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Business Writing Articles: Questions for Building a Business Plan

How to Work Effectively with a Freelance Writer

If you are already working with a freelance writer you know the value of doing
so. This article addresses questions frequently asked when an individual or organization is contemplating the use of a freelance writer.

What is a freelance writer?

A freelance, or independent, writer, is self-employed and increasingly prevalent. Outsourcing and cutbacks have reduced the number of
positions in-house. At the same time, more and more people are choosing to
work independently, for the pleasure of flexible time and the joy of being their
own boss. As a result, increasing numbers of writers with valuable talents are

What are the benefits of working with a freelance writer?

The benefits are many and varied! Consider the following:

Why should I invest in a freelance writer?

Based on many conversations with people like you in health care, I’ve learned
that, as a not for profit service, you probably have a tight budget. You want to
protect your financial resources and make sure that they go as far as possible
toward serving your clients. At the same time, you face the steady challenge of
raising funds from the community and getting your message out to donors and
supporters in the most persuasive manner

You may wonder about the value of paying someone else to do your writing for
you. Perhaps you and your staff have been writing articles and newspaper
columns in between your other tasks. Perhaps you love to write and don’t want
to give it up! Even so, most people in your situation do have to weigh the time
that writing takes against the other demands you face. A freelance writer as an
informal addition to your staff could be the ideal solution.

A good freelance writer can also help strengthen your message and your appeal
to supporters. An effectively worded article or donor letter can pay for the
writer’s fee in a very short time. When you and the writer build a relationship,
they can also help you create a “brand” with a consistent message and style.
In short, a freelance writer is a wise investment in your agency’s financial
health and community relations.

Over the long term, you will grow comfortable working with someone who
knows your communications needs and how to meet them. Even large
healthcare institutions, which often use freelance writers, recognize the
importance of fit, and personal chemistry, in choosing a writer. When you hire
a good freelancer, you’re not just hiring a wordsmith, but a consultant and
advisor. A good writer will do more for you than just write. For example, in
working with my own clients I focus on understanding their needs and building
relationships with them. I help them fine tune their communications strategy
for the months ahead. I also make it a point to keep in touch on a regular
basis, read widely in their field, and attend relevant meetings and conferences.

How do I know if I can afford a freelance writer?

When people think about hiring an independent writer they often anticipate
that the cost will be higher than it actually is. Freelance rates vary with
experience, credentials, and location. So, for example, you might expect to pay
in the range of about $300-$500 for a medium length healthcare newsletter
article. If fees are a concern, it may help to weigh the costs against the benefits.
Estimate the time and effort it would take you or your staff to do the work
yourself, along with the work that only you can do. Ask yourself about the
benefits of actually being able to produce that newsletter and reach the
community, referring physicians, and donors.

Freelancers writers are very flexible. If you are wondering about taking a first
step, try assigning a single, short article, maybe 300 words. Build your
confidence in this way, see what happens, and how you like working with the

How can I find a good freelance writer?

Word of mouth is an excellent way to locate a reliable writer, so call a colleague
in your field. There is really no substitute for the personal referral. There are
also associations of independent writers where you can post your assignment,
such as the Editorial Freelancers Association (www.the-efa.org). A variety of
agencies, such as nSight (www.nsightworks.com), place writers, although
charges will include a fee or markup.

How do I know I can rely on this writer?

Most writers now have a website where you can view samples of their work.
Websites often contain testimonials or recommendations written by satisfied
customers. You will want to look at the writer’s experience. For example, if you
run a health care agency, you’ll want someone with a background in health
care. You want to be sure your writer understands your goals and the culture
in which you work: caring, not for profit, and community-oriented.

Is there a Complimentary Consultation?

Some writers, such as myself, offer a complimentary consultation. This can be
conducted by phone or in person. During the consultation we will review your
communications needs and goals and talk about how I can help you meet them.
We can also do some planning and strategizing for the months ahead. This is a
risk-free opportunity to experience what it would be like for us to work together.

How can I make the project run smoothly?

As with most projects, the more advance planning you do the better off you are.
I encourage my clients to think carefully about the assignment before we meet.
I work with them to define their audience and determine the purpose of the
piece, its length, and its content.

Be sure you are clear about what you expect from the writer. Make sure that
your writer’s estimate reflects an understanding of the work involved. Set a
deadline for the writer which allows enough time for you to review the piece
before your own press deadline.

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