20 Questions to Ask Before You Hire a Freelance Writer

hire a freelance content writer

20 Questions to Ask Before You Hire a Freelance Writer

When you hire a freelance writer, you need to know what you are getting for your money. This can be tough when the freelancer market resembles the Wild West. The key to having a successful freelancer experience is to do your research. When you ask many questions upfront, you can sort through freelancers to find someone who best fits your needs. This list of 20 questions will help you find the best freelancer for your content needs.

1. What Type of Content Do You Write?

Not all content writers can write all types of content. When you hire a freelance content writer, they must be able to write the content types you need. Some writers will specialize in several types of content. If a writer cannot answer this question, be wary about their knowledge and experience. They may not know the different types and the importance of taking a different writing approach. 

I specialize in writing blogs, articles, website content, product descriptions, and social media posts. While I sometimes venture beyond these, I try to stick to these content types. Another writer may focus on whitepapers, eBooks, or case studies. 

2. What Industries Do You Write About?

Hire a freelance content writer who has experience in your industry and makes the writing process work smoother. You can tend to get better quality content. Writers with personal experience can incorporate it into their writing. This gives your content a personal and unique touch that will help it perform better. That said, don’t automatically disqualify a writer simply because they don’t have direct experience in your industry. Clients don’t realize that many skills are often transferable. 

I focus my freelance content writing career on a shortlist of industries. I stick with niches that I have personal or professional experience with. This gives me a jumping-off point for my writing. It also streamlines my research and helps me avoid saying something obviously wrong. My industries of proficiency include: 

  • Motorcycles
  • Automotive
  • Interior Design
  • Law
  • Supply Chain/Logistics

However, I have been a freelance content writer for over five years. In that time, I have written about a broad range of industries and topics that go far beyond this shortlist. I have written about everything from in-depth reviews of paper towels to robotic sex dolls product descriptions.

3. What Is Your Freelance Experience?

Asking this question is not about disqualifying freelancers who do not have experience. Instead, this question is to set your expectations. You may need a more hands-on approach with a less experienced freelancer. In contrast, someone experienced may be able to jump in and start running right away. However, someone experienced may be more set in their ways. Those ways may not blend well with your needs. 

I worked on marketing teams in a corporate setting for over five years before becoming a freelancer. I have also freelanced for over five years. This gives me a good balance of experience that helps me adapt to different work styles and needs. While there is always a learning curve, I can jump in and start working immediately. I know the questions that need to be asked to ensure I deliver the content the client needs. 

4. What Is Your Completion Timeline?

You need to know how long the freelancer will take to complete your project order. This will help you set your expectations. Otherwise, you are left in the dark, wondering when you will receive your deliverables. In addition, the writer’s timeline needs to fit your timeline. If the writer takes a month to complete a project, but you need it done in a week, this will be an issue. 

My standard answer to this question is one week. This answer can change based on the project. For example, a large project that requires a lot of research or is especially long will require more time. However, I can complete short projects or topics I’m well versed in in 24-72 hours.

5. What Are Your Rates?

You will find content writers to fit every budget. However, a word of caution here. You get what you pay for. The cheapest option isn’t always the best option. All too often, I see people who hire a freelance content writer expecting to pay dirt cheap rates while getting top-shelf quality. They end up disappointed when the deliverables they get are nowhere near their expectations. 

An experienced content writer should be able to articulate their rates clearly. They could charge you hourly or by the project. When charging by the project, they could have flat rates or charge by the word. If they charge by the hour, ask if they have a minimum charge that they apply to all projects. 

I charge a flat rate of ten cents per word. However, I have adjusted this rate based on the project. If I know a project will require additional research, I may increase my rate. If a project sounds like something that hits my passion, I may reduce my rate because it’s more about my excitement to do the project. 

6. What Payment Do You Accept?

You need to be able to pay the freelancer. This question is just about basic functionality and practicality. Ask the freelancer what type of payments they accept. Typically, freelancers will accept more than one method of payment. This makes it easier to find a compatible payment method. 

I accept bank payments, PayPal, credit cards, Cash App, and Zelle. 

7. What Is included?

You need to know what you are paying for. Some content writers will give you just the basics. Others will include several other deliverables with the content. Asking what is included will tell you what you get for your money. 

