Updated: Jun 26, 2020
Set your freelance writer up for success by writing the perfect brief. Here’s how to do it in 4 simple steps.
If you’re a busy business owner who knows the value of online content marketing, you probably want to be creating more content than you have time to write yourself. That means it’s time to hire someone else to do it, leaving you with more time to focus on your own areas of genius (like running and growing your business), and hand over some of the time consuming content creation to a talented freelance writer.
However, commissioning a piece of content and briefing a freelance writer is about more than just sending them a couple of sentences about what you want, or a headline of a topic.
That’s a sure way to set yourself up for failure. Trust me – I’ve been a writer for many years, and most of the briefs I've received have been like that. It's really not ideal.
Why? Because a brief like that isn’t going to get you exactly what you want.
There’s too much wiggle room, which means your freelance writer could end up giving you something completely different to what you had imagined in your head. What should you do instead? Write a proper brief! Remove any ambiguity and create a clear, concise brief that will get exactly what you want from your freelance writer – resulting in less editing time, and more ‘bang’ for your buck.
How do you brief a freelance writer?
The answer is quite simple, and I’ll tell you exactly how to do it perfectly in just four steps:
Establish the purpose of the content
Choose your writer
Write a perfect brief (instructions included below)
Send the brief & follow up
Now, let’s cover these four steps in a little more depth.
Step 1: Establish the purpose of the content
Before you brief a writer, you need to be clear about why you’re creating the content in the first place. Where is it going to go, and who are you writing it for? Before you start writing the brief, ask yourself:
What is the goal of this piece?
Where will it appear?
Who is the target audience?
The article should be part of your overall content strategy and have a clear purpose, target audience, and success metrics to measure its effectiveness.
Otherwise, why are you wasting your time and money?
Once you’re clear about what you want to achieve with the content, where you’re going to publish it and who it’s for, then you have the knowledge required to be able to brief your writer properly.
Step 2: Choose your writer
With your content’s purpose in mind, you need to choose the right person for the job.
Does your topic require a subject matter expert who knows the topic inside-out, or will a general freelance writer do?
Do they need to have contacts in the industry who they can get in touch with for interviews and quotes, or will you provide contacts for this?
How much research will the topic require, and how much context do you need to provide so that the writer understands the topic enough to write about it? (Or where they can find reliable information).
Once you’ve found your freelance writer, the brief writing can begin.
Step 3: Write the brief
The brief needs to be as concise and clear as possible, while containing all the necessary information the writer needs in order to get the job done exactly how you want it.
Keep it ‘brief’, but don't assume the writer thinks the same way you do.
A writer’s brief should include:
The brief summary should be a few sentences of what the piece will be about. Is it a beginner’s guide to changing nappies in McDonald’s car parks, or a review of the latest iPhone camera?
The target audience
Clearly outline who the piece of content is for. Is it for new dads, dog lovers, or perhaps female entrepreneurs? Tell your writer who the intended audience is so they can tailor their writing style accordingly.
The goal of the piece
Tell your writer what you want the piece of content to achieve, and provide them with the call to action you want included. Do you want the reader to sign up to a newsletter, download a free eBook, or make a purchase?
What is the intended format for the piece? Tell your writer if you want it to be a guide, opinion piece, news article, case study, review, and so forth.
The tone of voice
What tone of voice do you want the content to be written in? Should it be playful or serious? Formal or laid back? Tell your writer so they can write in the tone of voice and style that suits the piece of content and fits your brand.
Also be sure to tell them what point of view you want it written in (first, second or third person: I/we – you – he/she/it/they) and send them your writing style and brand guidelines so their writing is on-brand and consistent with your other content.
The content medium
Where will this piece of content be published? Will it be hosted on your businesses blog, or will it be a guest blog for another website? Tell your writer where their work will be published so they can check out the website in advance and get familiar with the style.
If your piece of content is being created with SEO in mind (if you’re doing digital content creation right, it should be), then you need to include this information in your brief.
Make sure you outline the keywords you want the content to target, as well as your preference for headings, such as H1, H2 and H3 tags, if you have them.
To find out more about how to use SEO in content marketing, check out my beginner’s guide which covers what SEO is and how it works.
Expectations for research and quotes
Do you want the piece to be backed up with research, citations, or include quotes from industry experts? If so, make sure you clearly outline your expectations to your writer.
Do you expect your freelance writer to source imagery for the article, or will you source this yourself? Make sure you let them know if you also want them to provide imagery. A general rule of thumb is the writer will only provide the writing, unless asked otherwise.
Be very clear with how many words you expect for the piece of content. Do you want a short 500 word piece, or an in-depth 5,000 word article? Outline your expected word count and let your writer know whether it’s a rough range or a strict target.
This will also determine the price you pay for the piece and the amount of time it will take to write. For a decent writer, expect to pay a minimum of £0.10 per word.
Outline the deadline for the piece, and ensure this is realistic for the writer and the effort and time involved in writing the content.
Once the writer has received the brief they will be able to tell you whether or not they can meet your deadline.
Step 4: Follow up
Once your writer has received the brief and is happy to proceed, try following up with a phone call, video call, or meet for a coffee to answer any questions they may have and get to know them better if they're going to be doing a lot of work for you in future.
Your writer will appreciate the open and clear communication, and nurturing your relationship will inspire them to produce their highest quality work, turning them into a dependable long-term freelancer for your business.
Then, make sure you check their progress closer to the deadline to ensure they’re on track and the deadline will be met.
And there you have it - the perfect brief!
Once your writer has sent the copy back to you, you'll need to edit and proofread the copy before it's ready to publish.
Read my step-by-step guide for editing and proofreading writing like a professional.
I hope you found this short guide helpful. If you did, why not share it with someone else who may also find it useful? Sharing is caring, after all!
Do you have a question about finding and briefing a freelance writer? Leave it below or contact me.
Are you looking for a freelance writer?
I (Janelle from ContentQueen) have more than seven years’ experience in copywriting and editing.
As a SEO consultant and certified content marketer, I know how to write high-quality content that provides the best possible value and experience for its target audience, and also ranks highly in search engine results.
Working remotely from London, UK, I’m available to be hired on a freelance basis for all types of content writing. Get in touch and let's work together!