Building a Freelance Writing Team

Setting Clear Expectations

Spending time upfront to clarify exactly what you're hoping to receive from your freelance writers does wonders for your content strategy. When you set clear expectations from the get-go, you:

  1. Get Writers Up to Speed Quicker
    Providing writers with detailed guidelines ensures they grasp your style, tone, and objectives almost immediately.
  2. Eliminate Misunderstandings
    Clearly outlining your expectations from the start reduces the chances of frustrating misunderstandings that can lead to subpar content or numerous revisions.
  3. Ensure Correct Style and Tone by Client
    Make sure every writer understands the distinctions in voice required by different clients to maintain brand consistency and satisfaction.
  4. Weed Out the Wrong Writers Efficiently
    Setting precise expectations allows you to quickly identify which writers align with your vision, saving time by moving on to better matches without prolonged trials.
  5. Save Time on Edits and Revisions
    Clear guidelines mean fewer revisions, saving both you and your writers from endless rounds of edits.

Create an Internal Style Guide

A simple checklist can work wonders:

  • Blog Goals: What's in it for the reader? What's in it for you?
  • Company Overview: What do you do? Who's your target audience?
  • Writing Style: Is it 1st or 3rd person? Define your tone.
  • Formatting: Preferences for date/time, acronyms, and location formatting.
  • Personas: Writer and customer personas help writers connect with the audience.
  • Favorite Example Pieces: Provide links to content that matches your ideal style.
  • Other Notes: Any additional information critical to your brand.

Tools for Success

Setting your writers up for success is crucial:

  • Reasonable Deadlines: Give freelancers enough notice to deliver quality work while juggling multiple clients.
  • Prompt Payment: Ensure writers are paid timely, adjusting payments if the workload increases.
  • Assignment Briefs: Provide clear, concise briefs with titles, word counts, links, keywords, and any specific subheadings.

Fostering Communication in Your Team

Consistent communication is key:

  • Check-Ins: Touch base regularly with positive feedback to boost morale and performance.
  • Updates: Inform writers of any pauses or changes in your schedule to help them manage their workloads.
  • Accessibility: Make sure there's an open line for questions and feedback through email, apps, or software.

Establishing a clear line of communication reduces misunderstandings, enhances content quality, and fosters a collaborative atmosphere where writers feel valued and understood.

Using Technology for Effective Communication

Utilizing various online platforms, software, and tools effectively manages a team of writers working remotely. The right tools streamline operations and ensure consistency and quality in output.

Slack is an excellent platform for instant communication. Its channels allow focused discussions, file sharing, and organized conversations. A dedicated Slack channel for your writing team provides a virtual office space for quick questions, feedback, and project updates.

Zoom offers the next best thing to face-to-face communication. Regular video conferencing builds rapport, clarifies complex topics, and allows for dynamic brainstorming. Weekly or bi-weekly Zoom meetings ensure everyone is on the same page and maintains unity and purpose.

Grammarly is indispensable for maintaining content quality. It helps writers produce clear, mistake-free writing, ensuring a professional standard across all content. It's particularly useful for catching grammatical errors, suggesting style improvements, and ensuring tone alignment with guidelines.

Emails remain a fundamental tool for formal or detailed exchanges, providing a record of discussions and decisions. Make it a habit to follow up significant conversations with a summary email to ensure understanding of agreed points and next steps.

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Project management software like Asana or Trello can be game-changers in organizing and tracking progress. These platforms allow task assignment, deadline setting, and project status monitoring. In Asana, you can create projects for each client or campaign, break them into tasks, and assign these to specific writers for transparency and streamlined workflows.

Key Points for Effective Technology Use:

  • Centralized Communication: Use Slack for instant updates and daily communications. Create client or project-specific channels for better organization.
  • Regular Video Check-ins: Utilize Zoom for regular team meetings and one-on-ones when detailed discussions are needed to maintain personal connection and clarity.
  • Quality Assurance: Implement Grammarly for all writers to maintain consistency in professional writing standards, integrating it into your workflow to catch errors early.
  • Task Management: Use Asana or Trello to visually organize tasks and projects. Assign tasks with clear deadlines and track completion to avoid bottlenecks.

