It’s not always easy to trust some you don’t know to write about your business. In this post, experienced writer/editor Elizabeth King Humphrey talks about some of the very understandable fears people have about hiring a professional. She also offers 12 great suggestions for what you can do to ensure those fears don’t come true.
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Are you nervous about hiring an outside writer for your business?
“I know my customers. You don’t. How are you going to?”
Have you ever said or thought this? As a professional writer, I’ve heard this from business owners.
“No, that’s OK. I have a friend who likes to write. I’ll let him take care of it.”
I’ve had to convince solopreneurs and decision-makers to hire a professional to handle their communications needs. I’ve explained the difference between a casual writer and someone whose profession is to write. I’ve convinced them that as a professional I understand them—and their companies.
“How can I trust someone other than me?”
In working with one owner, it became clear he was transmitting his unspoken fears about hiring a contract writer. Although he was making decisions all day, he wasn’t ready to release his project to a contractor.
Fear in the Beginning
When we learn writing in elementary school and beyond, we tend to learn a formulaic way of writing. We also remember a handful of the rules, not the depth of the language as it is now.
Honestly, the majority of us can write. When we learned to write, often that experience opened us up to criticism. If someone—namely the teacher or classmate—didn’t understand a point we were writing, we’d receive our composition back with red ink bleeding across the page. You may have fear (or maybe it’s trepidation) about hiring a content provider when you’ve been the writer in the past.
That’s very humbling. And scary.
Hiring someone to write for you removes that fear by transferring the feedback and, if you wish, red ink onto someone else.
Copy Needed Now!
You are not alone.
In my experience, when you hire a writer who fits with your business you find an ally. A writer helps to build your vision and create a voice when you’re too overworked and too busy to do so.
Let’s take an example of hiring a writer to help develop website copy:
Fortunately, your business has grown. Unfortunately, your website content hasn’t kept pace with your growth. Product photos stand unadorned. You need some pithy prose. Your clients are demanding more than just photos. Maybe you need SEO copy to better take on your competition. Based on customer responses, perhaps you need someone to write boilerplate responses for customer service and an FAQ section. Are your products technical? A customer-friendly user guide would be ideal.
Bottom line: You need content!
Without bringing a writer into any of those projects, your need for content may outrun your business. As your success continues and because you’ve been doing it all for so long, it’s hard to let go of some of what you used to do.
What goals do you have to engage your clients and move their shopping cart from empty to full? What projects need copy to match your growth?
Finding the Writer
Moving from fear to control of the situation means taking a look at your needs. First, analyze your objectives for and arguments against (or fears of) hiring a writer before you try to find someone. That will help give you some idea of who you are looking for and give you a stronger basis for your search. Start asking friends and associates for writer recommendations and their process for finding a good writer.
You may even reach out to that friend who “likes to write” and ask for a draft or for help in developing some ideas.
Once you have your list of objectives and ideas of the copy you need, finding the writer that fits you and your vision has just become easier. You’ve narrowed the characteristics of the contractor and, because you have considered your objectives, the writer has a chance to address those issues.
Managing the Fear
Remember the solopreneur from above who wasn’t ready to release his project to an outside contractor? Unfortunately, he did release the work. Once that happened, he treated the writer as a complete outsider. He didn’t trust the writer’s judgment and argued grammatical points based on misapplied elementary school rules.
The copy suffered because the writer—me—wasn’t given the tools to learn the business. But, as the writer, I put in place a review process that could tackle his misgivings. I was able to learn from the feedback and the client was able to open his circle of trust.
The partnership grew from that beginning. The end working relationship was not the same as the start.
Creating a Partnership
When engaging a writer for your projects, trust your instincts and research your options:
- Ask to see a portfolio of previous paid work.
- Provide the writer with work that you like, including some of your current website copy.
- Request the names of a couple of former clients or references, especially if your work is a specific field and terminology is important.
- Review the writer’s website.
- In the beginning of the process, be clear about your writing needs. The more specific you are about tone and the voice of your content, the better results you’ll have.
- If your company has a style for its brand, provide the writer with the guidelines. If you don’t have a style guideline, make that a priority as your business grows.
- Remember to treat your work as a business!
Once you are working with the writer, make sure your worst fears aren’t realized:
- Whether the writer works in your office or from home, treat her as a professional.
- If you are concerned about proprietary information or competitors, request the writer signs a confidentiality agreement.
- Build in time to talk with the writer before and after you’ve assigned the work. Open communications will help him complete the job successfully. Remember that sometimes emails aren’t the most effective communications tool.
- Follow or create a process for feedback and revision for each project so the writer feels invested in succeeding.
- If there is something wrong, discuss it with the writer. She is also running a business and is interested in providing good customer service.
In the right hands, a writer can capture your voice and vision while improving your relationships with your customers. Finding the right person and setting a process in place can allay any fears you may have about outsourcing the work and it helps to build trust for a lasting partnership.
A longtime writer and editor, Elizabeth King Humphrey specializes in helping health and wellness professionals connect with their clients. Her writing credits include Idiot’s Guide: Gluten-Free Eating and other publications.
Do you have a question? Please contact Elizabeth or download her free report about Harmonizing: Find and Communicate to Your Audience.