What Your Freelance Writer Needs to Know

Before you hire a professional freelance writer, you want to know the writer’s experience, rates, process, and reputation. But as a professional freelance writer, I also need to know five things about you:

1. Your deadline. I want to complete your marketing or technical writing project on time–even ahead of time–but that necessitates knowing your deadline. If your deadline isn’t realistic, I’ll let you know up front. If it is flexible, I’ll provide a ballpark on when to expect a first draft or finished project.

2. Your audience. What audience are you are trying to reach with your blog, website, success story, brochure, proposal, or user manual? “Everyone” is not an answer. Your audience will differ in their knowledge, problems, resources, and so on. How will you reach them? I may have suggestions for building an audience or selecting the most efficient marketing approach.

3. Your process. Will you correspond best by email, phone, or Skype? How easy will it be to connect with the people you want me to interview? How open will you be with information? Will your reviewers start editing each other’s edits? What is your approval process?

4. Your budget. I’m not asking because I want to gouge you; I’m asking because I don’t want either of us to have a surprise at the end. I’m happy to give you estimates on the basis you prefer: project, per page, hourly.

5. Your goal. Are you trying to educate, entertain, or inform your audience? Do you intend to follow up with them or do you expect them to contact you? Where does this project fit in your overall marketing plan? Would you be open to suggestions on how to meet your goal?

If you know your deadlines, audience, process, budget, and goal, you are ready to speak to a freelance writer. If you don’t, at TWP Marketing & Technical Communications, we have years of experience in helping companies just like yours figure out a solution that meets or exceeds your expectations.

That’s what a professional freelance writer does.

 

10 Reasons to Hire a Freelance Writer

  1. You have incredible ideas about your website, brochure, blog site, social media, and press releases–and no time. You need a freelance writer to execute.
  2. Your customers and staff keep asking you the same questions, over and over, taking up your time and overwhelming your help desk. You need clear, consistent information and directions for them.
  3. You have a writing project in mind but no budget or reason to hire a full-time writer. A freelance writer handles projects one-by-one as they come up.
  4. You have a great customer to interview but no idea what questions would generate a compelling story. A freelance writer with experience in interviewing not only has the right questions but the right objectivity.
  5. Your blog/website/brochure has fallen out of sync with what you actually do. You need someone to update it and keep it updated.
  6. You promised your customers a quarterly e-newsletter but the last publication was 10 months ago. You need a freelance writer to deliver fresh ideas, write the articles, and make sure the newsletter goes out on schedule.
  7. Five people contributed to your user manual/website/brochure, and now the content is inconsistent and redundant. You need one writer to create cohesive content out of chaos.
  8. No one is opening your newsletter or clicking on your online articles–no one at all! You need a professional writer to give you feedback and add some zest to your marketing copy.
  9. Every time you send marketing or technical content out for review, you get so many contradictory editorial comments that you’ve given up. You need a professional freelance writer to evaluate, prioritize, and make sense of the comments.
  10. None of your staff are confident in their English skills. Access to a freelance writer gives everyone assurance that content is written in standard and professional English.

If you are faced with any of these situations, I can help. With more than 15 years of experience as a freelance technical and marketing writer, for every size of company from Fortune 500 to sole proprietor, I deliver the content you need on schedule and on budget. At TWP Marketing & Technical Communications, our words mean business. Contact me today.

Squelching Fluff in Writing

Fluff in writing is fairly easy to spot. You hold your hand over the contact information for the company website, blog post, newsletter, success story–and then ask yourself two questions:

  1. Do I have any idea what this company is/does/sells?
  2. Do I have any reason to use this company rather than its competitor?

If the answer to both questions is no, you are reading fluff. Sometimes that fluff is generated by the company itself for a variety of reasons (for example, no one on board is a professional writer or the company is frightened that customers won’t understand its technology if more specific information is given). Sometimes the fluff is bought as a package from a content-generating company or from an extremely low-cost writer who relies on imagination rather than reality.

Because reality is what makes content stand out: the reality of your company, your leadership, your relationship with customers, your experience. Think of it this way: if you were hiring a new employee, would you appreciate a resume full of lyrical praise and generalities or would you prefer a resume describing experience, skills and passion clearly detailed and supported by accomplishments? Why should your customers be any different when they are hiring you?

