Advertising alone no longer persuades consumers to purchase one brand over the next. It’s now up to search, social, and other channels to pick up the slack. This trend adds a bit of complexity to how you drive discovery, connect with an audience, and encourage engagement.

And that’s where content comes in.

In fact, 82 percent of consumers feel more confident about brands after reading custom content. Unfortunately, creating it is a tall order for many companies, and you may be considering another hire to handle the load. But hiring a freelancer will always be more cost-effective than a staff writer, unless you’re doing serious volume (and you’re sure it isn’t going to slow down).

The Advantages of Going Gig

The thing about freelance writers is they can scale up and down, regardless of your scale. You can have a couple of reliable scribes or a whole pool on hand. Then, you can use their services as much or as little as needed. One month, there may be a lot of content, and the next, not so much.

Besides the flexibility, you’ll also find that some of the most talented writers work on a freelance basis. They have no interest in full-time jobs, and the variety allows them to grow in their craft. As a result, the quality may be better (even more persuasive) than from someone you could afford to bring on staff.

The Downside of Independence

With every “pro,” there always seems to be a “con,” and freelancing is no different. One of the biggest challenges you will encounter is finding a legitimate freelancer. Many people claim to be writers, so it can take time to find a decent one. It’s even more of a challenge if you don’t know what’s “good” yourself.

Another problem that comes into play is availability. The best freelancers have limited availability because they’re in demand. However, plenty of great writers work in the freelance space. Given enough time, you’ll find one to take on your project.

How to Find What You Need

So, how can you find — and then work with — freelancers?

1. Realize you get what you pay for. Good writing takes a lot of work. Put yourself in the shoes of that writer when thinking about cost in relation to a project. If a piece is something you’ll be using for years, the investment is likely worth it, and it’ll take time to work it up. Even a short tagline can take a great deal of time to conceive and write.

2. Be realistic about what you really need. Sometimes, you don’t need a world-class writer — you just need one that’s good enough. Figure out what “good enough” is for the project and what should go into it. You don’t want to underestimate what you need — nor do you want to overestimate it.

3. Choose writers with proven track records. Rates don’t necessarily equate to quality work. You can fork over $100 an hour for some word slingers and not get what you paid for. Ask for samples, review portfolios, and only go with those who match your expectations for quality. In particular, look to your network of friends and business partners, and ask them about positive experiences they have had with freelancers. The best employees are often referrals; the same holds true for freelancers.

4. Set clear expectations right away. The clearer you can be with what you’re looking for, the better off you’ll be (as long as you don’t actually sit down with the writer to tell him what and how to write; no respectable professional can work like that). Plus, the majority of writing isn’t writing at all; it’s thinking. Provide clear guidelines and proper context. Take care to be transparent about the potential for future work. If a freelancer does well and there is more work to be done, he’ll be enthusiastic about the chance for consistent opportunity. Freelancers will be reliable if you are reliable.

5. Don’t confuse content with writing. You can hire a great writer who isn’t a great content creator and vice versa. Go after people who are great at content. Examine their tastes, and get to know how well they understand content. It’s easier to fix writing than it is to fix content.

Great content comes at a cost and for good reason. You’re asking someone to connect with the people who matter most to you: consumers. When content resonates with an audience, you can feel it. You can feel it in engagement, and you can feel it in relationships. Just find the willingness to invest in it.