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5 Steps To Find and Work With Quality Freelancers



5 Steps To Find and Work With Quality Freelancers

Half of marketers say they outsource a content marketing activity. That’s not surprising given about 60% of B2B and B2C marketers operate content marketing teams with no more than five people.

Finding partners with adequate topical experience and who understand the brand’s audience are the most frequently cited challenges in CMI’s most recent research.

Half of #B2B and #B2C marketers say they outsource a #ContentMarketing activity, according to @CMIContent #research. Click To Tweet

To help you overcome those challenges and confidently hire top freelancers, I’ve put together this five-step guide based on my experience working with contract writers.

1. Establish an adequate budget

Before you start the search for writers, you should set a realistic budget.

You can’t simply take a full-time employee’s salary and divide by 40 to estimate a freelancer’s hourly rate. Given freelancers run their own business, they charge more. They have to calculate rates that encompass their expenses – both the employer and employee share of income tax, insurance, and operational costs such as computers, software, internet, etc. Their locale also could affect their rates.

You can’t set a #freelance hourly rate by simply dividing an employee’s weekly compensation by 40, says @emanuelp986 via @CMIContent. #ContentMarketing Click To Tweet


If you’re challenged with finding writers who have sufficient topical experience, budget to pay the higher rates more experienced writers charge. It’s better to have a writer produce a top-notch piece within one or two attempts than to hire a cheaper writer and make multiple corrections.

If you’re challenged with finding writers who have sufficient topical experience, budget to pay the higher rates experienced writers charge, says @emanuelp986 via @CMIContent. #ContentWriting #Freelance Click To Tweet

You should also decide on a budget based on the expected deliverables. The more labor and research-intensive the project, the higher the budget should be.

Rates vary dramatically based on the individual as well as the industry. To calculate your budget, ask peers in your industry what they pay. Look to freelance associations and organizations for benchmark studies.

While a budget sets expectations on how much you can pay the writer, it isn’t the predictor of how successful the relationship will be. That’s why you need to follow the next steps.

2. Create the perfect help-wanted post

Freelance writers carefully read help-wanted posts to assess whether it’s a good opportunity and fit for them. Your listing should clearly explain your expectations and deliverables to attract more qualified responses and accurate proposals.

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But just because you’re contracting to work with someone doesn’t mean you need a complete job description as you would with a full-time employee. Among the relevant details to include:

  • Assignment description, including what information will be provided by the company and what information the writer is expected to find.
  • Specify any special knowledge or skills needed
  • Expected deliverables, including length estimate
  • Start and end dates, including interim deadlines
  • Compensation range with terms like hourly rates or fixed prices as well as invoice payment timing

It helps to add some personality to your listing as it gives the freelancer an idea of what it would be like to work with you. And most importantly, don’t hesitate to ask additional questions you deem necessary to find the ideal candidate for your work.

Add some personality to your #freelance help-wanted listings to give an idea of what it’s like to work with your brand, says @emanuelp986 via @CMIContent. #ContentWriting Click To Tweet


TIP: To assess how well they follow instructions, include a small “test” such as, “Please put the word ‘freelancer’ in your subject line.”


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3. Locate the best writer for your brand

It’s so much easier these days to reach out and find quality writers for your task or project. Among the options:

  • Ask your professional and personal network for referrals. Their input is invaluable because they already have a familiarity with or have worked with the suggested writers. Those word-of-mouth referrals give the candidates an added boost from the beginning.
  • Turn to job boards. While many writers search job boards for permanent gigs, part-time writers also use them to find work. Make it clear in your listing that you’re seeking someone for part-time work.
  • Post on social media. Post the opportunity to Instagram and Twitter, and use industry-relevant hashtags as well as #Freelance. Posting to relevant social media groups also can be a great way to reach writers in a specific niche.
  • Go to freelance sites. Use platforms, such as Contently, Skyword, ClearVoice, etc. These outlets facilitate finding, hiring, and paying writers. Most of the platforms help you quickly find better quality content creators who produce optimal quality work in your niche or for the content type you want created. (I recently hired a writer who specialized exclusively in the privacy policy and terms of use pages.)
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Go to #freelance sites such as @contently, @skyword, and @clearvoice to find quality #content creators for your brand, says @emanuelp986 via @CMIContent. #ContentWriting Click To Tweet

TIP: Create an authentic and engaging profile on freelance sites to show your brand’s personality and culture that will attract writers who are interested in that environment.

TIP: If you hire a writer who only freelances part-time, recognize it may take them longer to complete the work than if they worked a full-time freelance writing schedule.

4. Evaluate the writing candidates

First, you should shortlist your options. You can then ignore responses that didn’t pass your test, such as including “freelance” in the subject line. Then, go through the remaining responses and eliminate those who don’t meet the basic requirements.

Freelance platforms also help you find qualified wordsmiths by filtering them based on specific prerequisites and only invite qualified writers to respond to your listing.

With your shortlist identified, conduct a video interview. I do this with every writing opportunity. While phone interviews can work, I find it easier to interact with a person on video.

During the interview, ask them questions to reveal:

  • Their professional background and expertise in areas important to your work (i.e., SEO, headline writing)
  • Their experience in your niche and with your content type(s)
  • How they approach writing assignments such as the ones you would assign
  • How they handle meeting deadlines when they are working on multiple projects
  • How they respond to unforeseen obstacles, such as an interviewee that doesn’t respond or an unexpected power outage

TIP: Asking for narrative examples sometimes can better help you understand the candidate’s thought process.

If you have a standout candidate, you can proceed to the next step. If you’ve narrowed the search to two or three candidates, ask them to complete a small paid project related to your topic. Then, you can compare and gauge each writer’s ability, from understanding the assignment to executing the content.