The four easiest ways for squelching fluff in writing are:

  • Watch those adjectives. If you load your writing with adjectives like “state of the art” and “unique high-value” and “finely engineered,” you are missing the opportunity to explain why your product or service is state of the art, unique, valuable and finely engineered. You are writing fluff that any company can duplicate, even your least skilled competitor. Throw out the adjectives and rely on verbs and nouns instead.
  • Give the details. Testimonials are wonderful if they are specific. Success stories (case studies) are even better because they show exactly how you helped a customer like the customers you hope to attract. How-to instructions are always helpful to customers. Before and after photos, videos of a project in progress, examples of how your products could be used–they all connect with your customers and distinguish you from the competition.
  • Make yourself known. Step up and give your own perspective on your industry. Share your techniques. If they are the same techniques everyone else uses, be the first to embrace transparency. Share your passion for what you do.
  • Hire the right writer. The right writer talks with you about your goals and the future of your company; researches your industry and your competitors; grows in understanding with each writing project, no matter how far apart the projects are scheduled; and absolutely hates fluff. Whether in-house or freelance, you need a professional writer like that.

Now read through this blog post and count the number of adjectives, check for details, including how-to information, consider whether you have found out anything about my priorities and passion (no fluff!) and then decide if I’m the type of freelance writer you would want to hire to bring reality and passion to your company’s content. I hope to hear from you soon.

 

Six Truths about Freelance Writers

Among freelance writers, the following truths are self-evident. We like:

Freelance Truth #1. Honesty. You are working with a professional writer. Most of the time, people are happy with my first draft but I never want them to walk away unhappy because they failed to point out something I could correct. Tear my work apart, criticize and question it but please be honest–I can take it.

Freelance Truth #2. Freelancing. True freelancers won’t be taking a job offer and abandoning you mid-project. I’ve been freelancing for 16 years. I’ve experienced the corporate world and I truly like freelancing better. I enjoy my clients and the interesting projects they involve me in whether websites, case studies, blog posts, newsletters, proposals or other marketing collateral.

Freelance Truth #3. Returning clients. Your needs for a professional writer may be intermittent; that’s fine. In fact, I am used to completing a project for clients, not hearing from them for 3 or 4 years and then getting a phone call or email when they have a new project. I keep my records for years, so I quickly come up to speed on the latest project.

Freelance Truth #4. Creativity and confidentiality. Freelance writers work with clients in every industry you can imagine and sometimes with clients in the exact same industry. We love the challenge of creating new content, and we always preserve confidentiality.

Freelance Truth #5. Referrals On behalf of every freelance writer everywhere, thank you for your referrals! Client referrals have broadened the reach of my company from my home base in Peterborough, New Hampshire, all the way to west to California, south to Arizona and Florida, North to Ohio and Vermont and even east to Europe. I’ve worked with sole-proprietors, small- to medium-sized businesses and Fortune 500 companies in almost every B2B and B2C business you can think of.

Freelance Truth #6. Paychecks. Freelance does not mean “free.” We have to eat. Therefore, if I finish your project and you (or your accounting staff) hold up my check for three months, I am not only annoyed, I am hungry. Please: When a freelance writer invoices you for work you’ve approved, pay in a reasonable time. You probably expect the same courtesy from your customers.

Freelance Truth #7. Clear communication. Whether by phone or email, professional freelance writers keep clients informed about progress and help those clients stay on schedule with reminders about providing information or completing reviews. My technical background also means I value clear, concise content. So send me an email or phone me today. I’d love to hear from you about your project.

 

 

What Professional Proofreaders and Editors Do Best

Once electronic spell checkers and grammar checkers entered the scene, most people forgot how to proofread. But proofreading and editing are still important for two reasons: first, spell checkers and grammar checkers are terribly flawed; and second, proofreading and editing are about more than spelling and grammar.

A professional proofreader and editor will check for inconsistencies in format and content; for cross-references and links that go to the wrong place; and for failures of logic, gaps in information, or unanswered questions that readers might have. We are all prone to mistakes like telling the reader there are seven of something but listing six or eight. Once we have written and revised copy several times, we are likely to overlook missing words (especially pronouns) and even entire concepts because we expect them to be there.

As a professional proofreader and editor of technical and nontechnical websites, white papers, brochures, blogs, and other marketing collateral, I have found that the following steps are always important:

  1. Double check anything that is in bold, a larger font, italics, or other special formatting. Content mistakes are easy to overlook when format catches your eye.
  2. Try every link and cross-reference to make sure they are still valid.
  3. Match illustrations against the text. Inevitably, the bar graph will show a 15% increase and the text will refer to a 25% increase.
  4. Print out everything, even if the audience will always read it online. Mistakes will show up in the printed version that are easy to overlook online.
  5. Check all company, product, association and personal names; never assume they are correct.
  6. Create a style guide. Consistency is important on many levels, but certainly necessary to prevent confusion in the audience or coming across as oblivious to details.
  7. Forget about reading the entire text backwards to catch errors. That technique prevents you from catching “its” when you meant “it’s”; makes transitions, punctuation and format meaningless; and will bore you sick after 4 sentences.

