Examining Your Needs
- Determine what your writing needs are.This means first defining the goals of your marketing campaign in terms of both the results you expect and the media you expect to use as part of it: flyers, brochures, sales letters, postcards, Web content (pages and podcasts), radio ad copy or video scripts. Knowing the scope of your project before you start looking for a writer will help direct your search to find a good writer � or several good writers, if the project dictates it.
- Many writers have expressed frustration with clients who don't communicate their needs well in the beginning or during the run of the project. Having your goals clearly defined at the start will help you communicate them to the writers you interview and work with.
- Determine what you expect from the writer on the project.In addition to determining the type of output the writer is to generate for you, also determine the input, what you expect the writer to bring to the project. Does the writer need to have a strong background in the subject, or do you want someone who can approach the project as an outsider and bring a new perspective to the project? Do you want someone to write copy, do light editing, or do you want someone to develop an overall marketing strategy and produce the materials to implement it?
- Consider the amount of time allotted to produce your business marketing materials. If you want fast turnaround on a highly technical project, you need someone who has considerable experience with the subject matter to target your copy to its intended recipients. If you are developing your strategy more gradually, you may want to hire a writer to learn along with you or bring in writers as needed, with the first writer helping you define your strategy and producing style sheets and guidelines for subsequent writers to follow.
- In some cases, you may want to choose a writer for his or her experience in the subject over experience in a particular medium, particularly if that writer has done a lot of work for you in the past.
- Define what skills are necessary to complete the project successfully.In addition to being able to write well and having a sufficient knowledge of the subject, the writer also needs to work well with the software applications you use to create the project and with other people, such as graphic artists, subject matter experts and other marketers.
Finding a Good Writer
- Get referrals from colleagues.Find out from people in other departments within your own company or colleagues in other companies' marketing departments who they've worked with who could do a good job on your business marketing materials.
- Consult with advertising and marketing firms.While many of these firms will try to get you to contract with their people if they can, if they can't meet your needs themselves, they may be able to direct you to someone who can.
- Many cities also have agencies that specialize in placing writers. Some specialize in technical writers for non-marketing projects, while others can help you find a good writer who can also generate marketing copy as required.
- Contact professional organizations.Such organizations as the American Marketing Association, the Business Marketing Association, the International Association of Business Communicators, the Public Relations Society of America and the Society for Technical Communication maintain job banks and employment listings for their members. Many of these organizations have local chapters as well, or you can contact a local business association or advertising club.
- Search the Internet.Many writers maintain their own Web sites, listing their services and often offering downloadable samples of their work for you to review. However, given the large number of writer sites, it is often easy to get bogged down in searching Web pages for an indication that the writer understands your needs. Therefore, you should begin your search by using a business networking site such as LinkedIn.
- LinkedIn maintains both discussion groups and question and answer forums on a number of subjects, including the areas of most businesses, advertising, marketing, and writing and editing. By participating in these groups and reviewing others' posts, you can network for writers and evaluate the writing skills of writers who post to those groups. You can also post jobs to the main job board or those of your group and review the profiles of prospective writers who contact you through LinkedIn's message or InMail features.
- You can also develop a list of prospects by first visiting their individual Web sites and then looking them up on LinkedIn.
- Collect solicitations from writers looking for work.Keep a file of the business cards you receive at networking events, as well as any printed or e-mailed material that writers send you.
Evaluating Prospective Writers
- Decide on payment.Some writers work per hour, some by the page and others by the project. You should have a payment amount in mind, but be ready to negotiate depending on the writer's skill and experience.
- You can get a handle on going rates for the writing services you want from a current edition of Writer's Market ("How Much Should I Charge?") or by visiting the Web site of the Editorial Freelancers Association (http://www.the-efa.org/res/rates.php).
- If cost is a concern, agree on either a maximum flat project fee or number of hours. If the writer exceeds this amount, he or she may end up working the extra hours gratis. Do keep in mind that many writing projects require a certain number of rewrites and agree on the number of rewrites when determining the free or hour cap.
- Set the completion deadlines.You'll want to have a final deadline for the entire project, and if there are individual components to it, you'll probably also want to establish deadlines for the each component or draft.
- Put it in writing.Draft a contract stating the project's scope, terms and conditions, fees and deadlines. Both you and the writer need to sign it to protect each of you when problems arise.
- Communicate regularly and in a timely fashion.Questions will arise on both sides during the course of the project. By asking questions and providing answers in a timely fashion, you help to ensure that little problems get resolved before they grow into big problems.
- It's good practice to send the writer a sample copy of the completed project so that he or she can learn from it and also show it to future prospective clients to enhance both your reputation and his or her own.