Whether you’re a business owner, a small agency or simply a busy freelancer yourself, hiring a freelancer to help you cope with an increasing workload is a natural step. We have our own trustworthy pool of freelancers and rely on their areas of expertise to develop unique projects and meet client’s needs with the quality level they expect from us.
We have the utmost respect for freelancers. Most of our team started their careers in content marketing in such a fashion, and one of the main points to retain is that a freelancer can gather more experience in a single year than most full-time professionals do in half a decade. Considerations aside, we’ll dig right into today’s fun topic.
There are fabulous freelancers and those who can quickly become a nightmare to work with. We’ll help you pick from the top of the pile by letting you know about the top mistakes to avoid when hiring a freelancer.
1. Not preparing a clear brief
Freelancers aren’t mind readers. The more you leave them guessing, the bigger the odds are that you won’t get what you’re expecting. Even though experience does matter at this point, and hiring a niche-specific freelancer can work wonders, everyone needs pointers. Take the necessary time to onboard your freelancers. You can do it by booking a quick call and explaining the following:
- Introducing your business. What you do, how you do it and whom you’re working for/with is essential.
- Explain what you expect, and cover essentials such as Tone of Voice, specific niches of action and language.
- Define your audience and how you like to address them. If the freelancer is an expert in the field, ask for their insight and work together.
- Create a clear brief that takes SEO into consideration, structure and time frame.
A good freelancer brief shouldn’t be extremely long or go into unnecessary detail. The idea is to allow enough room for the creative process but establish guidelines for optimal results. Not too much, nor too little.
2. Feedback means nothing to them
Editors and business owners have to respect creative freedom. Each professional is different in knowledge and methodologies. Once you get a first draft back, take some time to analyse it in detail. Add comments for both the positive and areas to improve. Be direct, but try to remain supportive – freelance writers, in particular, tend to be oversensitive to what may come across as “harsh” feedback.
The idea is to start by ensuring everything is covered over the given structure, keywords are implemented, and the main message is present. Add comments to ensure future efforts improve, and assume the first few attempts will hardly meet every single line you’re aiming for. The objective is to build trust and work together in the future, but every freelancer needs time to understand exactly what you need.
If you hand out constructive feedback and nothing changes, be more assertive. As a client, you’re buying a service, and a freelancer is selling it. Sometimes, freelancers care very little about feedback and might refuse to edit their work, implement your notes or demand extra pay for what was already a sloppy job. Remain clear about your expectations and work with someone else if your instructions keep getting ignored.
3. Time is a funny concept for some
The best freelancers have a very clear idea of how long it takes them to produce content. Regardless of their area of expertise, experience and time management go hand-in-hand. As a business, you already know time is money, and therefore, the quicker, the merrier. Have very clear expectations on delivery, and allow enough flexibility for any unforeseen circumstances.
Remember that hiring a freelancer may sound like someone available around the clock to meet your every need, but they often have more clients, families, and perhaps full-time jobs, even. It’s important to remain understanding if you want to create a strong relationship with your freelancers. Don’t message them outside working hours, weekends and holidays.
That said, it’s important that a freelancer meets their commitments with professionalism. If things drag out forever and you feel you’re not getting the level of service you were promised, have an open conversation with the person. Perhaps you can find a better solution by adjusting expectations and orders or simply moving on.
4. The ranting personality
You never know who you’re going to meet in life. Sometimes, you end up hiring a freelancer with a horrid personality. They may be the top-ranked freelancer for your niche on UpWork or address you nicely on LinkedIn, but once the work starts rolling, you step into the universe of surreal interaction.
We can definitely say the same about clients. There are some toxic, unreasonable people out there, and content marketing is no stranger to such stories. Work with the people who make you feel like you can be friends and develop a cordial relationship, but don’t allow room to bully or be bullied. Never forget who’s paying for the service and who’s being hired to provide it.
5. The increasing hostage-takers rates
Freelancers have different rates. Having been freelancers ourselves, we know what they represent. Take a content writer, for instance. A rate depends on niche and experience, availability and task-specifics. Each industry has different rates, as a content writer can’t expect to make the same amount of money writing a “Top 10” article or an expert take on private aviation with industry-leading interviews.
The more essential hiring a freelancer is for a business, the better the rates. However, it all depends on the client base since an agency can only pay a percentage of the money it can take for itself.
Some freelancers don’t care about industry rates. They may advertise one rate to escalate to a 20% increase rapidly. Even worse, many freelancers address agencies without a portfolio and ask for top bucks. That’s a big red flag from the start. Even though money is essential for every side of a business, freelancers who show excessive concern with money are usually considered to think less of their contribution.
In this sense, an agency such as ours doesn’t mind sharing content prices right away. The more clarity and honesty there is on the table from the start, the more likely a partnership will work wonders.
6. The typo royalty
Hiring freelance writers with typos in their profile or pitch? If you follow that road, how high are your expectations? It’s hard to accept in a day and age when there is no shortage of tools to check text accuracy. Should a freelancer skip the good old proofread, they’re not doing their jobs right.
