How do you create an editorial calendar for your freelance writers?
Nathan: In that sort of arrangement where you’re having them on retainer, is the freelancer working with the company to map out an editorial calendar? Like these are some of the topics that we could be writing about this month? Or how’s that work?
Sharon: Well, that depends on the arrangement that you have with the freelancer. As a freelancer myself, I have seen both things in operation. I have worked with people where they say, “Yes, we want to hire you to do a batch of blog posts, but we want to come up with the topics ourselves based on what we know. And then there are others who say, “We want to pay you a little extra as a retainer so you can come up with topics.” It really depends on the individual companies or marketing departments process and ideal way of working.
What are best practices for managing deadlines, editing and so forth with a freelancer?
Nathan: OK. Speaking about that process of working, are there any tips, any advice, any best practices on how the freelancer and the client manages deadlines, editing and just the overall process?
Sharon: Well, it’s all about communication. Communication can be email, a Trello or Asana board. It can be Slack, it can be whatever. But the important thing is for both parties to set their expectations and deadlines early. For example, I’ll give you an example from my own business practice. If I have a phone meeting with a potential client, within an hour of concluding that meeting, I’ll send an email summarizing what we agreed to. And then I’ll invite them to say whether they disagree. If they don’t disagree, that forms the basis of any future agreement. Usually, that email will include details of what I need from the client to proceed, what I have to deliver, when I have to deliver it, what the payment schedule is, and anything else that needs to be sorted out. It’s all about the communication.
Sharon: I personally find it best to ask a lot of questions of the client up front so that I’m absolutely clear on what is expected and that they’re absolutely clear on what I can deliver.
Do you need to have freelancer letter of agreement or consulting contract?
Nathan: Speaking of that agreement, a question pops in my head, should the client or customer, or company have some sort of legal agreement with the freelancer about who owns the content once it’s published?
Sharon: Absolutely. Some clients have their own legal agreements I have what I call a writer friendly blogging agreement. It depends on what you’re doing. Some work is done as work for hire where once it’s paid for, the client owns it outright. Some is done as work for hire but the writer can use it in their portfolio, and some is published under the writers byline, in which case effectively the company has first rights to it. In practice, what has happened with me is that the work stays on the clients’ sites. I can site it in my portfolio. If I want to do anything else with it after that, then I will ask them as a courtesy.
For example, I did some work for the Crazy Egg blog way back, and then I wanted to create a SlideShare presentation from one of the articles. So, I checked in with the editor say, “Hey, do you mind if this article that we published a year ago becomes a SlideShare presentation for my account?” They said, “No, fine. Just credit us.” If you have good working relationships between businesses and freelancers, then, that’s the most positive thing of all. But it’s always a good idea to spell things out in an agreement even if it’s a very simple one.
What should companies expect to pay for a freelance writer or content marketer?
Nathan: We’ve hinted at this earlier in the conversation, but this is a question that I think it often comes down to is about price. Any advice did you have for companies regarding what they should expect to pay for a freelance writer and what they get for that price?
Sharon: So, with freelancing, you get what you pay for. You cheap out on the cost of your writer, and the chances are that you’re not going to get as good a job. If somebody is writing your 1500 word article for $20 or $50, then you can imagine how many of those they have to write just to make a living. If your pro writer says, “OK, I’m going to charge you $500 for it.” Then you know they’re going to spend a couple of days making sure it’s absolutely right, doing all the research, because they’ll have the time to invest.
If you want to hire writers that are good with SEO, content marketing, know how to format, can do your meta descriptions if they’re needed, can work with keywords and keyword phrases while still keeping things readable, while also telling stories and all the good things that we have to include in content marketing these days, then you’re definitely going to have to pay several hundred dollars for a decent piece of writing. If the process involves in-depth research or interviews, then that’s more time and therefore more money.
But of course, I’m coming from the perspective of somebody who’s been doing this for 30 years. You ask somebody who’s a year in, they may have a different perspective. But I think most pro writers that I talk to feel similarly to the way I do.
Nathan: No, it makes sense. I think what’s often lost, speaking as a writer, even though I work for a company, is just if you think about that return on that investment. So, if you spend $400, $500 for a blog posts and it’s well written and it’s optimized for the web, optimized for your business. I can speak about our own blog and website is that we have posts that were published three, four or five years ago that continue to draw 1000 viewers a month and getting people into our funnel. Think about that cost per lead from anything else that you’re doing. Your pay per click or whatever might be $10, $20, $100. Now you’re talking about something that you paid for $400, four years ago that continues to make money-
Nathan: So, pretty cheap in the long run.
Sharon: It is. It’s actually worth investing and doing the job properly.
Nathan: It seems like … I’m sorry to interrupt. It seems like it’s something that you could then, depending on the agreement you had, a company could use some of that information or just have it grow into an eBook or a white paper or something like that.
Sharon: Exactly. I’ve had happen with several companies. They say, “OK, we want to publish an in-depth guide on this. Let’s break it down into 10 sections. Let’s do an in-depth blog post on each of them. And then let’s condense it again and make it into an eBook or an online guide.” That happens quite regularly.
How do we learn more about you?
Nathan: Interesting. Sharon, I really appreciate your time today, and thanks for giving us some insight into how to hire that perfect freelancer. I’m just wondering how do I learn more about you, or how does a company learn more about you if they want to learn about having a relationship with you?
Sharon: Thanks Nathan, happy to be here. People can learn more about me on my website sharonhh.com, on LinkedIn, Sharonhh, on Twitter, SHurleyHall, or Facebook, Sharon Hurley Hall.
Nathan: Excellent. Sharon, thank you very much.
Sharon: Thank you.