Seeking an Editor: Freelance or a Content Marketing Agency?

Seeking an Editor: Freelance or a Content Marketing Agency?

By Anita Lovett

But what does this mean for you and your business? Simply put, you need to invest in the creation and implementation of awesome copy—the kind that borders on perfection and appeases the all-powerful Google gods. You may instinctively turn to a copywriting or content marketing agency to fill your needs, but is this your best and only option?

Let’s get one thing straight: agencies offer viable and equivalent services when compared to smaller service providers and individual freelance writers and editors. I will never downplay any of these options because I’ve worked for large agencies, small service providers and solo. There are advantages and disadvantages to each type of service provider. The trick is choosing the provider best suited to your needs.

Unfortunately, when it comes to choosing a freelance writer or editor the water can seem more than a little swampy. Let’s face it: there are some pretty insane horror stories out there from folks who have worked with so-called “quality freelancers” and ended up right back at the big agencies or small incorporated service providers. Likewise, freelancers have worked with some nightmarish customers who clouded their reputations with no grounds. Which side of the horror stories do you believe? And with all the controversy and scary campfire stories, how do you choose a freelance writer or editor? Should you?

6 Reasons to Choose a Freelance Writer or Editor

Truth: not every freelancer who claims to rock, rocks. But isn’t it also true that not every business claiming to deliver satisfaction succeeds?

Freelance entities are just like brick and mortar businesses; some exceed expectations while others fall short. The trick is learning how to spot a good—even golden—egg.

Since the invention of the Internet and the boom of telecommute positions, “writers” have poured out of the woodwork like termites. Every Tom, Dick and Henrietta with a copy of Microsoft Word and a working Internet connection claims to be a seasoned writer, fully capable of crafting SEO content and superb copy. Tom and Henrietta do it for pennies on the dollar while Dick seems determined to sock it to you with a pretentiously high rate. Here’s the rub: all three lack true experience, qualifications and skill because they’ve jumped on board to turn a quick profit for some outstanding bills, not to further a career. If you, the potential client, don’t do your research you’ll never know their lack of quality until it’s too late.

Tom, Dick and Henrietta are the sorts who frustrate the living daylights out of hardworking freelancers—the professionals who have been here since BEFORE the boom. Bad freelancers create a bad name in the industry, and as a result they send more and more clients running into the arms of big agencies and smaller service providers.

I’ve worked for copywriting agencies, small service providers and brick and mortar magazines. I’ll be the first to tell you that these three entities can provide perks a solo freelancer cannot hope to match, but I’ll also be the first to say that working one-on-one with a freelancer—particularly if they are local or tech savvy—can blow those perks away (depending on your needs)!

If you’re thinking about hiring a freelance writer or editor, you need to pay close attention to the following pro reasons:
1.  100% direct contact.

I cannot stress this reason for choosing a freelancer enough. By choosing them, you are choosing 100% direct contact AND going straight to the source. The next 5 reasons stem heavily from this fact. Agencies and small service providers sometimes offer the option to interview or connect with the writer or editor assigned to your project. While this is a helpful perk for a number of reasons, it does not replace a true one-on-one relationship. I’ll explain why as we discuss reasons 2 and 6.

2.  Less miscommunication.

Your time is valuable. You’re searching for a writer to create copy (or an editor to review and improve current copy) because you don’t have time. The last thing you want is a bad case of miscommunication.

In my experience, working one-on-one with the writer or editor eliminates a great deal of miscommunication. You might be thinking: Isn’t a team better than a solo act? Sometimes, yes. But have you heard the old adage about too many hands in the pot? Sometimes the team you recruit at the agency results in too many hands touching your communication and project. As a result, something gets lost in the translation and you end up with a final project that falls short of your expectations. The problem isn’t anyone’s fault; it’s plain old human error.

Professional freelancers dedicated to supplying quality will state up front what to expect. Most will customize a contract to your specific needs, thus ensuring that your expectations are crystal clear and kept in focus. Agencies don’t always do this, instead assuming you’ll understand their mission/values and be happy with whatever they provide via cookie cutter plans and packages.

Working one-on-one with a freelancer often results in faster communication because each e-mail, telephone call or instant message travels through fewer channels. Communication skills are an indication of a good freelance writer or editor versus a mediocre or inexperienced one. Professional freelancers will respond promptly.

3.  Faster turnaround times.

Depending on its size, most agencies can turn a project around in about 2 to 4 days. Pro freelancers will be able to match, if not beat, this timetable. The more your work with a freelancer, the faster your turnaround times become as the two of you grow accustomed to each other. For example, I’ve been editing documents for a client for several years. The first few projects took my advertised 24 to 48 hour turnaround time. Once I had a feel for their expectations and the tweaks that met their specific needs, the projects that followed were often same day turnaround; unless I was slammed with a rush project or my schedule was full.

4.  Cheaper prices.

When it comes to pricing, there is one unavoidable truth: freelance writers and editors can offer cheaper prices plus the ability to flex to meet your budgetary needs. According to welcomebrand, “The average freelancer doesn’t have anywhere near the overheads of an established agency…so here is an immediate and tangible saving that you as a client can make.”