All articles I write include one round of edits. If the client chooses, I include a list of items I provide as optional inclusions. 

  • Meta Description
  • Focus Keyword
  • Secondary Keywords
  • Free image
  • Second round of edits

8. Who Owns the Completed Work?

Completed work is copyright protected. You need to know if you or the writer owns it. If the writer insists on owning their copyright, this can create issues for you later. 

My clients own the work that I write for them. My position is that my clients pay me for a product, so they should own it to do with what they like. I should not dictate to them what they do with their content. 

9. Who Is the Author?

You need to decide if you need a ghostwriter or an author. This is purely your preference based on your intended use of the content. A ghostwriter writes the content but does not get the credit. An author writes the content and then receives a byline on your website next to the content. For most companies, using a ghostwriter makes sense. The content is meant to be the company’s voice, not a random writer. This distinction is important, as some writers are unwilling to take on ghostwriter work. 

I write both ghostwriting and byline work. I have no preference and understand that both have their uses. 

10. Can You Adapt to My Tone and Style?

Your content writer needs to match your brand voice. This ensures you have consistency throughout your marketing efforts. 

My strengths are professional and casual tones. For example, motorcycle content tends to be more casual in tone and voice. In contrast, content written for law firms tends to be more professional and approachable to formal. Other writers may excel in humor or technical tones, but these are not my strengths. 

11. How Do You Approach Topics You Are Unfamiliar With?

No one knows everything about everything. Eventually, your content writer will encounter a topic they must research. You need to know that they will be able to. That way, they can produce consistent, high-quality content. You also need to know that the content will sound authoritative to the reader with correct information. 

When approaching a topic I am unfamiliar with, I try to find reputable and authoritative sources. I spend time reading about different aspects of that topic. I look for industry websites that provide a professional view of the topic. Then, I look for people active in the industry who express their point of view. This gives me perspective on the topic along with a factual basis. 

12. What Is Your Research Process? 

Even if a writer is familiar with a particular topic, there are some situations where research is crucial. If you want your content to be authoritative, you need to reference quantifiable data. Your content writer needs to be able to do the necessary research to validate the claims made in your content. They should be able to find reputable sources with trustworthy data. Asking about their research process will give you insight into how adept they are at researching. 

My research process tends to vary based on the industry I am writing about. For example, I look to statutes and case law when writing legal articles. I directly reference statutes on relevant .gov websites. I also reference similar cases that would have applicable case law. On the other hand, if I’m writing about motorcycles, I will typically reference the manufacturer directly. After all, who better to give you information about a motorcycle than the people who made it? If I write about interior design, I will reference industry thought leaders on current trends, paint companies for color of the year, or furniture companies for product features. The idea is to find sources of reputable authority that can provide verifiable and trustworthy information. 

13. What Is Your Work Process?

Understanding someone’s work process can help you evaluate their professionalism and organizational skills. If a potential freelancer can’t clearly explain their work process, then they may not have one. This could raise concerns about their ability to consistently produce high-quality work on time. 

When explaining my work process, I try to generalize it to give a broad spectrum or high-level view. For example, I always start with the basics. I find out the type of content, length, target audience, goal, and target keyword. From here, I determine what depth of research I need to perform and then do it. As I research, I create an outline with H2 and H3 headers. I’ll add bullet point lists of things I want to touch on. I also add links to things I want to reference. Once I have all of the information and a plan, I begin to write. I start with the body. I do the intro and conclusion last. This gives me more freedom to write the blog and let it flow organically. Then, I can tailor the introduction and conclusion to better match the content message. I will go back and add any necessary reference links. Once the content is complete, I enter the proofing phase. Once this is complete, I submit my deliverable for approval by the client. 

14. What Is Your Proofing Process? 

The content you post on your website and social media must be error-free. You should not spend time editing and correcting the content you pay for. When you hire a freelance content writer, they should send you content that is ready for publication. Ask a potential writer what their editing process is. This will show you how seriously they take the proofing process. 

My editing and proofing process is multi-step. This ensures I catch all possible errors before I send deliverables to clients. 