Most important, by letting a professional proofreader or editor review your copy, whether it is in print or online, you gain the assurance that your message is not only written the way you want it but the way that your audience will understand. All too often, if we are very familiar with a topic ourselves, we write as if our audience was equally knowledgeable. For example, we might leave gaps in information–we know how we got from point A to point B, but our less knowledgeable customers become lost. Or we use acronyms or terms that are well-known to experts in the field but not necessarily to our customers. A professional proofreader or editor ensures that your words are reaching your audience in the way you intended.

Sharon Bailly founded TWP Marketing & Technical Communications to help companies communicate with their marketplace. Our words mean business.

5 Questions Every Freelance Writer Will Ask You

I consider freelance writing a collaboration: My clients have something they want to communicate, and I want to communicate it in the best possible way. But like any professional freelance writer, I first need to know these 5 things:

1. Who is your audience? Every piece of marketing collateral should be written to someone. You cannot expect writing to engage customers if you are writing to “everyone” because not everyone wants your product or service, lives in the geographic area you serve, can afford what you offer or has a problem you can solve. The better I know your audience, the more my freelance writing will appeal to them.

2. What will you do with the final product? I need to know if the marketing collateral will appear online or in print, so that I know whether to include keywords, links, color photographs, black & white charts, etc. I need to know how a webpage or post fits into an existing website or blog; if a newsletter will be sent both electronically and by snail mail; and if information from an interview will be used as a testimonial in a brochure or as the basis for a case studies or white paper.

3. What is your timeline and budget? Every project takes time to complete; I expect to be paid for my time and expertise. I usually charge by the project–after all these years I can closely estimate how long most writing projects will take–but I can also charge by the hour or by the word. As a professional freelance writer, my goal is to complete your marketing collateral ahead of time and under budget. But to do that, I first need to know your expectations.

4. Who is my contact? Any writing project that will be reviewed by a committee takes far longer and is much more difficult to complete than a project that goes through one central client contact. Multiple reviewers tend to fight with each other, which makes it much harder for me to come up with a final product that everyone likes.

5. Will you be straightforward with me? Clients who tell me when something is wrong give me the chance to fix it; clients who are too polite to criticize make my job harder. The best client criticism is detailed and given in that collaborative spirit I spoke about earlier. As a professional writer, I welcome criticism because I like making clients happy.

If you are not sure about your own answers to any of those questions, give me a call or email me so that we can discuss your project further. A few minutes of conversation should start our collaboration on the right foot.

 

How to Work with a Professional Writer

You are thinking of hiring a professional writer to handle your marketing collateral or technical documentation? Congratulations! Here are four tips on working with a professional writer:

1. Writers need to start somewhere to develop content, whether by interviewing you for information or by reading all the previous material written about the project or by researching your competitors. Nothing great is ever written from complete ignorance. The writer needs access to information or to those who have information.

2. Research takes time; writing takes time. If you hire a freelancer, you are hiring someone with multiple clients who compete for time. Deadlines should account for research, writing, proofreading, revision, and production. Writers aren’t born with a magic wand and the ability to bend time. When you set a deadline, keep reality in mind.

3. The right words may not be the exact words you would use. Listen to the professional writer. What seems perfectly clear to you, with your inside and specialized knowledge, may confuse a potential customer. Your priorities (“let’s list every product we ever manufactured”) may conflict with your audience’s priorities (“send help!”). Your writer’s goal is to make sure your message is being delivered clearly, concisely and passionately to your audience.

4. Every liberal arts major is not a writer. I once worked in a technical company that assigned me an assistant who majored in drama–it’s all liberal arts, they said. The assistant hated writing. In fact, some English majors hate writing. A portfolio will tell you more than a degree in a specific subject. Make sure the writer’s style and experience fit your writing needs. If you are using a freelance writer, make sure the writer is dedicated to freelancing and not simply waiting until a full-time job comes along. You want someone who will finish your current project and be up to speed for future projects.

If  you keep in mind that professional writers need information, time, respect, and a passion for writing, you will develop an excellent relationship with the professional writer you hire.