You’ve got your tech content marketing strategy ready, buy-in from upper management, and the budget ready to spend. Now what? You need the resources to execute your plans.
More specifically, you need a copywriter to work on your campaigns, but you don’t have one on staff. This puts skilled technical copywriters in the driver’s seat. And if you think you can get away with using a software application or AI bot to write marketing content fast and at an insane scale, think again. Only a human copywriter can craft stories with the emotional depth and resonance needed.
Technical Copywriters Are a Special Kind of Geek
The high demand for a skilled copywriter that can write about technology makes it hard for tech companies to augment their in-house teams with outsourced talent. (This probably explains why I’ve been getting a lot of inquiry emails from tech marketers looking to build out their freelance copywriter lists. They have a ton of work and not enough skilled technical copywriters to help them. Score one for me!)
So, how can you find, evaluate, and hire the right freelance technical copywriter for your content marketing needs? Here are a few tips to help you find the right freelance technical copywriters who can create compelling, well-written, SEO-optimized blog posts, articles, eBooks, product fact sheets, reports, case studies, and more.
1. Are you ready to outsource?
Tech companies typically outsource copywriting once they accept the fact they don’t have the time or in-house resources to produce the content they need. They’ve got big plans, but can’t produce the content at the quality, volume, or scale that’ll meet those plans.
Like with most problems, acknowledging that you have one is the first start. Then, you also need to know what kind of copywriting help you need and the skills and experience required to get the job done right the first time.
2. What are your tech copywriting requirements?
Before you start firing off emails to every copywriter you find after a quick online search, it’s time to get prepared. Take a moment to think about your content needs and expectations, honestly, and how a freelance technical copywriter can fit into the equation.
Consider the following
The kind of content you want to create
Identify the topics, formats, and platforms they’ll work with, the expected word counts of their work, and the details of content creation they’ll need to know. Will you provide all the information they need to write, or will they be expected to do their own research? How about interviews, will they have to do those? Have they created and edited video posts or stories before?
The role they’ll play in your creation and publication process
Think about the tools they’ll need to use to create your content. Will they be expected to bring/use their own, or will they use yours? Are they an integrated marketing team member or just someone you can bring on board for as needed? What do you need to communicate to your team about the freelance tech copywriter?
The expected volume and frequency
Determine how often you’ll need them to deliver new assets. Will it be on a set schedule, or will you use them whenever you need an extra hand?
Your business goals for the content
Articulate and document the business goals you’re trying to accomplish. Decide whether you will gauge their performance based on those business goals or some other metric.
Your content & brand governance
Gather all your content and brand governance documents, like brand voice and style guides. Share them with the freelancer so they’re familiar with them and can refer to them as they work with you. How will you integrate them and their work into your content workflow? What about your editorial workflow? Lastly, what about any regulatory, legal, technical, or procedural guidelines they’ll need to comply with? Are you sure they need to comply with them, and if so, how will they?
The designated contact person at your tech company
Depending on whether the freelancer will be an integrated member of your content team or an outside freelancer you bring in, you’ll need to decide who will be their designated contact person. If they’re an integrated member of the team, they’ll need access to all your communication tools and SME information so they can work on your projects. If they’re to remain an outside freelancer, designate a single contact point person for them that can take care of all communication for them. Beware; however, this contact person must be available enough to answer the freelancer’s questions and truly help them; otherwise, it won’t work.
How much you’ll pay your freelance copywriter
What’s your marketing budget for the year? Is it enough to engage the freelancer as much as you need to? And how will you pay them; by the project or per hour? Each freelancer is different and will have different expectations on this. Also, remember that their rates may seem significantly higher than what you pay full-time employees, but that’s because you don’t pay for any of the “overhead” for them (i.e. their employment taxes, training, benefits, etc.).
Getting properly set up to work with an outside copywriter takes a bit of work. When you do it, you’ll enjoy less friction across your entire content workflow, establish a trusting and mutually-satisfying long-term relationship with the writers you bring on board, and ensure your marketing team can make tangible contributions to business outcomes and goals.
