As a client, effectively communicating your content needs to a freelance writer is a learned skill that takes trial and error to hone. In most cases, the communication breakdown lies in the job description: either you provide too much information for your writer to the point where you essentially write the piece yourself, or you provide too little, leaving your writer with an incomplete picture of what it is you want.
While it’s always better to over-supply your writer with details, the point of outsourcing is to save you time and money, so finding that sweet spot in your correspondence with a freelancer should be the goal. But the question remains: how do you find that perfect balance in a job post? When are you not saying enough, and what key details should you emphasize?
To help you find that perfect balance so you can get the most out of your freelance writer, we break it down into six components below.
<div class="tip">Even if you are writing great job descriptions, your issue might be that your freelance writers are weak. You can learn what qualities make the best writers here.</div>
The 6 Components of An Effective Onboarding & SEO Job Description
- Business Information
- Article Title (or General Topic Area)
- Content Goal
- Target Audience
- Tone & Style
#1. Business Information
If you don’t already have an established working relationship with your freelancer, then you need to provide your business details. Make sure to mention the listed items below:
- Business name
- Industry/Business category
- Product/Business Description
- Business Website
- Social Media Channels
- Contact Information (email, phone number, address)
A skilled freelancer will study this kind of information to gain a better understanding of your product, your audience, what type of content you’re looking for, and how it’s typically written.
#2. Article Title (or General Topic Area)
If you have an exact title in mind, or a general topic you want your freelancer to address, you should tell them. Let’s take a look at two examples:
1. “How to Work With Freelancers More Effectively”
This is an article title. It suggests that the content should cover the niceties of dealing with freelance writers. Questions like, “What does working with a freelancer entail?”, “Is there a wrong way and a right way of going about it?”, and “How can you, as an employer, improve?” immediately come to mind.
2. “How to Work with Freelancers”
This is a general topic area. Instead of offering an exact title that dictates what content should be written, it leaves the floor open for ideas. An experienced writer will suggest more concrete article ideas and titles based on the business details and topic area you include in your job description.
Will your content be featured on a blog, newspaper, or magazine? Any writer worth their salt will need to know, as the publication will determine your writer’s approach.
Your description should focus on specific areas you want to be addressed in your content. Here is a list of items freelancers look for:
Think of this as the skyscraper view of your project where you explain content goals and what you’d like your piece to cover. It's ok to touch on information here that you may clarify or expand upon later in your job post.
Assigning an ideal word count will give your writer a better idea of what kind of content you want. For example, a comprehensive piece that delves into a complex subject matter might require 2,000+ words; a standard piece that demands less research may cap at around 750 - 1,000 words.
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Will your content be featured on a blog, newspaper, or magazine? Any writer worth their salt will need to know, as the publication will determine your writer's approach. A standard news publication will require a strict adherence to traditional editorial standards, whereas a B2C blog will most likely require a familiar colloquial tone.
Many clients expect their freelancers to submit content for a certain format. WordPress, PDF, and Google Docs are all commonly requested formats that work well.
Are there specific points your writer absolutely must address in your content? If so, you can make your needs clear in a separate ‘Key Points’ section of your job description.
Below are some key points that pertain to the “outsourcing freelancers” example above:
- Working with freelancers is easier if you provide a robust job description
- Working with freelancers is easier if they understand what goals your content is supposed to achieve
- Providing examples of similar content you like will help your writer model their pieces and meet your expectations
Key points will help you paint a clearer picture of the content you need. Again, the more details you successfully communicate to your freelancer, the better.
Things to omit or avoid
There may be some things you want your writer to omit or avoid in your content. Here are some examples:
- Don’t mention or link to specified competitors in content
- Don’t write with a negative tone or a tone that conflicts with your brand’s voice
- Don’t make substantial claims unless they are supported with external links
- Avoid clichés, industry jargon, and overly technical prose
- Only submit well-researched, original content
Take time to think through this section carefully. The more you can communicate at once, the better. Having a list of basic requirements will save both you and your writer time.
If you have specific keywords you would like your content to target, you should tell your freelance writer. Conduct the keyword research yourself to ensure accuracy, and provide the following information:
The primary keyword you want to target should be repeated in the following sections at least once:
- Meta Title
- Meta Description
- H1 Title
- H2 Subheading
Some recent studies have indicated that Google is less and less reliant on these HTML signals to ascertain what your content is about; nevertheless, it remains good practice to structure your articles in such a way around your primary keyword and/or keyword phrase.
