Your content marketing ambitions are large. Unfortunately, your team is not. Though you may need help for one reason or another, it might not be the right time to bring in another full-time employee.

Enter freelancers: With a team of freelancers, you can enjoy the flexibility that comes with hiring on an as-needed basis, all while eliminating some overhead. Above all, you’ll get the talent and experience your project calls for.

Freelancing is more popular than ever, so the talent pool is immense. This means you need to know how to find, hire and work with the right freelancers to make your strategy pay dividends.

Facing The Challenges

The word “freelancer” often conjures negative vibes. The typical rap sheet includes: prima donnas, flaky types who don’t prioritize your project and the much-maligned Houdini’s who disappear before the work is done.

So where should you look to find reliable freelancers?

I recently posed this question to my friend and associate Kathryn Aragon, who hires freelancers in her role as managing editor of The Daily Egg. Here are her favorite tips:

  1. Ask other editors or content marketers for recommendations.
  2. Read blogs you love and look for people who are writing the type (and quality) of articles you need.
  3. Place ads on ProBlogger’s job board (which cost just $50 for 30 days).
  4. For freelance designers, try Dribble.

“My favorite way to find writers is to ‘discover’ them through articles they’ve written,” Kathryn said. “I immediately send them an email telling them what I like about their work and ask if they’d be interested in writing for our blog.”

The freelancer in me likes this strategy, as well. When an editor makes it clear that he or she respects a freelancer’s work, the relationships begins on a positive note that is likely to continue.

Questions You Should Ask Before Hiring

Before you reach out to your first freelance candidate, ask yourself a few important questions:

Should I insist on hiring industry experts?

While hiring writers who know your turf can be helpful, writing chops and chemistry rank higher. Make writing skills your number one priority.

What type of writer do I need?

Writers versed in content marketing and social media are likely to be your best fit. Traditional copywriters, journalists and technical writers also offer freelance services, but you’ll want to match their skills to your needs.

What should the agreement include?

Clearly state expectations as they relate to goals, research requirements, scheduling, length, photos, and editing process. Agree in advance on fees and payment terms.

What should I expect to pay?

Fees can vary widely from pennies to $1 per word. Some freelancers charge hourly or offer per-project fees. Retainer arrangements are also common for ongoing work and may allow for volume-based discounts.

Who owns the copyrights?

When you hire a freelance writer, you pay for use of the copy, not ownership of it. Unless you put a formal agreement in place, the writer holds the copyright. If you want to own the copyright, state the requirement upfront.

Are long-term deals wise?

Probably not at first. With a new writer it’s wiser to start small with a single blog post or short-term project.

“If the freelancer is relatively inexperienced, you might offer a trial period in which you can evaluate each other,” offered Kathryn.

If you run a highly desirable blog and website (i.e. heavily trafficked and/or a recognizable brand), it’s not uncommon for some editors to ask for a first piece at a discounted rate or for free (with an offer to raise the rate over time). If you go this route, be respectful. Understand that your freelancer has a budget to meet, just like you.

Tips For Interviewing Writers 

When interviewing writers, first learn a bit about how they think and operate, as well as what they know. To do this, ask open-ended questions such as:

I like the piece you did called “XYZ.” Could you tell me more about the assignment?

What do you know about our brand’s target audience? 

How do you optimize your content for search?

Additional Things To Look For

“Look for writers who are willing to read your guidelines or sample articles and are interested in learning what you need,” said Kathryn.

She pointed out that you and your prospective writer will be taking a risk. The key is to create a mutually beneficial relationship that is risk averse for both parties. “Be honest about what you need and the compensation you can offer,” she added.

Freelancers are also looking for great clients they enjoy working with, and the word often gets around to their network. This means you should be helpful, encouraging and flexible. Kathryn said that when an editor is hard to work with, writers will often warn one another.

“If you make your freelancers look good, they’ll love you,” Kathryn said. “Give them a backlink or two, a byline and bio, and include their names when you promote the posts on social media. They’ll try to introduce their writer friends to you and you may find it easier to negotiate favorable terms with them.”

Free eBook

Many of the tips in this post come from Demand Media’s new eBook, “Tools of the Content Marketing Trade: A Guide for Building a Team and Achieving Content Marketing Success.” Download your copy here.