3. Where to find a great technical copywriter
If you’re reading this post, chances are, you don’t have a list of outside copywriters to refer to. Here are a few ways to find great freelance technical copywriters.
Ask for recommendations
Tap into your professional network and see if anyone has any recommendations. You never know who knows a good copywriter until you ask. Beware of those who won’t want to give up their freelancers; some guard good writers with more seriousness than their network password because they don’t want to be left off their client schedule. (Just kidding, you should always guard your network password well.)
Post a listing on a professional writers job board or talent exchange
Depending on the technical copywriting project you need doing, you may be able to find a reliable and quality writer on a job board like Problogger, Freelance Writer’s Den, Canadian Freelance Writing Jobs, Freelance Writing Jobs, or Direct Response Jobs (this one lists more than just direct response copywriting jobs). You can access a variety of copywriting skills and expertise through these job boards, though it may be a challenge to gauge a writer’s suitability for your project.
Research freelance technical copywriters directly
Take a look at the publications you read (online magazines, blogs, news sites, etc.) and look at the bylines. Does any of the writing consistently resonate with you? Is it always written by the same person? If so, you may have found your freelancer. Check out their website and LinkedIn profile to see if they’re available. Even if they’re not available, they may have a referral network of like-minded (& skilled) copywriters they can send you to. Reach out and introduce yourself; it’s always good to chat with a fellow marketer.
Ask your HR department for a shortlist
Your HR team may already have a shortlist of copywriters that have applied to previously posted roles that you could look at. While they might not have been a good fit at the time, they might now. Find out what they’re doing now and if it’s worth reaching out to them.
Get help finding the right copywriter
If all else fails, you can always reach out to a creative staffing agency or content marketing platform like Contently and NewsCred. These companies and agencies often have a vetted list of copywriters they can sort through to find the one that’s right for you. Make sure to ask your management team for guidance first, however, as these two options can be pricey and not worth the cost for an ad hoc freelancer you need on a temporary project. (They’re better suited for on-going work or if you need a temporary contract copywriter.)
Regardless of how you find a technical copywriter, remember that professional copywriters are skilled people, and paid writing assignments are how they make their living. They expect to be paid fairly for their work, and likely won’t work “on spec” or “for the exposure”.
4. Vetting your candidates
Professional writers come from a range of disciplines (marketing, journalism, copywriting, technical writing, research, etc.). While many writers have a flexible skill set that applies to any content and writing work, sometimes they’re not a good fit for projects that fall outside of their field of expertise or experience.
Technical copywriters are a special breed of copywriters who combine the in-depth knowledge of technology with the persuasive power of copywriting. They understand how to use words to explain, engage, persuade, and educate audiences on the benefits of technology. It’s not just about tossing out tech jargon and complex concepts. Instead, a technical copywriter can demystify technology and reveal the value of it to any audience (technical, or otherwise).
To find the right technical copywriter who can write and operate successfully for your B2B technology company, look for:
Relevant writing skills: Does the writer have experience writing in the style or format you’re seeking? What about their background and training? Do you have specific requirements they must meet to write for you?
Tactical knowledge & skills: Is your writer willing to take on time-saving tasks like inputting copy directly into your CMS? Do they know the tool you use (WordPress, HubSpot, Marketo, etc.)? Do they know how to optimize copy for keywords and phrases? Do they always consider the audience when writing? Do they know the proper way to attribute information and images they reference or repurpose from external sources?
Adaptability & versatility: Can your writer take on different types of writing assignments, or do they prefer to focus on one type only? Can they handle multiple assignments at once? Can they easily switch writing gears when writing for a different audience in a different style and/or tone?
Subject matter expertise: How knowledgeable are they about the technology industry, the lexicon, relevant trends and issues, and who the most prominent players are? A good writer can and is willing to learn these details as they go. Still, projects will go more smoothly for both of you if they already understand the opportunities and challenges tech businesses like yours typically face. It’s easier for them to change up their writing when they are already familiar with the industry.
