN deadlines, too. How quickly do you need the content? Are you up against a hard deadline? Do you need extra time to load the text into print layouts, post it to a website — or both? The deadline you give to your writer should NOT be your own hard deadline and pad your deadline with enough time for revisions.
5. Working across time zones
If you and your writer are in different time zones, all dates mentioned should be stated in BOTH your native time zone and the writer’s time zone. This eliminates potential problems and date-confusion that may cause missed deadlines.
6. Extra background information
Adding a short bit of “color” or other background information can help the writer start to get a feel for the personality your company. Don’t bog your emails down with unnecessary paragraphs, but a little extra flavor builds rapport and offers the writer useful background.
You can find great people to help write your web pages, print documents, trade presentations, audio feeds and video scripts. Find quality writers easily by hiring new writers for short, general jobs first. Use a small job with an easy deadline to find a writer you can trust with larger projects or a writer you can collaborate with on a number of ongoing assignments.