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How to Screen Freelance Writers

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Hiring a freelance writer to help you create blog content, an eBook, or your website copy sounds pretty simple, but, when you get down to it, there’s definitely a wrong and a right way to go about things.


The last thing you want is to wind up paying a writer who delivers a half-baked, unusable piece of garbage, right? You want to work with someone who really knows the material, has solid work ethic, and can be counted on to deliver a high-quality finished product (on time).

That’s why you need to screen your freelance writers. Being on the freelancer end of the equation, I’ve heard my fair share of horror stories from clients who’ve been burned—but that’s why I think we need to discuss an effective screening process.

Here’s what you need to do before you sign a contract.

Ask for Referrals

One of the easiest ways to filter out only the best freelance writers is to ask your friends and colleagues for their recommendations. Your network may have connections to writers they know and respect. That’s a screening process in itself. You’re not going to get a recommendation to work with someone who is flaky and does terrible work.

Send out an email and/or turn to and pose the question, “Does anyone know a great freelance writer they’d recommend?” You can often get a few solid leads to follow up on from this simple inquiry.

Related: The Secret to the Perfect Holiday Email Campaign

Review Their Portfolios

If you’re looking for an experienced writer who’s written for a specific industry or demographic, be sure you can see examples of that type of work within the writer’s portfolio. There should be multiple examples from past projects that help you get a feel for the writer’s voice and expertise.

Note: Sometimes freelance writers are asked to ghostwrite, so in instances where you want to verify a relationship with an organization, just ask for a contact you can reach out to as a reference.

Look for Testimonials

Freelance writers who do their jobs well can easily rack up impressive testimonials from happy customers. Be sure to look at a writer’s profile and personal website to see what others are saying about their work, and see if you recognize any familiar names or faces in the people that the writer has worked with previously.

A smart freelance copywriter knows how to collect impressive testimonials from clients, so look for praise that’s highly specific and rooted in solid deliverables. If the recommendations are bland and generalized, you may want to look elsewhere.

Related: How to Create an Editorial Calendar for Your Blog

Talk to Past Clients

A clever writer can do some wordsmithing to make a bad working relationship appear like a great one. Reaching out to a few of the writer’s past clients with a quick, “Hey, could you tell me a bit about working with __________?” can help you get a more realistic picture of what it’s like to work with a freelance writer on the client end of things.

Typically, a quick search will help you find the right person to speak to via email, or, you can find a company phone number that gets you to the right place.

Take Things Slow

Once you find the perfect freelance writer for your project, don’t feel pressured to dive into a large project. Start with a small assignment so you can study the writer’s process and interactions with you. If you discover it’s not a good fit, you may need to look elsewhere before starting a large writing project.

Just remember: There are many fantastic freelance writers out there. Don’t let a single poor experience ruin your perspective.

Related: 4 Apps That Can Make You a Better Writer

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