  • Step away and mentally reset after writing
  • Run through Word Doc check
  • Run through Grammarly 
  • Put into the Hemmingway App
  • Read it out loud 
  • Verify voice and tone

15. Explain the SEO Best Practices That You Follow 

If you want your online content to perform well in search engine results, hire a freelance content writer who knows SEO best practices. They should be able to apply these standards to all of your content to ensure performance consistency. 

A potential content writer should be able to speak accurately about meta tags, meta description, title, keyword selection and density, headings, content length, linking strategy, and image alt tags. They should have a working knowledge of incorporating SEO best practices into their writing naturally. 

16. Do You Require Me to Provide Title and Keywords?

Some content writers offer keyword research and topic-creation services. Others do not. One approach isn’t inherently better than the other. The service that works best is the one that fits your content needs. If you already have a target keyword list and know what you want your articles to be about, you don’t need this service from your content writer. In contrast, if you haven’t done any keyword research and don’t know what you want your content to be about, then this service could be beneficial in getting your content calendar off the ground. 

While I offer keyword research and topic creation assistance, it isn’t something I do often. Most of my clients already have the basics of their content plan. They just need me to take the elements and turn them into usable content. 

17. What Is Your Current Capacity?

This question will tell you how busy the freelancer is. When you hire a freelance content writer, they will work with other clients besides you. So it’s essential to ask them what their capacity is. A content writer with a heavy client load will not have a large content production capacity. Another writer with a greater writing capacity will be able to produce more. 

My writing capacity is always changing. The life of a freelancer is flexible. We can go from being overloaded and working night and day to having nothing to do. So, my answer can vary significantly when speaking with clients. However, I always take a flexible approach. Because I’m a freelancer, I can shift around my current responsibilities to accommodate a new client. A client rarely comes to me with such a high volume of need that I cannot accommodate them. 

18. How Do You Handle Edit Requests and Feedback? 

Working with someone who handles feedback and edit requests well is a must. Content writers are creatives, and that often means they take feedback and edit requests personally. If they think you are being critical of their work, it can throw them into a tailspin. This is counter-productive to having an effective working relationship. Look for someone who can take feedback well. Keep in mind that your feedback should be constructive and not unnecessarily critical. 

I like hearing feedback from my clients. I welcome feedback because it helps me deliver exactly what my clients seek. However, experience has taught me what is good and bad feedback. I love constructive and productive feedback. I don’t love contradictory or unnecessarily nitpicking feedback. I have fired clients for giving me endlessly conflicting feedback. Let me explain, as it never happened overnight. I would write a blog post, and the client would say, don’t use this vocabulary; say this instead. So, in the next blog post, I would use the requested language. The feedback would say they didn’t like my terminology and the client wanted something instead. In the next article, follow new requests and the same type of feedback. Now, at this point, I have written three blog posts, and all three got conflicting feedback. It was clear at this point that the client didn’t know what they wanted, and I could not provide content that would satisfy them. I thought it was best to part ways, as another freelancer may be able to give that client what they want. There is no ill will or hard feelings on my part; it’s just a fact of business.  

19. Team Collaboration or Solo Work?

You need to have a good working relationship with your freelancer. Similar to employees, if your working style is one way and the freelancer’s is another, it won’t work well. Ask the freelancer how they prefer to work, collaborative or independently. If their answer sounds good to you, then that is a good sign. 

I enjoy working independently. However, I have experience working on corporate marketing teams. I’m happy to collaborate and blend into a client’s team. I have even agreed to attend weekly marketing team meetings for clients to ensure we are all on the same page and working towards the same goals. In contrast, other clients have sent me a list of the articles they want written. They tell me to send them whenever, and I have no other direction. 

20. Do You Have Any Questions For Me? 

Finally, pay attention to the questions that the freelance writer asks you. If they ask insightful and intelligent questions, this is a sign of someone experienced and engaged. If they have no questions for you or the questions they ask are shallow, then this could be a red flag. They may not have experience. While this wouldn’t automatically disqualify them, it can signal that working with them will require more hands-on management. 

Unfortunately, a lack of questions or poor-quality questions can also be a sign of a poor-quality content writer. They lack the necessary professionalism or interest to ask the necessary questions. This can lead to a disappointing experience as this type of content writer isn’t actively invested in delivering high-quality work. 
I always have questions for potential clients seeking to hire a freelance content writer. The more questions I ask in the beginning, the better the working relationship I have with the client.

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