As a freelancer, I interact with many prospective clients who feel a bit uncertain about hiring a solopreneur. They want to know I can deliver the goods, but even after they’ve perused my work samples they still might pause.
I understand their hesitation. They don’t want to hitch their content wagon to a writer who turns out to be unprofessional – who misses deadlines and turns in copy you have to spend half a day rewriting. To make a hiring mistake here can be costly, both in terms of time wasted and in actual dollars paid out for substandard copy.
Fortunately, you can take some of the risk out of the equation by understanding how to evaluate prospective content writers. If you follow these simple steps you should be able to identify a true professional who will add value to your content team.
Research the writer’s work background
I don’t mean hire a private detective to run a background check. I mean check the person’s work history. How long has she been self-employed as a freelance writer? Does she have a clinical background? Your answers to these questions can elevate or minimize your risk in working with a new-to-you writer.
Many people decide to become freelance writers, and a lot of them fail at it. Being a successful freelancer isn’t only about writing talent; it takes great business acumen and customer service skills to succeed in this industry for any length of time. I’m not saying newbie freelance writers can’t deliver the goods. I’m just saying you usually can bank on the professionalism and reliability of someone who’s been doing this a long time.
And while you’re snooping around in that person’s LinkedIn profile, check whether she has any clinical degrees or licenses. In healthcare content, a former clinician (ahem) can add a ton of value to your team. For instance, as a former nurse I bring unique insight into the pain points of both patients and healthcare administrators. I never presume to know any individual person or organization’s pain points, but my experience leads me to find answers by probing into areas a lay writer would never think to explore.
Of course, writers with a clinical background also usually excel at interpreting (and citing) research correctly, and the have a natural rapport when interacting with other clinicians, whether interviewing a doctor for an article or chatting with one of your own SMEs. This affinity promotes instant trust that can lead to great content nuggets being shared.
Evaluate writing samples the right way
If you’re looking for someone to write a white paper but don’t see a sample of it on a freelancer’s website, please ask her if she has one. Writers who have been freelancing for a long time don’t post every type of content asset they’ve ever written. Well, at least I don’t. My server might bust. If you like everything else about the freelancer, shoot her an email to request a specific type of sample.
Once you get that sample, evaluate these specific attributes of the work:
- correct grammar
- ability to organize information
- factual accuracy
- proper citation of sources when appropriate
- voice and tone
Of these attributes, voice and tone (V/T) is the most subjective to evaluate. Keep in mind a writer will write to the V/T instructions of each individual client. A magazine article may take a more journalistic tone, while B2C marketing materials may read very warm and friendly. This ability to write to multiple V/T requirements is the hallmark of a great content writer.
Lastly, look for variety in the writing samples you see on a freelancer’s website. The term “content” covers a lot of ground. Today you may need blog posts; tomorrow you might need a white paper. As you peruse a prospective content writer’s samples, take note of their breadth. Look for white papers and ebooks and infographics and feature articles, slideshows and listicles and web page copy and video scripts. The ability to write a wide variety of materials speaks to the overall expertise of the writer.
Look for repeat assignments
Writers who don’t deliver the goods don’t get repeat assignments from clients. If the writer can show that her clients have hired her repeatedly, it speaks to her overall professionalism as well as her ability to write well.
Don’t get too hung up on B2B versus B2C experience
There used to be a wide divergence in how B2B marketing materials were written versus B2C. But the trend in content for some time has been toward combining an authoritative voice with a conversational tone for both business buyers and consumers. This makes sense because who are business purchasers if not regular human beings like everyone else?
If a particular writer has demonstrated the ability to craft authoritative, conversational marketing copy for consumer audiences, she should be able to do the same for a business audience.
You need not feel trepidatious about hiring freelance healthcare content writers when you take a systematic approach to evaluating them. Use these guidelines to proceed with confidence and find a writer who can become a valuable contributor to your content marketing success.
If you’d like to obtain the competitive advantage only content produced by a former clinician can offer, visit my How to Work with Me page to schedule a free consultation.
A version of this post originally appeared on LinkedIn.