In most cases, your primary keyword will be supported by a group of similar secondary keywords. A secondary keyword can be as simple as a plural. For example, if your primary keyword is “Potted Plant”, a secondary keyword might be “Potted Plants”.
To discover relevant secondary keywords, you’ll need to do the following:
- Use keyword research software like Google’s Keyword Planner, or SEMrush
- Review competitor pages ranking for your target primary keyword, and take stock of the secondary keywords they are targeting
- Use websites like AnswerThePublic to determine what questions (which are also considered secondary keywords) users might have about your keyword or keyword phrase, and develop answers to them in your own piece
Your writer may be experienced with SEO keyword research already and capable of writing SEO-friendly content that will improve your ranking. However, the safest bet is to do the research yourself and forward it to your writer.
What about keyword density?
We believe that stuffing keywords in order to reach a specific density percentage is a useless metric; instead, we recommend including your keyword in the critical sections outlined above.
After that, your copy should be written as naturally as possible. Too much focus on keywords can make your content read strangely, which will negatively affect your user experience and search ranking.
If you have specific keywords you would like your content to target, you should tell your freelance writer. A competent freelance writer knows how to blend primary keywords into your content without compromising the user experience.
#4. Content Goal
What effect do you want your content to have on your audience? Read over the examples below, and be sure to tell your freelancer what you have in mind:
Industry trends, news, and actionable, advice-heavy articles could all be considered ‘informative content’. Providing this kind of content builds authority and trust in your brand, and it helps you retain your audience.
This article from Empire Flippers, “How to Legally Get Reviews on Amazon Without Incentives”, is an excellent example of content that informs its audience:
“If you want to get reviews on Amazon, there are four things you can do. Two of them involve following up with your customer, and two cover the way you can use promotional content without breaking the rules.”
The author provides the user with actionable tips and backs up those tips with in-depth explanations later in the piece so that users can take something away from the content and even benefit from it themselves.
Entertaining content should be easy to read, digest, and regurgitate. You want your users to be inspired so that they feel compelled to share what they read.
One blog that places a lot of emphasis on entertaining, relatable content is Slack. Their pieces are generally long, but very conversational and easy to read. Their article titled, “The best works in progress: A suggested listening list from Slack’s podcast”, demonstrates this well:
“Everyone at Slack loves podcasts, so much so that we began producing our own about life and work back in May 2015. Late last year, we relaunched the podcast with a focus on the meaning and identity we find in work, dubbed Work in Progress.”
What does content like this do for your business? The point of entertaining content is not to drive conversions, but to engage your readership. In both B2B and B2C spheres, entertaining content is crucial because it gives your brand a unique tone and voice, and it appeals to your audience.
While you could argue that all content is promotional, certain content is written specifically to endorse affiliate services, your own brand, or a conjunction of both.
Ecwid’s article, “Best New Apps of 2017: MailChimp, Order Management, Discounts”, informs users of the most helpful, relevant apps in their niche, and makes a case for their integrated service:
“Keeping your customers happy is as important as informing them about new deals and encouraging repeat purchases. You can inform people in different ways, but the most common one is email newsletters.”
In this example, Ecwid makes a case for the efficacy of email newsletters. The plug segues nicely into their integrated service with MailChimp:
“With this MailChimp integration, your store gets connected to a specific list in MailChimp and your store visitors can agree to join it at the checkout process… Subscribing to the list is just a matter of one click and doesn’t require extra typing on other pages — your customers enter their email address at the checkout anyway.”
The copy explains the features in a way that readers can understand. Promotional content can be salesy, as long as it doesn’t aggravate and turn away the user.
Somewhere along the buyer's journey, users will want to be converted into customers. There are two main sales techniques we use: hard-sells and soft-sells.
As you may have noticed, most content blends one or more of these content goals into a single piece. That’s fine – as long as this is clearly understood between you and your writer.
Hard-sell copy is more aggressive. Its goal is to push the user to take the desired action (or convert).
TrustArc’s blog is a perfect example of content designed to intercept and hard-sell to customers that are ready to take that next step. Their article “Privacy Insight Series Webinar Highlights GDPR Benchmarking Research” unpacks a webinar episode hosted by TrustArc:
“The European Union’s (EU) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is the most sweeping change to data protection in the past 20 years and will go into effect in less than a year. Its impact will be felt by every organization that does business in the EU, or handles personal information of EU citizens in any manner.”