Thoughtful integration of these technologies creates an efficient, connected, and high-performing freelance writing team, facilitating smooth communication, maintaining content quality and consistency, and ensuring alignment with strategic objectives.

A freelance writer effectively communicating with their team using various online platforms and tools, such as Slack, Zoom, Grammarly, and Asana.

Photo by hostreviews on Unsplash

Creating a Writers' Operations Playbook

A writers' operations playbook consolidates everything your freelance writers need to understand about your business processes, tools, and payment systems. This handy resource becomes their go-to guide during onboarding, ensuring swift adaptation to your specific requirements and workflows. A well-structured playbook saves considerable time and effort, aligning all freelancers with your business expectations from day one, leading to fewer misunderstandings and more streamlined operations.

Your playbook should start with a detailed introduction to your business, encompassing your company's mission, vision, target audience, and core values. When freelancers understand the bigger picture, they find it easier to produce content that resonates with your brand identity. Detailed insights into your audience's demographics, pain points, and interests will help writers tailor their content more effectively.

Next, outline your standard operating procedures (SOPs), including the writing process from brainstorming to publishing. Specify how assignments are received, formatting or stylistic guidelines, and your preferred content review and approval process. Incorporate SOPs for handling revisions, as clear policies here can prevent confusion and streamline edits.

Include thorough sections on the tools and platforms your team uses. For example:

  • Grammarly: Explain its importance in maintaining quality and consistency.
  • Slack and Zoom: Detail how and when these communication tools should be used.
  • Project Management Software: Provide guidelines on using task management software like Asana or Trello, including how to read task boards, report task progress, and adhere to deadlines.

A crucial aspect is the payment and invoicing procedures. Clearly outline the payment structure, frequency, and method. Include details such as invoice submission guidelines, payment schedules, preferred payment methods, and handling payment disputes or delays.

Make sure your playbook also includes communication guidelines, outlining expectations for response times, preferred channels, and handling urgent matters. Specify your availability and how freelancers should communicate updates or issues.

Lastly, incorporate a feedback loop to encourage freelancers to share their experiences and suggest improvements based on their workflows. This not only helps refine the playbook but also fosters collaboration and mutual respect.

A comprehensive writers' operations playbook sets a strong foundation for a productive and cohesive freelance writing team, ensuring that all freelancers are on the same page, delivering consistent and high-quality content that aligns with your brand's goals.

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Effective Hiring and Onboarding

Adopting a hiring funnel reduces the risk of hiring unsuitable candidates. The process involves initial selection through small test pieces, followed by short online courses and video call interviews. This method helps to evaluate the writer's skills and compatibility with your business requirements early, minimizing headaches down the road.

Initial Selection Process

The first step is to screen potential writers with a small test piece that mimics your regular workload, such as a brief blog post, social media update, or product description. Evaluate their submissions not just for quality, but also for their ability to follow directions, such as adhering to word count while maintaining substance. Assess if they can stay on topic and deliver insightful, original content without superfluous fluff.

Online Courses and Skill Verification

Once a writer passes the initial test, proceed with a brief online course tailored to your business's unique style and requirements. This course, which need not be more than a few hours, should cover essential aspects of your writing expectations, including SEO strategies, brand voice, and any technical tools you use. Following the course, have the writers take a short quiz or complete another small task to assess their understanding, ensuring they're equipped with the foundational knowledge necessary to succeed in their role.

Video Call Interviews

The final step should be a video call interview to assess a candidate's communication skills and ensure they'll be a good cultural fit. Discuss their test assignments and any feedback you provided to reveal their approach to constructive criticism and willingness to adapt and learn. Use this time to go over your standard operating procedures, payment processes, and working schedule, clarifying any expectations and answering any questions they might have for transparency and aligned expectations from the start.

