How to spot a talented freelance writer (without experience)?

bernard

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For my new site in the kitchen niche, I wanted to go outside my agencies and find a passionate foodie type, who could write articles, that convey enthusiasm and knowledge. I'd help them learn to write reviews and such as well.

I have made an advert at a freelance site and got a lot of replies, however I'm not sure, how to judge the potential of each applicant.

I'm personally a rather wordy and stringent type, who will write applications, with a clear structure. It seems a lot of people aren't though! Many write only a few sentences. It would be easy to discount them as lazy and unprofessional, and I definitely would in most cases, but when I'm looking for passionate people, maybe you have to understand those kind of people, will not always be as structured?

Anyway, to solve this conondrum, I plan on:

1. Making a shortlist
2. Asking for references
3. Make a new shortlist
4. Give a paid test article based on examples
5. Try out 2-3 and see how they respond to deadlines and request for changes
 
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Speaking as a freelancer, I tend to respond with a short first response initially to qualify the client. A big part of freelancing is learning who not to work with. Many freelancers don't write an essay for the first response as it typically ends up being a bit of a waste of time, as most people looking to hire are only hiring because some "guru" told them to outsource everything to achieve freedom. If I were you, I wouldn't look at the length of the response, but the quality of the response. Meaning, grammer, manners/politeness, etc. Of course, if the second and third responses are short and lackluster, chances are the freelancer is actually not a good choice.
 

bernard

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What about those who want me to call them? I find it a little weird that writers wouldn't communicate in written words, but prefer to talk on the phone. On the other hand, it also shows you're serious.
 
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Why don't you ask them to include a paragraph about the best labour-saving kitchen device they have ever used with their application? Real writers wouldn't object to that as it is too short to be 'free content' that they are giving away. Anyone who can't write or who doesn't fulfil the instructions is an automatic cross off the list. And at worst it might give you some ideas?
 
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1. Making a shortlist
2. Asking for references
3. Make a new shortlist
4. Give a paid test article based on examples
5. Try out 2-3 and see how they respond to deadlines and request for changes
Some stuff I do:

  • Ask them to share their personal website and/or blog. This can not only give you some clues about how good their writing is, but also if they have an eye for detail or not, how organized they are, etc.
  • Set up a video call before handing out a paid test article. See how they behave, how they show up, what their personality is like. I've always found that great writers are great communicators. Also, writers tend to be a bit more loyal when they know the face behind the name.
 
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I struggled a lot with this in Dec / Jan and was paying for every test article. I have since spoken with another marketer about his system of hiring from Upwork - he said it's impossible to pay for every test article, and I agree with him.

Here's the rough process I'll use next time I need someone:
  1. Judge the initial application by quality, not by length (grammar, phrases, level of English used, etc.). Filter out ruthlessly.
  2. Check their past work / samples.
  3. If all's good, give them a test article. Make it clear that you will only pay for the test article if it's (1) written according to your editorial guidelines, and (2) the writer's willing to go through 1-3 correction rounds based on your feedback. If those conditions are not fulfilled, you don't pay for the article.
  4. Run the test articles, give corrections, evaluate communications skills & how they follow your instructions.
Have your templates & detailed editorial guidelines ready for them. Adjust as necessary.
 
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What about those who want me to call them? I find it a little weird that writers wouldn't communicate in written words, but prefer to talk on the phone. On the other hand, it also shows you're serious.
Again, they probably want to qualify you as a client. A lot of people hiring freelancers are full of it, so being able to speak with someone helps with the filtering process on the part of the freelancer. If you’re on a platform, keep in mind that there is most likely a ratings system, meaning smart freelancers will do everything in their power to not get a negative review. Many negative reviews come from projects that were described as one thing, but turned out to be completely different because the client decided they didn’t like this color, or how this was written, etc.
 

eliquid

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If it were me,

1. I'd ask everyone to write a very short brief sample. Make sure you focus on the short and brief sample part. Ask for it to be done for free.

2. The ones that object to writing for free OR those that ignore you, short list them.

3. Circle back to these people later and offer them payment for the sample. This was your main goal all along. No more than 1 or 2 days after they ignore or object you.

4. Out of the free samples, see who seems the best for you. Out of your paid samples, do the same.

5. More than likely someone out of your paid samples will be the talented choice. Talented people know they are talented and most likely will not waste their time with free samples. This is why you filter them with the free sample request and then circle back and offer them payment.
 
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Are awesome book for hiring I recommend to anyone with employees is "Who: The A Method for Hiring" by Geoff Smart and Randy Street.

Hands down the best book I've read on finding and hiring talent. It's incredibly actionable and takes the guesswork out of hiring.