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5 Ways a Great Freelancer Can Boost Your Career

boost your career as a content strategist

At first, I was going to take the fear-mongering approach for this blog post: 5 ways bad freelancers can derail your career.

But I’m tired of negativity. At least today I am. And as freelance writer, the last thing I want to do is give any extra press to the few bad apples in my industry.

So at the risk of fewer clicks, I’m taking the high road. And it’s this: hiring the right content writer for the job does so much more than check that white paper or case study off your long list of content needs.

It makes the boss notice you. And that could lead to a promotion, a bonus, or at least a Starbucks card in appreciation of all your hard work.

If my claim seems far-fetched, consider how the following scenarios polish your reputation:

1. The freelance writer submits content on time

Don’t discount this one as trivial. Deadlines are crucial. They’re designed to ensure that copy is completed, reviewed, revised and published, often on a tight schedule.

If your freelancer submits copy on time, you look good. You hired this guy, he came through with flying colors, and ta-dah! Now you’ve got exactly what you need for your blog or premium content offer.

You’ve shown that the content calendar you created is running smoothly, at least on the freelance end.

Now imagine what would happen if the freelancer missed the deadline, citing problems with sources, research, personal reasons, pesky hard drives, all of which are legitimate. Still, if you’re left with a big content hole to fill, and no content, your reputation is on the line. And now you have to scramble.

You can always throw the freelancer under the bus (please don’t), but it’s still your problem.

See what I mean? This simple act — a freelancer submitting copy on time — shows you know how to hire trustworthy people.

2. The freelance writer follows directions

In a previous blog post, I mentioned how to get freelance writer to write content you love. One way to do that is to tell them what you want. Be specific.

That’s so obvious, it’s ridiculous. But seriously, I’ve had clients who were cryptic, tight-lipped and vague beyond words. Not helpful. Fortunately, I’ve had more clients whose emails for one single article could count as a statement of work. (That’s a good thing.)

Of course, it’s not all on the content strategist. If the freelancer is good, she doesn’t need you to tell her to proof her work several times. She’ll know to cite appropriate sources and indicate where she got those sources. She’ll follow your brand style guide rather than going rogue and off message.

She’ll follow your directions, but if she gets into a tight spot, she’ll ask you to clarify something before she hands in the piece. Because trying to guess what the client wants is miserable and sometimes impossible.

How does clean, accurate, on-message content make you look good? For one, there are fewer revisions.

And two, you provided directions to a freelancer, who followed them and turned in what you wanted.

That shows that you are a clear communicator and can manage people. Score!

3. The freelance writer treats your sources or clients with respect

Here’s the thing with freelance writers. They’re independent contractors, not employees. And that’s risky, right? They’re interfacing with your sources, employees or clients.

Not so if you’ve properly vetted the freelancer. You interviewed him, had an intelligent conversation. He knows what he’s talking about, doesn’t have attitude, doesn’t act like a psycho. Your email correspondence has shown that he’s polite and professional.

Maybe you listened with him on a call with a client about a case study, just to make sure he represented your company well.

But you don’t have time for that for every article or case study. You assign him stuff so you can focus on strategy. He passed the test. So now you trust him to handle things on his own.

Now imagine if he was a psycho and jeopardized a client relationship. That’s dangerous, because it reflects poorly on you. And a ticked-off client could impact company revenue.

Bringing on a freelance writer who represents you with professionalism indicates that you’ve done your homework, assessed someone’s qualifications and character, and successfully made a smart hire.

You’ve shown you can handle increased responsibility and that you’re management material, ready to be included in vetting full-time employees, if that’s the route you want to take.

4. The freelancer works within your budget

Ah, money. You’ve only got so much of it for freelancers. You want a quality content writer who won’t break the bank. But you’re not about to go to some content mill to save some cash.

So in your discussions with the freelancer, you get the freelancer to agree to a fee for three blog posts, a case study, and a white paper, with two revisions for each. Additional edits you’ve negotiated an hourly rate and included that in the statement of work.

What a relief. Talking about money is such a pain. But it must be done.

Imagine the opposite. Protracted discussions about fees. You must stand firm on your budget. The freelancer won’t budge. Nothing’s progressing while the content deadline looms.

You start to feel like a salesperson at a car lot, running between the wary buyer and the general manager, who holds all the cards. It’s enough to give you whiplash.

There are two things you can do to avoid this mess:

  • Know how to negotiate. What can you give up? What can’t you give up? Ed Gandia offers this advice to freelancers. I think it works just as well content strategists and marketing managers. It’s all about a win-win – for both sides.
  • Talk to your boss ahead of time and ask how much wiggle room you have before you talk about fees.

If you learn to successfully negotiate with freelancers, you’ve demonstrated that you can work with budgets, another sign of someone who’s moving up.

5. The freelance writer provides content that gets you results

If the content you assign is directly related to ROI, then it certainly helps if you can show results. Is that blog post hitting all the right keywords? Does the case study that’s premium content help you collect leads? Are those leads actually useful to your sales team?

While some of this is out of the freelancer’s control, there are many things you can do to help a content writer be successful at ROI.

Such as providing those keywords.

Explaining what you want done with headlines.

Providing brand messaging.

Facilitating interviews with clients.

Being super specific about the goal of the piece.

Every little bit helps. The freelance writer wants to hit a home run, so you’ll throw more assignments her way.

ROI isn’t related solely by inbound, of course. Most of the content I write, for example, isn’t focused on getting people to click or give away their email address.

Instead, it’s about thought leadership or education. Articles in company magazines, for example, or blog posts explaining the impact of legislation or a corporate initiative.

Still, a well-written company magazine article that pulls the reader in and hits all the right points is a success, especially if that article eventually gets someone to call about a company’s services.

And when that happens, who gets the kudos? That’s right. You.

It’s all about your reputation

A few years ago, a marketing guy in the audience of a Hubspot conference proclaimed, “There aren’t any good writers out there.” Back then, I was insulted. Now, with more years in the business, I have more empathy.

There are two sides to the story. What happened to that guy? What did the writer do that made him so angry? We’ll never know, and I kick myself for not asking him.

I do know, however, that when a content writer comes through for you, their good work can do nothing but burnish your reputation. It’s your ability to communicate, negotiate, collaborate and even facilitate that helps them do a great job.

And you’ll end up looking like a hero for making such an awesome hire.

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Bonnie Nicholls
Bonnie Nicholls is a freelance writer, content creator and consultant specializing in white papers, case studies, and articles. She supports industries such as health, energy and Agile/Scrum.