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Ask the 2 or 3 finalist #freelance candidates to complete a relevant paid assignment to gauge their ability, says @emanuelp986 via @CMIContent. #ContentWriting Click To Tweet

5. Hiring the freelance writer

Once you select the freelance writer to hire, it’s time to detail what you want them to do.

There is a marked difference in hiring a freelancer over an employee. While you tell employees what they have to do and how they have to do it, you can’t give the same instructions to freelancers. They control that.

With freelancers, you should be clear about the criteria, including start date, detailed scope of work, deliverables, payment terms, etc. All these details should be included in a contract, which safeguards your business and the writer, and can help prove to the IRS that the writer is a contractor, not an employee.

A detailed, clear, and concise contract includes:

  • Names, contact information
  • Exact assignment requirements with deliverables
  • Deadlines, including milestones
  • Payment terms
  • Owner of the completed work
  • Confidential information clause
  • Limitation of liability
  • Freelance copywriter terms and responsibilities
  • Indemnity clauses

Don’t begin the working relationship until both parties have signed the contract, and you’ve paid any deposits as required.

TIP: To help your writer onboard more quickly, share examples and documents of similar work so they can better understand your expectations.

TIP: Make sure the writer can access any servers or platforms necessary for their work. It will improve their productivity from the beginning.



Expand your team with freelancers

The process of hiring freelance writers is similar to hiring an employee. You need to know what you want, explain it well in a help-wanted listing, narrow down the candidates, conduct an interview, and then engage your preferred choice.

However, you also need to respect the transactional nature of the relationship. While you can’t control how they do the work, you should spell out exactly what they are to deliver in the formats you prefer and on the schedule you set.

By following this process, you’re more likely to find valuable talent that can help your content marketing team deliver results for your brand.

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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Closing your team’s technical gap without hiring



Closing your team's technical gap without hiring

It’s no comfort knowing you’re not the only one having trouble finding tech talent. Demand is high, supply is low. And everyone has teams and projects stuck in limbo.

What would be comforting is a solution. Well, here you go.

I’ve helped many marketing teams close the gap in their technical capabilities without writing a single job description. The reality is you have many more options than you can envision right now. All you need to do is expand your frame.

Expand Your Frame

When making a decision, framing helps you focus on the proper outcomes. The hard part may be setting the frame to the right size. Make it too small and you miss big chunks of the panorama. Too large and you lose the details. 

It’s also a fantastic way to think more strategically. While others are getting up in tactics, e.g., hiring, you can think of the outcome you’re hoping to achieve and determine the fastest way to get there. 

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The frame here is not that you need to hire someone, it’s that you need a certain set of tasks completed. Instead of hiring you should consider two other options: automation, i.e. no-code, and adjusting your team’s priorities. Looked at that way, you may already have all the skills you need.

No-Code & the New Engineers

The rise of no-code software tools is one of the most significant developments in the marketing world. No-code tools are meant to be used by non-technical folks. They have drag-and-drop interfaces and tend to be highly user-friendly. Examples include Zapier,, and countless others.

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A huge problem for marketing teams is their technology is too complex. Doing anything significant means getting an engineer. Even sending emails requires technical help. With multiple no-code options in every category, there’s no need for this.

Instead of hiring someone to support marketing automation, find a software solution anyone can use. In practical terms, it means avoiding options like Salesforce, which requires in-house expertise, hundreds of pages of documentation and the proper alignment of the moon to make it work. Other solutions are drastically easier to use, though they may have less functionality. 

I tell my clients to prioritize the ability to connect their tools rather than just their raw capabilities. You may have the best email marketing solution, but it’s not as valuable if you can’t easily export data to a CRM. Be biased towards no-code, and you can avoid hiring.

I recently helped clients connect their Hubspot, Google Sheets, and a website using only no-code tools like Zapier. We were able to get everything done in a matter of weeks with no involvement from their engineers. In addition, the marketing team could send better-targeted emails and measure their performance better. All they needed were the right tools.


Adjust Your Priorities

Think over how your team spent their time over the past week. Were they working on the highest impact tasks? Unfortunately, there’s a good chance the answer is no. It’s easy to fall prey to “busy work” or get stuck doing jobs that should be automated.

Bill Gates once said there’s no point hiring someone to do an inefficient process. You’re just scaling bad habits. Instead, clean up your processes before adding more bodies. You may discover plenty of time to research software tools and tackle new tasks.

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Read next: Broaden your marketing ops talent perspective

The fastest way to adjust your priorities is to run a time audit of your team. Ask each member to record how they spent their time over an average week. You can then work with them to figure out how to remove tasks from their plates. Low-hanging fruit includes manual input, work that no one sees or failure work—where tasks are redone multiple times. 

After running an audit for one team we found they spent way more time cleaning up data rather than using it. We figured out what was causing the errors and duplication, solving them through formulas and other measures. They were able to shift around 20 hours to other tasks. Many teams have similar hidden opportunities.

Digital-First Means Being Lean

Being digitally savvy isn’t about hiring as many people as possible. Digital channels offer the ability to be lean as you scale. Think of influencers who run channels with millions of views out of their parent’s basement. They have a lean but effective production. Years ago, the Instagram team had less than 100 people before being acquired by Facebook.

As you shift into digital, you have the opportunity to restructure your marketing teams and take advantage of trends like no-code. The first step is to expand your frame. After that, you might see more opportunities.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Ruben Ugarte is the global expert in Decisions, Strategy, and Data and author of the Data Mirage and Bulletproof Decisions. He helps executives at the most innovative medium and large enterprises find their hidden treasures and use them to dramatically boost performance, increase profitability, and make their teams world-class. He has done this across five continents and in three languages. His ideas have helped hundreds of thousands of people make better decisions.

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