“We wrote our first blog post before we wrote our first line of code.”
- Jon Miller, founder, Marketo

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Tag: freelance

How this editor weighs up freelance enquiries

Photo by amtec_photos on Photopin

What happens when we get approached by a freelance writer?

First, the set-up: I usually get an email direct to me (because we post my address on our website and say we’re open to enquiries), and that usually contains a brief note and CV/resumé. Within that, I usually see career history, links to work samples, and social media accounts.

So here’s what I do:

  1. If the freelancer’s Twitter handle is offered, I usually cut and paste that into Tweetdeck. The picture is telling (selection, more than quality, says a lot about the type of person). But more important, I see what they’ve been tweeting about and who they follow. Some people are professional all the way – only interested in topics that they cover as a writer; other people are up for jokes, politics, you name it. I don’t mind the latter – I’d be a hypocrite to not be OK with people who are broad in how they use a social channel – and it gives me an insight into who someone really is.
  2. I usually then look at career history. This can be both within the CV/resumé or on LinkedIn. I like the latter as it’s usually easier to click through to pages of past employers. I’m looking for publications or brands that I know, and links to other people this freelancer might have worked with. It also gives me a good idea of subject matter expertise. And I like to know how long someone has been freelancing, as well as any other roles they have outside of content or do in parallel to their main gig(s).
  3. Also, don’t think we’re not interested in things like their listed softer skills, languages, qualifications or awards. All could be useful when we work out who’s best for certain projects.
  4. Lastly, I look at examples of work. Why isn’t that a priority, if that’s what we’re going to ask someone to do? As we’ve blogged about before, work samples and portfolios are useful for showing output and areas of expertise, but they’re no guarantee of someone’s ability. Content is a team sport, and any good writer has benefitted from a good editor, a good sub/copy editor, probably a good designer and so on. I’ve been known to contact these people (if I can work out who they are) to ask their opinion on someone we’re interviewing.

I’m not the first to write about this, but possibly the hardest thing to know about hiring someone is just what they’re like as a person. Values, approaches to work and complementing (though not being the same as) the existing team are at least as important as the things that recruiters and HR departments typically screen for.

For a freelancer, the risk is slightly less. But I can’t think of a project or piece of content where we have any leeway for someone to be a bad fit. Everything is important.

And you never know for sure what someone is like until that first day, and until v1.0 of that first assignment.

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6 tips for writers pitching editors and agencies

Cash for words. That’s the brutal equation of much professional writing. But if you’re a freelancer or moonlighting (hey, it happens) pro writer, how do you start a relationship with someone new who will pay you?

As an agency, Collective Content relies not just on our in-house team of writers and editors but on experts who work with us on specific client accounts, projects or even just one-off articles. So every week we see a lot of good and bad approaches.

The following is advice for those who are just starting to talk to people like us (‘pitching’ maybe isn’t the best word). But this also applies to writers seeking work from publications and the editors who make those decisions. (We were once those kinds of editors, so know the similarities.)

  1. Be super responsive – So many conversations just dry up at some point for no obvious reason. Remember the “80 per cent of success is just showing up” line? (Actually, it was originally “80 per cent of life…” – good writers also check their facts 🙂.) Sure, sometimes this is a busy editor’s fault. Take the initiative if you think the interaction is dying.
  2. Be authentic – Be yourself. If you’re working through an agency – or even agencies – but meeting clients or on calls with them, don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. Check with your agency on how you’ll introduce yourself. “I’m your writer on this project. I regularly work with Collective Content.” That’ll work. Remember, it’s easy for anyone to Google you and find out about you. And we’re big believers in being open about everyone involved (what we’ve termed ‘farm-fresh content’).
  3. Show, don’t tell (mostly) – When you’re trying to persuade an editor that you’re right for an assignment, examples of work are better than qualifications or employment history or nice endorsements on LinkedIn. But there’s a big ‘but’ with that. All good editors know that content is a team sport. A great article in your portfolio might have been down to three, four – even more – people being involved. Share the process, and your role within it. Be generous about others who helped. Show you know that this is How It Works.
  4. Be available – We work with people across multiple time zones. Be generous about making meeting times with clients. Most, in our experience, will be flexible if at all possible. But the occasional late or early call will earn credibility. Most companies are now also used to working with people all around the world. Compromise on both sides is key.
  5. Don’t be “free in three months” – We know a few really amazing writers who have done what they do for a quarter of a century. They are ex-media or from the highest rung of an agency’s creative team. They get to take four holidays a year and set their own terms. Most of us aren’t in this group. When we hear someone say, “I’d like to work with you too, but I’m next free in three months”, we hear you passing on the gig. We’re not saying over-commit and end up unable to fulfil. But sometimes fitting in an important job will cement your reputation, much like making that 5:30AM conference call.
  6. Know and tout your niche – Most agencies and publications have very specific beats or industry sectors that they cover. Know what you do well. Position yourself as an expert. Counterintuitively, the more niche, the better – as long as it’s in an area with demand. Be the go-to contributor for subject X. You will be remembered and called upon more than the generalists.

Perhaps more than anything, relationships are everything. You are your network. And doing this well takes time. Good luck out there.

Follow us on Twitter – @ColContent

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11 best content marketing links (Q2 16)

  1. What is the difference between content and content marketing? Answer: It’s all in the destination…
  1. 11A time when PR and content marketing work together… Our annual research looks at how brand journalists and PRs will interact – if at all. The results may surprise you.
  1. Six ways high-performing CMOs outpace their competitors The CMO usually gets a mention in our quarterly round-ups. Makes sense. Many drive content marketing throughout their organisations. Others are less gung-ho. Not this lot.
  1. Who said long form was dead? Hey, certainly not us. We’ve long talked about the advantages of long form content, when done well. Note: when done well.
  1. Content marketing outsourcing: The agency vs freelancer question This is close to our heart, as seen by how often we talk about in-house or agency. We’re glad to see Jeff give another honest look at the pros and cons of each outsourced approach here.
  1. Will brands fund the next ‘Spotlight’? Our own Tony Hallett was quoted in this piece from the Content Strategist. The prognosis for brand pubs getting pally with Pulitzers…? Don’t hold your breath. But quality work will become more common.
  1. To combat image issues, Walmart bets big on its own newsroom We love a good case study. This one from Digiday shows brand newsrooms – even if not for every brand – are very much on the up, in this case for Walmart.
  1. 7 tips to write the most effective calls to action OK, time for some down and dirty tips, a couple from lesser-known sources. To start, how do you get the humble CTA right?
  1. Buyer personas you want to use: The 9 essential parts Buyer personas are an important part of planning your content. Here’s the breakdown.
  1. The most popular day for B2B webinars and other best practices And 3 of 3, what’s the secret to good B2B webinars?
  1. Why content marketing needs ghostwriters Another subject that is controversial but important to us. Ghostwriting gets a bad rap from some, in this age of authenticity, but content marketing needs it.

OK, enough for now. We hope you enjoy this round-up. These are some of the links that have left the biggest impression on us recently. Why 11?  It’s the best times table. Until next time.

*photo credit: 11 via photopin (license)

Follow us on Twitter – @ColContent

Download our exclusive research and report ‘PR’s acceptance of brand content uneven’.

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Contact us

Contact us to find out how we can help you:

Email:  tony.hallett@collectivecontent.co.uk

Twitter:  @ColContent

Facebook: facebook.com/CollectiveContent

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/collective-content

Phone:  0800 292 2826