keyboard

I mean, they just crack their knuckles, rub the sides of their head with their fingers, raise an eyebrow at you (or their computer screen as they gaze appreciatively at your email), and stare hard…then, magic happens, right? Magically, the words travel from their brain and into the Word document. It will be perfect. It will be exactly what you want, right? 

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I know what you’re wondering…if it isn’t going to be exactly what you want, why did you hire a writer? Well, the good news is that there are some things you can do to make sure that you get the content you really want. So, if you haven’t done so already, take the time to read and do the following.

Look for a Writer with Education or Professional Experience in Your Industry

If you want a bare minimum of content issues, look for a writer who either has an education or professional experience in your industry. This isn’t to say that a good or great writer can’t write in any area – they can. I do it on a regular basis. I’ve written about fracking, engineering, software that controls nuclear power plants, cloud based computing, dentistry, dermatology… My four-year degree is in paralegal studies. I’ve taught paralegal studies. I’ve worked as a paralegal. I took almost every necessary class for a Master’s in Forensic Psych. I am a great researcher, but things like IT and engineering…I really shouldn’t be a first choice unless it somehow relates to other fields (law, education, business, feral children…). Why not? Because I have to ask a lot of questions. Yes, questions are good, but they can take up a lot of your time. Whereas, working with a writer with experience (or a serious interest) in those areas could save time.

Of course, if you have the time and enjoy the dialogue, do what you want. It’s your project.

Make Sure You and Your Writer Are on the Same Proverbial Page for Deliverables

Depending on who you hire, there’s a damn good chance you’re not their only client (but a good writer will treat you as if you are even when you’re not). You and the writer should be on the same page for deliverables. If you say there’s no deadline, you could set yourself up for disaster. You may still think you’ll have it in a week or two. What happens if you don’t hear from the writer at that time? How pissed or worried will you be? A writer in high demand may schedule your project for next month because you said you didn’t have a deadline.

If you’re contracting with someone who provides weekly content, pick a day of the week you want it delivered. This will save you from a heart attack.

Even if you don’t have an actual deadline, come up with dates that you and the writer should check in. This scheduled time can be used for updates. You’ll both be happier. There will be fewer surprises for either of you.

One Word Feedback Isn’t Helpful

My clients know from the beginning that I’m open to feedback and have no problem incorporating changes they want in their project. Of course, if I spent a lot of my time at the beginning trying to get information about what a client wanted and heard, “Oh, I don’t know,” or “Oh, I don’t care,” then while style feedback is great, I won’t take feedback on content that seriously because they couldn’t be bothered to answer my questions to begin with. That initial contact I have sets the stage on how many changes I’ll make for a client without charging them. If I can tell that a client really isn’t sure and what I gave them inspired them to include something else, then I’ll do it with a smile on my face.

Yet, feedback that says “oudated” or “wrong” that doesn’t also tell me what the correct information is, doesn’t help. If your company has a method that you believe makes it stand out and you want to highlight that or if you just do X differently than the competition you told me to research, you better speak up and explain it.

Case in point – this past week, I edited two chapters of a textbook. Generally, my job is to ensure the writing is easy to understand (and, you know, correct any grammatical issues or typos). The client hired what they refer to as a “subject matter expert.” So, this third person was to first review the chapters, make notes on what needs to be changed, and explain the updated information so it could be inserted. The chapter itself was almost 20,000 words. (This post, so far, is around 800 words at this spot.) The third person sent two pages of notes. It listed a page number, a paragraph number, and basically just said “wrong” or “outdated.” So, I sent the actual client a very nice “Cool story, bro, but this doesn’t help me at all and here’s why…” email. The chapters were then edited for grammar and syntax…because I couldn’t do what the client wanted…because their third person didn’t give me the information I needed.

So, if you hire a writer, be clear if you want something or if something should be changed.

Know What You’re Getting for the Price

Disclaimer: this isn’t a “you get what you pay for when you pay writers half a penny per word.” Except…I know many people who came back and hired me after hiring someone cheaper (instead of me…they would say to me, “So and so does it way cheaper,” and my response was like, “Okay, bye!”) to fix the shittastic problem they were left with.

Alright, so you’re happy with the writer you hired or that you have in mind. You think their rate is acceptable / within your budget. That’s great. The big question is: do you know what you’re getting for the price?

What do you mean ‘what am I getting? I’m getting the content I need. 

Well, yeah…but:

  • Is the writer experienced in SEO writing?
  • Will they choose keywords or utilize keywords provided by you?
  • Will they provide you with at least one free edit?

Or…are they just going to deliver the one piece of content and send you on your merry way?

See? It’s important to communicate and find out exactly what you’re getting. Oh, and there’s one more important thing to consider. Let’s say you hire a writer to create a 750 word blog post for you. So, what happens if word 750 is in the middle of a sentence? Will they just stop and turn it over? Will they charge you more? Will they ask you what you’d like them to do? You won’t be happy if you end up with unfinished content. It’s one thing if there’s no closing paragraph / call to action that you can DIY. It’s quite another if a sentence is left dangling there…unfinished.

TL – DR

First, go back and read it. All of it. I know you’re busy, but this is YOUR project we’re talking about. If you want it done right, you must COMMUNICATE with your writer.

  • Find someone with passion for / experience in your industry.
  • Talk about deadlines. At the very least, set a check-in date. Your writer likely has other clients.
  • Provide CLEAR feedback and not just one word responses. We can’t fix it if you won’t tell us what’s wrong. We can’t read your mind.
  • Know exactly what you get for the price.

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