Rest asured, even typo kings and queens get hired by someone. In a world so obcessed with a deal, even essential details mite get overlooked. Do you want someone to write a blog post for you by tomorrow? You may not have noticed the three typos we made in the previous sentence. Maybe your business deserves better, and by better, we do mean the very basic grammar rules in place.
Reading cliches such as:
- “I write high-quality content.”
- “I have extensive experience in the field.”
- “Top voice on LinkedIn.”
- “Expert in…”
These things mean nothing until you have hard evidence that a person knows their way around. How? Having a conversation has proven very effective in realizing whether someone copies a few lines off someone’s profile or if they are the real deal. No self-respecting writer will have more than the odd typo in their work, even though we are all allowed to make mistakes.
7. Hiring a freelancer without a portfolio
You’re in a rush. The world moves fast, and days are short. Your clients are waiting, your business is growing, and you know that building a content marketing strategy – like the ones we build for you – is the way to go and grow.
In fact, you’re in such a rush that you hired the first name that popped up. You asked a few random questions, and you’re convinced that person is the freelancer you were praying for. Let us share something we learned over the years: good freelancers are very hard to come by. We’d go as far as saying they are extremely rare, and if you can find a good one out of ten trials, you’re in luck.
A good freelancer will have a rich portfolio. Ideally, in more than one area, with enough technical skills besides general terms such as “writing”, or “design”. The best freelancers will hardly have the time to keep their portfolios up-to-date, but ask them for live examples of their work and references, and things will take off to new heights.
8. The “work for free in exchange for exposure” fallacy
Do you remember the last time you worked for free? We can. The Universities where we studied had mandatory, end-of-course internships. As you might expect, these were unpaid professional experiences designed to give us an idea of what to expect from the real world. Working for Marketing Agencies for free was fantastic, mostly because of the people we met.
If you’re planning to “hire” someone to work for free, you can’t expect much. They’ll hardly put in the effort, listen to your directions, or even comply with time constrictions. Respect everyone’s time and work and pay them, even if the rate seems low. If they do a good job and help your business grow,
9. Hiring the social media celebrity guru
Some people are great at marketing themselves and can be below average working for your business. It’s important to know the difference between subject experts and those who know how to market themselves well. You’ll often see people with high engagement rates but look closer, and they’re selling someone else’s ideas.
Look even further, and you’ll probably find them selling webinars, becoming speakers at events and advertising an expertise they, unfortunately, do not possess from professional experience. We had Uni teachers that fit that profile, so we are very sceptical of those who tell others how to make magic but for some reason, can’t make the magic happen for a fact.
You may find that the quiet, experienced freelancer can do far more for your business than the personal brand guru. Pick wisely, and test as far as your business allows you to.
10. Don’t assume – just ask
Does the freelancer possess all the necessary tools to meet your needs? If not, can you help them gain access to some of the tools you use? From grammar checks to specific software, it’s important to clarify what tools a freelancer uses and which might become necessary to meet your content marketing needs.
Hiring a freelancer who may know how to write a great piece but has no knowledge of how to get it up on WordPress? Some don’t have the necessary experience in implementing SEO across their content or may ignore the value of link-building. Details such as the appropriate image bank and curation are often forgotten, and even following standard language models or structures can be a challenge.
Ask whatever questions you need, and provide your freelancer with the necessary information on the tools you expect them to use.
The freelancer jungle
Working freelance means competing with the rest of the world. It’s a noble career path with many hardships along the way, and growing experience in certain fields is a testimony of resilience. We don’t know a single valuable freelancer who isn’t a passionate professional in their field. Those who take freelancing as a mere side gig are usually bound to fail.
In a world where AI is rising and taking over the bottom tier, high-value freelancers have become even more essential. That’s not to say you won’t find a few bumps along the way, as working with people will always have a certain degree of trial and error. Sometimes, you won’t speak the same language, and that may do more harm to your business than opting for another path.
If you want the best of two worlds, which are the structure and expertise of a content marketing agency with the ease and flexibility of a freelancer, we can help you. Not only have we been freelancers ourselves, but we also rely on topic experts who work for us on occasional projects. The result is none less than top-notch content for Portuguese-speaking markets and beyond.
Frequently Asked Questions | FAQ
Should I always hire a freelancer for my content marketing needs?
You can hire a freelancer to look after some aspects of your content marketing, or you can hire a small agency like ours. There are no wrong answers here, and you should hire the model which offers you the best results for your money. Remember the nature of freelancers may lead them to shift towards other clients quickly and career paths or leave you high and dry. However, sometimes these professional relationships prosper for years on end.
Is a content agency more expensive than hiring a freelancer?
It depends on the freelancer and the agency. We offer very affordable rates and structure our offer as an agency, often charging less than some freelancers do on an hourly or project basis. Plus, through a content agency model, you get more than one person supporting your content marketing efforts.
How expensive is it to hire a good freelancer?
Some of the best content marketing freelancers may charge $100/hour and more, with project fees starting at several thousand. If you’re after a top freelancer, it’s even more important to study their portfolio and discuss your business expectations accordingly. In many cases, a small agency can be a better option if you’re after a cost-effective alternative.