Users that will be affected by the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) have ample reason to read this type of content. At the end of the piece, TrustArc initiates the sell:
“You can read the full report or listen to the webinar on-demand. If your organization needs help building, implementing, or demonstrating GDPR compliance, TrustArc offers solutions to help, no matter where your organization stands against the GDPR requirements. Contact us today.”
The compelling nature of the content is written with the user’s needs in mind: Internet privacy is a high-stakes issue that every digital entrepreneur should be concerned about. TrustArc knows their product provides a viable solution to this problem, so why not ask users directly to sign up for their service?
Soft-sells, on the other hand, are less pushy in that they try to evoke an emotional response from your reader that they will associate with your brand, and lead to more sales down the road.
If selling is the goal of your content, it’s important to let your writer know whether using a “hard-sell” or “soft-sell” approach is preferable. Doing so will help them create content that better represents your product, and will in turn boost your conversions.
#5. Target Audience
It’s important for both you and your freelancer to have a mutual understanding of who your target audience is. When it comes to explaining your target audience, it’s very common to break them down in terms of business to business (B2B) and business to customer (B2C).
To better understand the differences between B2B and B2C audiences, we need to divide them using two distinct methods:
- Firmographics ("Business Demographics")
Many B2B marketers ‘segment’ their business targets using what’s called firmographics. Similar to demographics, firmographics help businesses develop their ideal customer profile by grouping target businesses together based on their similarities and characteristics.
Businesses are generally defined – or segmented – by these qualities:
- Number of employees
- Product type
- Annual revenue
- Recent activity
- Product usage
- Where they do business?
- Customer base
Because the habits of small to medium businesses (SMBs) are somewhat predictable, it’s easier for marketers to sketch an accurate profile of the typical B2B customer with the information drawn from their analysis.
When creating a consumer profile based on demographics, the qualities we look for are more tangible:
- Religious preferences
- Political orientation
- Income level
Again, relaying this kind of information will help your freelance writer better understand your target audience, which will result in effective content that resonates with your readership.
#6. Tone & Style
Tone and style are delicate aspects of your content. Not only do they set you apart from the competition, they build trust and authority in your brand.
When it comes to conveying your tone and style to a freelancer, we like to break them down into five categories:
Informative vs. Promotional
Blogs are written for two purposes: to inform or to persuade. Informative blogs are topical, current, and intriguing. They can relate to both the savvy customer and the uninitiated, novice reader alike, while promotional blogs focus primarily on endorsing products or affiliate services.
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Writing that comes off as too literary or “non-conversational” runs the risk of losing the reader. That’s why internet writing puts so much emphasis on conversational writing: we want to entice, engage, retain, and ultimately convert our readers – not confuse them.
Casual vs. Professional
A casual tone sounds light-hearted and friendly. The primary benefit of a casual tone is that it’s engaging and unintimidating, both of which are necessary to retain a general audience. A more serious, professional tone, on the other hand, comes across as more authoritative.
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List-heavy vs. Narrative
Do you like bullet-point lists, numerical lists, and listicles? Or do you prefer chunkier paragraphs that tell a story? List-heavy content is better for providing actionable tips or an exhaustive list of items because it organizes the information in a linear, aesthetically pleasing fashion. However, some readers still prefer the more conventional narrative style. Opting for list-heavy articles or a traditional narrative style depends entirely on your audience. Sample both to see what works for you.
Below are four tips that will improve the readability of your long-form blog posts:
- Include captivating headlines
- Break up dense texts with lists when possible
- Use simple vocabulary
- Stick to bite-sized paragraphs
Thought leaders and influencers alike recommend long-form blog posts because they are better for retaining a niche readership, unpacking complex concepts, improving search ranking, and interlinking content to decrease bounce rate.
Newsworthy vs. Evergreen
Newsworthy content is time-sensitive; evergreen content is timeless. Generally, newsworthy pieces are great content to generate a spike in traffic, but once the buzz dies down, so does their relevance. Evergreen content, on the other hand, is built to last. Solid evergreen material is also an SEO standby that will appreciate over time, making it the superior blog piece.
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Targeted/Niche vs. General/Broad
Targeted content is aimed at a specific group of individuals, as opposed to general content, which appeals to a broader audience.
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Providing concrete examples and details like the ones shown above will give your freelancer a clear idea of what tone and style you need for your blog. Find what works best for you and stick to it – consistency will build trust in your brand.
No matter your industry or audience, learning how to effectively communicate with your freelance writer is the first step to achieving your primary goals – of course, it all depends on your job description. Follow the steps above closely and you'll find the best talent on the web.