Freelance writers are in abundance. They come in all varieties. And if you have the need for one, it can become a challenge to find that person who is just the right fit for your needs.
Your first step is to identify exactly the type of freelance writer you need. Are you looking for someone who has a strong background in academic writing? Are you looking for a creative who can produce amazing posts for your social media platforms, or are you looking for a writer who can produce sound content for your website or product/service descriptions? Each of these will require a separate set of skills, although there are plenty of writers who crossover into all categories because they have worked hard to develop multiple writing styles and skills.
Once you have determined exactly what you need, you can evaluate an applicant in these six ways.
1. English composition Skills
No matter what type of writer you are looking for, a candidate must demonstrate their mastery of English grammar and composition. Even though the writing may be very informal, there is never an excuse for poor grammar, sentence structure, or punctuation. Check to see if your candidate has taken any external language tests and has the results to show you. If not, locate a good English language test and administer it. A good writer who wants the work will be happy to oblige.
2. A Blog, Portfolio, or Website
Serious freelance writers understand that they must market themselves as a brand, just like any product. Many will have their own websites, on which they publish samples of their writing. Many also have a blog about writing in their genre. Gain access to these sources, read what and how they write, and determine if they meet your expectations.
There are also indirect ways to check this. For example, if you are interested in a writer with academic credentials and background, they may have written for specific writing services. Those services have standards from high to very low. Check out writing services reviews for any company they have worked for. Based on those company reviews, you will be able to determine if the writer you are considering has worked for an agency that has high standards and that has received good reviews.
3. Check Research Skills
Writers must do research – this is not an option. And you will want to evaluate these skills, especially as they relate to online research. There are sources that are credible, recognized, and “approved” by most any reading audience. And then there are those that lack standards.
Provide your candidate with a topic and request a list of resources that they might use in writing a piece on that topic.
4. Assign a minor original piece or set a short paid milestone.
Most writers are not opposed to producing an original piece during an application process, so long as it is not lengthy or complex. Given that you understand the type of writing you need, assign a very short piece, have the writer create an outline for it, and perhaps an introductory paragraph. This will give you a clear idea of their organizational skills and the ability to logically order the flow.
5. Check Academic Credentials but Not Too Strictly
There are some amazing writers out there who do not have English, communications, or journalism degrees. They have developed their skillsets over time and because of a deep interest in writing. On the other hand, those with degrees in writing-related fields will have that strong background to pull upon. Be flexible as you check credentials and use them as a part of the total picture of the candidate.
6. Assign a Paid Piece or Two
Freelancer is not your hired worker. You do not have to enter into a long-term contract or agreement. You are in a great position here. Once you have satisfied yourself that the first five of these factors show promise, provide an assignment or two for pay. Agree upon a price, set a deadline, provide the details, and let that freelancer go to work. This will give you great insight into how they work. Can they take a task and run with it? You don’t want to be micro-managing or to be inundated with questions all along the way. You want someone who is a self-starter and who can get the job done on your timetable.
While freelance writers are in great supply, amazing freelance writers are not. Instead of just playing “hit and miss” and getting disappointed (and then have to go back to the search process all over again), take your time and find those that meet your expectations. Once you do, you will have a writer with whom you can have a long-term relationship, and this is the best of both worlds for both of you.