I've always enjoyed working with freelance writers. I've done it pretty much all my career, and even now I use specialist freelancers for my ready-made newsletter products.
Here are some tips for finding talented people to write for your newsletter.
Where to find them
I've found it's something of a buyers' market when it comes to talented professionals. There are plenty around and, if you search well, you can get good work for a reasonable price. But it's important to search intelligently.
I use Elance.com and Guru.com as my main sources of writers. There's a broad range of talent on these sites, so it's important to screen carefully. You'll find people who do re-writes of existing material all the way to specialists who can provide truly original content.
Those sites include many working journalists, who can usually be relied upon to produce work that is accurate. They also include people who claim they are writers but produce poor quality work. Buyer beware.
To find journalists only, try Media Bistro. You'll pay more, but you'll have top quality work.
How to find the good ones
Before you start looking, it's vital to know exactly what you want. Consider whether you want original reporting or whether you are happy with a re-write of existing information. Try to have in mind your ideal finished article, because that will make it easier to find and instruct a writer.
It's always worth looking for specialist writers, because you will usually get better quality work from someone who has written on that subject before. This is particularly important if you aren't an expert yourself. Some specialists aren't the best writers, so sometimes it's a trade-off between specialist skills and writing flair.
Sites such as Guru and Elance allow you to post a project on which providers can bid. Be very clear in your requirements so that the writer knows what she is bidding on. You're more likely to get results you are pleased with if you create a clear, concrete project from the beginning.
You can also search the website for providers and then invite them to bid on a project. I find this is the best way to find specialist writers.
When reviewing search results on one of the freelance talent websites, consider:
- Previous experience: have they written on that topic before?
- Samples: do they have relevant samples? Do you like the writing style and depth of content?
- Ratings: what do other people think of their work? (It's not necessarily a bad thing if the person is a new provider and has new ratings. Just watch out for red flags among people's comments.)
- Specialisms: If they say they are a specialist, are they really a specialist at that subject or do they just happened to have written on that subject?
One thing I like to do is communicate with the person before I hire them. Are they quick, clear communicators? Do you think it would be easy to work with them? Do they provide helpful answers? Are there any red flags?
These websites contain writers from all over the world. I've found, however, that the best work comes from writers in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. Their command of English is usually better (something that's important in a writer!) and their cultural knowledge is greater - their writing just feels right. You might have to pay more, but the difference in fee is not as great as you might imagine it to be.
Working with a writer
It's wise always to clearly state what you would like the writer to do. Avoid ambiguity. Be clear about length, audience, style and deadline. I find that if I act openly and honestly, the writer acts the same way and we have a good working relationship. I try to always respect their opinions - sometimes specialist writers provide useful input that can improve the final result.
The most important thing is to keep communication open. Ask questions if anything is unclear and be prepared to answer questions from your writer.
Sites such as Elance and Guru allow you to pay by escrow - you don't release the money until you are satisfied. They have an arbitration system to help solve disputes.
With new writers, it's always wise to check that what they have delivered to you is original material. I use Copyscape to check that the article (or chunks of it) haven't been lifted from somewhere on the web.)
I always try to pay quickly. Writers appreciate it and are more willing to go the extra mile next time you work with them.
Once the processes is complete, you can leave feedback on each other. I try to leave honest feedback - if you have positive feedback it will be appreciated by the writer.
One final thing
Once you find a writer you are happy to work with, keep with them. A good working relationship is worth its weight in gold.