5.  Higher standard of quality.

The nice thing about working with a freelancer is their attention to quality and value. The freelancer is a solo act. If they are going to be successful, they know that quality and value are essential to survival. It’s a high standard that keeps the client coming back for more. If a freelancer doesn’t adhere to the highest standards, they’ll never make money or earn a solid reputation. As a client, you can expect the freelance writer or editor to deliver some of the highest quality work around.

6.  Stronger business relationships.

A final advantage of working one-on-one with a writer or editor is their unique client perspective. In the world of freelancing, every job matters. As a result, you’ll never be a number. Instead, you will forever be a professional with specific needs—a live person. The freelancer knows that if they work hard to build a quality business relationship and deliver to meet your expectations, you’ll be back. Freelancers depend on return clientele and referrals more than bigger companies and agencies. As a client, this means you’ll benefit from a personal, “hands on” approach.

Agencies that arrange staff or contractor interviews do put you in contact with the person working on your project. But keep in mind that as an agency representative, the writer or editor is bound by the agency’s values. The interview will give you a warm fuzzy feeling, but it will do little more than that if the writer or editor doesn’t have their own commitment to quality. When dealing one-on-one with a freelancer you have the opportunity to truly interview them, determine their values, detect their commitment to quality and spot whether or not they offer the sort of value you seek.

Now, this isn’t to say that agencies are obsolete or lack attractive services and perks. In 12 plus years of industry experience, I’ve worked with and for numerous copywriting and content agencies. Agencies are experts at tackling the big picture, especially when it comes to marketing resources, social media assistance and undertaking those intricately huge projects—like ghostwriting and editing a comprehensive, technical eBook from scratch. But don’t let the glitter and glamour of agencies steal you away from the opportunity to work one-on-one with a capable and professional freelance entity. Instead, learn how to spot the diamonds in the rough and find the perfect match to your needs.

How to Spot a Great Writer

Spotting a truly great writer or copywriter is a challenge, especially with so many self-proclaimed “writers” flooding the market. wikiHow offers a viable 3-step program for finding a good writer, but the easiest way to spot a great writer is by seeing great writing. Here’s what to look for:

  • A Blog. Great freelance writers are passionate about their trade. Awesome writers often keep their own blog. Perusing it can provide a sampling of their favorite writing style. Their posts can give insight into their research skills, SEO knowledge and presentation abilities. In my experience, quality freelancers have limited time to upkeep their blogs. Don’t expect to see a ton of posts, but do expect each post to be entertaining, informative, useful and chalked full of material that keeps you reading to the bitter end!
  • Samples. Awesome writers love to hand out samples. They know that a few samples speak more than any amount of sales talk. Look for writers who offer samples or a discounted rate for a small, custom written sample.
  • A Portfolio. A picture paints a thousand words, and so does a portfolio. Quality writers will often have a portfolio on their website. It should display some of their best work.
  • Customer Reviews. It’s an undeniable fact that the best service providers have strong customer reviews or testimonials. They acquire these reviews by first providing strong quality service, and then by both providing a simple means for customers to submit feedback and asking for a review from satisfied customers. Legit freelancers will often display reviews on their website. Remember: it never hurts to research a freelancer before opening business relations. In fact, most pro freelancers welcome educated clients.

How to Spot an Excellent Editor

Many writers claim to be editors, and while many are capable, not all are qualified. Just because you can identify a disease doesn’t mean you can effectively and successfully treat it. Writing and editing are very much the same; just because you can write excellent copy doesn’t mean you can accurately edit it. When looking for an excellent editor, watch for:

  • Qualifications. The mark of a good freelance editor is a clear presentation of qualifications. Keep in mind that a college degree is not always a sign of quality. It’s smart to look for someone who has real world qualifications plus some educational background.
  • Experience. When it comes to excellence, nothing screams awesome like true experience. Fantastic editors have been in the trenches; they’ve worked as Junior and Senior Editors, and it’s likely they’ve done their fair share of writing. A college education (such as a Bachelor’s or Masters in English) is pretty, but it doesn’t mean much without real world application. If you’re considering a freelance editor who doesn’t have much tangible experience, request a sample of their work or a reference.
  • Clear Indication of Expectations. Quality editors are up front regarding expectations. In other words, they clearly state what they will deliver while also asking you to indicate your expectations. Expect a project contract to be drafted that will document both the freelancer’s and your expectations. If a freelance editor (or writer) shies away from a crisply drafted contract, chances are they aren’t legit or concerned with quality output.

Freelancer Writer or Editor vs. Copywriting Agency – What Should I do?

Shop around! Choosing a service provider is all about finding the one that best suits your needs. Ask around. One of the best ways to connect with a good freelancer or agency is through word-of-mouth. Once you have a provider in your sites, be ready to interview them. Look at hiring a freelancer or agency like hiring an employee. You must ensure they are qualified, experienced and a good fit. We’ll talk more about how to interview a freelance writer/editor or agency next.

Leave a Reply