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

Blogging is important for every business. So we don’t just offer ghostwriting services for others. We blog for ourselves. Why? To discuss big issues such as content strategy, commissioning and ROI, as well as tactics for effective copy creation or editing, not to mention news about Collective Content.

Remember, over a third of marketers say blogs are the most valuable content type. Let us know what you’d like to read about here.

Tag: freelancer

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.

Follow us on Twitter – @ColContent

Read Further

Agency or freelancer(s)?

Here’s something we need to make clear straightaway – Collective Content isn’t anti-freelance. The bulk of our writers are freelancers. Using freelances can in certain circumstances absolutely be the right route for organisations creating content. But this post is about the pros and cons of working with an individual or small number of one-man bands directly as opposed to an agency.

In terms of successful content marketing – note, not all marketing – we wrote recently about whether it is best to run things in-house or use an agency. To the surprise of some, all things being equal, we say opt for in-house. Go for it.

BalanceWith content, it is especially important to be authentic to your organisation and tell stories as easily as possible. Even the best content marketing agencies can be worse than a well set up and funded internal team.

So when they need extra capacity or specialist skills or knowledge, those in-house teams, like lone marketers running content marketing programmes, can just reach out for a freelancer, right? After all it’s never been easier with services like Contently offering an eBay-like market full of suppliers.

As well as the choice, there’s the cost equation. Rates for even decently paid freelancers are perhaps a third of what a good content marketing agency will charge.

So far, so no-brainer. Only here’s the other side of the coin.

When you work with a lone writer – or designer or video producer – your own content skills need to be solid. You will be that person’s editor. Working with freelancers means you will need the time, ability and appetite to guide them and steer their work. You also need to know your Oxford commas and other details, which might sound a bit low level but detail is critical in media-grade content … and who else will do it? You will be their safety net.

With an agency, you should be looking for at least three levels of quality control. That should include the writer, an editor and a sub-editor (also known as a copy editor, who checks for spelling, grammar, style and so on). These people should be named, so you can check credentials and there’s no wondering who’s doing the work.

A decent agency should also be well versed in areas such as libel law and other legal or ethical considerations. That’s why we prefer people with a background in the media, people who know how that works and can protect clients.

One area of ethics which we come up against weekly is the issue of writers who are still working journalists while also taking on work that is funded by a company. How does that work?

In such a situation, there can’t be an ethical clash or a conflict of interest. They must have the ability to write in a way that stands comparison with the quality they deliver for their commissions elsewhere.

Lastly, we’d say an agency should mean no BS. If someone is sick, the agency can plug in someone else. If lots of jobs come in at the same time, the agency has the ability to scale and not make you wait.

So, yes, you pay more. What we’re saying, though, is that for that you get more.

An agency should be providing a greater mix of skills. In our case that means not just writing and editing but digital sure-footedness going back 17 years, along with capabilities in video production, events, design and illustration (including infographics). Maybe your agency can also help with related areas such as social media, SEO, PPC or advising on the best routes for distribution, including the best media agencies that will place your content as well as your ads (though most clients will have that side of the equation established).

Even having said all that, we understand that an individual freelancer can be the right choice and that freelancers can be lifesavers for those with limited budgets. But a dedicated content marketing agency should always offer more in terms of quality, range of skills and services, and flexibility such as scaling up and down.

*photo credit: F key via photopin (license)

Follow us on Twitter – @ColContent

Need a corporate blog but don’t have the time or editorial expertise? Try Speech-to-blog, a corporate blogging service from Collective Content.

Read Further

How do you know if someone is a good writer?

How do you know if a writer is any good? I get asked this a lot and often it’s not a simple answer.

Of course it’s a vitally important question – Skyword CEO Tom Gerace recently said smart marketers are shifting a lot of their annual $600bn spend on advertising towards creation and storytelling – but there are three scenarios that determine any answer:

Proofreaders Marks1. Sometimes I get asked for an opinion on a writer I have worked with. This is easy. If it’s a writer I know and have worked with – maybe alongside them or as their editor – I give my opinion and move on. The person wouldn’t have asked me if they didn’t trust me.

But this only covers a gene pool of, what, 100 writers? I wonder if I’m underestimating but for advice that is worth having, the sample size is probably only that big.

2. Sometimes I get asked about a writer I don’t know. This is hard for me. Clients are surprised when it’s hard for them. But, some of you might say, can’t you just review their work? Check out their published pieces? Look at a portfolio on their own website or somewhere like Contently? That’s what most people will do. But it’s not hugely useful.

Sure, it will generally tell you if someone specialises in fashion or pharma, whether they’ve interviewed certain high-profile people or attended major events. But it won’t actually say much about the quality of their work.

Why? Because most good content creation is a team effort. From an editor working on subject areas and commissioning, to the writer creating copy, to a sub-editor ensuring style, grammar and the elimination of mistakes, to a final editor – often the same one from the beginning – approving the result, there are many links in the chain. There can be more – this is about as streamlined as the process should be – and we haven’t even mentioned rounds of feedback with clients and the resulting edits.

So simply looking at the finished piece of work with a writer’s byline against it only tells you so much.

3. Finally, I get asked about one of our own writers. I like to think this one is simple because I know them all and can vouch for them (why else would we ask them to be a Collectivist?). But while there are elements of (1), namely a client trusts my steer, there are also elements of (2) in that any individual sits within a process employing at the very least three people. I can’t stress this enough: it’s a team effort.

So when a client or anyone else asks me about someone and says, “Can I see examples of their writing?” I tell them what I’ve said here today. Everyone who has worked in media and publishing should tell you the same thing.

*photo credit: The review part 4 via photopin (license)

Follow us on Twitter – @ColContent

Need a corporate blog but don’t have the time or editorial expertise? Try Speech-to-blog, a corporate blogging service from Collective Content.

Read Further

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