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Looking for a Freelance Writer?

Did you know that, last month (Feb, 2005) approximately 12,000 individuals typed the term “freelance writer” into one of the major search engines?

What were those people hoping to find when they type in those words? It’s hard to know for sure, but presumably, most of these searchers are people who need to have something written and are looking for help. But the term “freelance writer” is very broad. Are these seekers looking for copywriters, tech writers, pr writers, journalists? Do they want a writer to help polish a presentation or proposal. Are they marketing professionals who are short staffed and looking for help? Or could they be writing schools looking for students? Certainly we can assume that some of these searchers are not looking for a writer at all -- many probably are writers themselves thinking about joining the freelance fraternity and are looking for advice about how to make a living as a writer without punching a time clock. Hard to say but 12,000 clicks a month are worth a comment. 

Finding a Good Freelance Writer

It came as quite a surprise to me that so many people are looking for a “freelance writer,” because I know full well that freelance writing work is extremely difficult to find. It seems that good writing should be more in demand. Certainly the need is enormous –just look at all the bad writing on so many corporate brochures and websites.  Why wouldn’t companies want to spend a few pennies to tighten up their communications and say what they mean? There are many possible explanations but one is that companies just don’t feel comfortable having a freelance writer poking around.

Listen to how the Merriam Webster dictionary defines “freelance”

Main Entry:  free·lance
Pronunciation:  'frE-"lan(t)s
Function:  noun

1 A. A mercenary soldier especially of the Middle Ages. b. A person who acts independently without being affiliated with or authorized by an organization.

2: a person who pursues a profession without a long-term commitment to any one employer

Would you trust a “mercenary” or a person “without a long-term commitment” to craft your corporate messages? Not likely.

If you were trained as an accountant, corporate finance specialist, computer programmer or whatever – and you wanted to sell your services directly instead of looking for a job, you would probably be called “a consultant. But when you are a trained writer trying to do the same thing you are branded as “freelance.”

Picking the best writer for the job

Another huge misconception about hiring a freelance writer is that you should hire somebody with exactly the experience you need. Certainly if you need a white paper on VOIP technology, you want to make sure you pick a writer who understands what that is and where it fits into the world. But you really don’t need a writer with an electrical engineering degree who has been writing about this technology for 3 years. In fact, I would argue that it is usually best to hire a writer who actually has to learn about your product and service. I find that writers who can remember how they learned about a topic are best able to inform others with their words.

The goal of the marketing writer is to sell your product –not to describe it perfectly. The writer’s craft is to understand what the product does and to explain persuasively how this is important. Ironically, it is the outside writer—the freelance writer—who is usually much better able to do this than staff writer who know the product in massive detail.

In the end, it isn’t product knowledge that sells your product – although product knowledge is important. What sells your product is a powerful selling proposition that catches the prospect’s attention and strongly meets a need, either emotional or physical. Ironically, it is the freelance writer – the outsider who starts out knowing little about your business—who is more likely come up with the words to sell your product or service – not because he knows that much about the product—but because his job is to know what your customers want to hear.

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