When choosing a freelance writer to work with you want to do the obvious. You want to look at what they’ve written to know if they have the skills necessary to tackle your project. You also want to check their references to find out if they are easy to work with and meet their deadlines. There is a third thing you should be doing as well.
You should ask the freelance writer how he invests in himself. How does she hone her craft?
A decent writer learned the writing basics way back in grammar school. Aside from a few changes to the AP Style Guide and the Chicago Manual of Style every year, nothing much ever changes as far as writing basics go.
A great writer is constantly striving to improve his craft. She is always looking for ways to inform her creative process.
When you are considering a freelance writer, ask them what they are reading, what conferences they attend, and what courses they are taking this year. The answers will tell you how seriously your potential freelance partner takes his or her writing.
I don’t know a single serious writer who doesn’t constantly have their nose in a book or magazine. Every writer I know subscribes to a ridiculous number of blogs, email newsletters and podcasts. Whenever we get together, we exchange links to and recommendations on content we find valuable. We even read things we don’t like. We can talk for hours about how click-bait sites are killing good writing, yet we devour every single one. Because like it or not, there is something to learn from the writing style and those groan-inducing headlines. And we don’t just read an article; we take it apart and analyse it. We ask ourselves where did the writer capture our attention, where did they lose it. Then we figure out why. Ask your freelance writer what are they reading and what do they hope to learn from reading it. I assure you, a great writer will be able to talk for hours on this subject.
Let’s face it. Freelance writers don’t have the advantage of having someone else investing in their education. We have to do this ourselves. If your freelance writer is serious about improving, they will set aside the time and money to continue their education. I talked to a technical writer who attended poetry workshops. It wasn’t because he was looking for a creative outlet. He felt that understanding the cadence of poetry would make his IT documentation easier to read. He understood the value of finding the perfect word or phrase to convey meaning.
This year I’ve dedicated a portion of my income and time to attend journalism courses and conferences. Journalists understand they have a responsibility to find the truth. A responsibility that includes rules that must be followed. Most of my work is in B2B marketing. I feel that if I approach my work with the mindset of a journalist, the reader will have more trust in what I’ve written and, therefore, more trust in my client. Ask your freelance writer what conferences they are attending and what courses they are taking and what skills they hope to gain.
Then finally, ask yourself, do I just want a good writer or do I want a great writer?
Photo By jppi