Audience insights: Have they written for an audience like yours before? Are they familiar with the pain points, preferences, and areas of interest your audience has? Again, this is something they can learn on the job, but if they’re already familiar with your audience’s point of view, it’s easier for them to write (and it means less editing and revising on your part).
Project logistics: Will your writer be available when you have a new assignment? How much lead time to they need for new projects, and how quickly do they respond when you do reach out. Understanding the way your freelance technical copywriter works is critical to getting your projects done on your timeline. You’ve got to set the expectations on your end and understand their working process so you can meet in the middle. For example, I try to book work 6 weeks ahead of time for new projects and ask existing clients to give me 2 weeks’ notice when a new project comes down the pike. That way, I can get my schedule in order, and they know precisely when I’ll be able to deliver their copy.
Samples and professional endorsements: Does the writer you’re considering have a website and an online portfolio you can review? What about testimonials from current or previous clients? Are they a member of any relevant associations or professional organizations? All of this will tell you a little something about the writer and whether it’s worth reaching out or not.
5. Writing tests
Not to be confused with “writing for free” or “writing on spec”. Depending on the copywriting project you’re looking to get done, it may be appropriate to do a little writing test. A test assignment is appropriate if you’ve found a technical copywriter with little experience with your market or whose samples don’t include the specific kind of asset you’re looking to create. If you’re not sure they can handle your assignment, you might consider paying them to write a brief assignment to gauge their creative abilities and technical skills as a copywriter. It’ll also give you a good idea of the amount of work it’ll take your marketing team to review and edit their copy and move it through your approval/publication process.
Reminder: Never ask them to do this for free; they are professional copywriters and expect to be paid for their work.
What a technical copywriter is looking for in you
Hopefully, your search and evaluation process leads you to technical copywriters who are well qualified and eager to work with your B2B tech business. But your work is not done there.
You’ve also got a responsibility as a good client to set up your freelancer for success. After all, you want the relationships to be positive and successful, so it lasts longer than one assignment.
Your responsibilities as a client
Before you hire your freelance technical copywriter, there are a few things you need to gather and get sorted out.
- 📍 Your content marketing strategy: Ideally, you’d be sharing your overall strategy with your freelance copywriter, but at the very least, let her know your content mission, target audience, personas, brand story, and whatever else you think she needs.
- 📅 Your editorial plan or calendar: Copywriters will need to know the details of your brand’s preferred style and tone of voice, what style guide and spelling rules you’re following (AP, Chicago, Microsoft, etc.), any guidelines for content quality, and your review and approval process.
- 🦸♀️ + 🦸♂️ Access to relevant team members: Depending on the project, your freelancer will need access to other members of your organization. Make sure to give them their names and contact info, as well as identify their roles in the content process. Next, let your colleagues know the freelancer may contact them. There’s nothing like someone ignoring an email because they thought it was spam.
- 💻 🕹️ ☁️ Technical resources and requirements: Give them access to any editorial systems and services they’ll need to do their work, such as CMS access, stock image accounts, or collaboration tools like Slack. This also includes any other technical marketing details they’ll need to know, like keywords/phrases to target or avoid, metadata structures, file naming conventions, etc.
- 🧰 Templates and branding materials: If they’re doing any work with proprietary assets like company logos or you have strict rules on work following a standard or template, share them with your freelancer.
Power up your copy with a freelance technical copywriter
You may have all sorts of great ideas for your next B2B tech marketing campaign, but it won’t do you any good if you don’t have a copywriting resource to write it for you. There are only so many hours in the day, and so many assets your in-house team can produce.
Understanding where your tech marketing team stands from a production standpoint can help you decide to outsource and work with a freelance technical copywriter.
I hope this guide explained everything you need to know about outsourcing copywriting to a freelance technical copywriter. The next time you need help, you’ll have a better idea of how to find one and how to create a long-lasting relationship.
Originally published at https://spacebarpress.com on December 12, 2019.