Benefits of a Structured Onboarding Process

By the time a writer reaches the final stage of your hiring funnel, you'll have a comprehensive understanding of their skills, adaptability, and fit for your team. This structured approach minimizes the chances of hiring writers who may not meet your standards or fit into your working style, thus reducing turnover and maximizing efficiency.

Effective hiring and onboarding set the foundation for a successful freelance writing team, ensuring that you invest your time and resources in candidates who are most likely to thrive within your organization, streamlining your content creation process and upholding quality standards.

A new freelance writer being welcomed and onboarded by their team lead, looking excited and ready to contribute their skills.

Managing Freelance Writers for Quality Outcomes

Begin by setting clear, measurable, and achievable goals that align with your overall content strategy. Communicate these goals effectively to your team to ensure they understand what is expected.

Trust in your writers' talent and expertise, allowing them to deliver high-quality work punctually. Instead of micromanaging, emphasize the results they produce. This approach fosters autonomy and ownership, making them more invested in delivering superior outcomes.

Establish straightforward performance metrics, such as:

  • Number of articles written per month
  • Engagement levels
  • Adherence to deadlines

Clear metrics provide a tangible way to gauge success and identify areas for improvement.

Empower your writers to approach assignments with their unique strategies. Encouraging them to utilize their own methods enhances the quality of the output and boosts their confidence and job satisfaction.

Regular check-ins should focus on outcomes, not processes. Review completed assignments, discuss what worked well, what could be improved, and how well objectives were met.

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Provide specific and actionable feedback, recognizing what was done well and offering clear examples for improvement. This feedback loop builds trust and shows that you value their contributions and growth.

Encourage open communication, allowing writers to raise concerns or ask for clarification when needed. Transparency helps build a collaborative environment where issues can be addressed promptly.

Celebrate successes and recognize the hard work and creativity your writers bring to the table. Showing appreciation maintains motivation and enthusiasm.

Focus on goal-setting, trust, individuality in workflow, constructive feedback, open communication, and celebrating achievements to effectively manage freelance writers for quality outcomes. This approach leads to superior content and a more engaging and productive working relationship.

Fostering Good Relationships with Freelancers

Building a strong relationship with freelance writers involves clear communication, fair pay, and respect for their time. Set the tone from the outset by outlining your preferences, style guidelines, and project expectations clearly. Make instructions straightforward, concise, and detailed enough to remove ambiguity.

Schedule brief, consistent meetings to discuss progress, address concerns, and provide updates on any changes or new projects. This keeps everyone aligned and allows you to catch and solve any issues early on.

Offer competitive and timely compensation to attract and retain talented writers. Consider the level of expertise required, the complexity of the projects, and industry standards when setting rates. Promptly pay invoices to build trust and showcase your professionalism.

Provide reasonable deadlines that allow writers to deliver quality work without undue stress. Respect their schedules and give advance notice for upcoming work to help them manage their workload effectively. Be available to address questions and provide necessary resources.

Offer clear, specific, and constructive feedback aimed at helping the writer grow professionally.

  • Highlight what they did well
  • Offer guidance on areas that could use improvement

Positive feedback reassures them that their efforts are appreciated and motivates them to maintain or amplify their performance.

Acknowledge milestones, meeting deadlines, and delivering exceptional work to build a conducive working environment. A thank-you note or formal acknowledgment in team meetings reinforces their value and fosters a sense of inclusion and loyalty.

Share insights about your target audience, client preferences, and crucial content goals to help freelancers understand your clients' needs and expectations. Regular updates on shifts in client strategy or new project requirements ensure everyone is on the same page.

Establish preferred channels of communication and encourage an environment where freelancers feel comfortable reaching out with questions, concerns, or suggestions. Quick and clear responses to queries support a balanced work environment and show that you value their input.

By fostering relationships through clear communication, fair pay, respect for time, regular feedback, acknowledgment, and open communication, you create a mutually beneficial working environment that enhances collaboration and ensures a steady stream of high-quality content aligned with your brand's vision and objectives.1,2

Investing time upfront to set clear expectations fosters a cohesive and high-performing freelance writing team. This approach ensures alignment with your content strategy and vision, leading to consistently high-quality output.