5 Tips for Working with Freelance Bloggers

If you want to run a successful business blog, you’ll need to consistently create new content. But sometimes you just don’t have enough time to do that on your own. That’s where a freelance blogger comes in.

When you hire freelance bloggers, they’ll help you keep your company blog updated so you can spend your time on other aspects of running your business. When you work with a ghost writer, they can even serve as the voice of your brand through your blog.

To make those freelance relationships work, it’s important to address some issues first and have an understanding about what the client-freelancer relationship entails to avoid common problems.

Here are five tips to keep in mind if you’ve decided to work with a freelance blogger:

1. Have a content strategy.

If you want to maximize the impact of your company’s blog, it’s not enough to fill it with content. You need that content to collectively work toward a goal. And you do that by developing a comprehensive content strategy.

Some bloggers (including me) offer content strategy consulting in addition to freelance blogging services. But many don’t. If you plan to hire a blogger who can’t help with this part of your blogging effort, you need to do it yourself or with another contractor. (Tip: if the blogger doesn’t have a marketing or PR background beyond writing, they aren’t qualified to consult in this area.)

Content strategy isn’t a play-it-by-ear proposition. It needs to be well thought out before you bring someone on to write for your blog. It not only gives your freelance blogger direction, but it makes sure every post they write for you helps you work toward concrete goals.

2. Set realistic expectations.

Some promotional efforts bring in immediate results. Blogging is usually not one of them.

When you bring on a freelance blogger, don’t expect them to drastically improve your business overnight. Your success with business blogging depends on a lot of things, including your existing audience and other marketing channels that can be used to promote the blog itself.

More than that though, results from blogging simply take time. It takes time for new content to rank well in search engines. It takes time to attract subscribers with your regular blog content. It takes time to build or grow a community around your blog.

If you go into a relationship expecting a freelance blogger to work miracles, you will end up disappointed, and you’ll risk pulling out of blogging too soon. Blogging is a long-term investment.

3. Know your freelance blogger’s strengths & limitations.

Not all freelance bloggers are equal. If you want to get the most out of working with a blogger, you need to understand what their strengths and limitations are.

For example, a writer whose biggest talent is creating content quickly might be able to populate your blog faster. But a subject matter expert can provide much deeper, more unique content. With a company blog, the freelance bloggers you work with will often fall somewhere in between.

At a bare minimum, go back to that content strategy I mentioned, and your broader business goals for your blog. Then look for freelance bloggers whose strengths align with those goals (style, thought leadership expertise, research skills, interviewing ability, direct marketing, speed, or whatever you’re looking for). And ideally find bloggers whose limitations are accounted for with your own skills or the talents of the rest of your staff (SEO, blog promotion, design, or other ancillary activities).

4. Know your rights (& theirs).

Over the years I’ve seen too many business owners make assumptions about what rights they’ll automatically get, and what rights they need, when hiring a freelance blogger. But this could prove to be a point of contention later if you aren’t 100% clear on your blogger’s rights and what you’re buying up front.

For example, you might assume if you hire a freelance blogger, you’ll automatically own the copyright to any content created. If you or the blogger is in the U.S. that isn’t true though. For the copyright to become yours, your contract has to include copyright transfer language to that effect. And if you do, and if you work with a professional rather than an amateur, you can expect to pay significantly more for copyrights.

In reality, you’ll rarely need copyrights. Exclusive rights to the specific content written for you is almost always enough.

What’s the difference?

Exclusive publication rights mean only you can use the content as it’s provided to you. The freelance blogger cannot resell that article elsewhere. (This is more than enough to, say, protect your SEO efforts.)

The copyright on the other hand grants the owner additional rights. In particular, it grants the rights to create derivative works. If you work with a subject matter expert who actually understands how this works, it’s rare you’ll even be offered the copyright.

That’s because limiting the ability to create derivative works can put significant limitations on a subject matter expert’s future income opportunities (that’s why you can pay 2x, 10x, and even more for full copyrights). Subject matter experts inherently tend to cover similar topics for multiple clients. That’s the very essence of being a specialist. And that sometimes means using the same reference materials, interview sources, quotes, other other elements to create multiple pieces of content. It can also mean covering the same topic or tips, just catered to different audiences.

When an expert writes about the same subject material over and over again, articles could share very similar language or advice, making it look like one article was used as the source material for a later article, even if they were written entirely independently of each other. So if the blogger doesn’t retain copyrights, they run the risk of being accused of creating unauthorized derivative works for the later client, whether or not they technically did. (And doing so would be their right anyway — such as writing tax tips for a website targeting college students, and then using the same base information to write a tailored version of those tips for first-time parents or some other specialized reader group.)

That’s not to say you can’t find freelancers willing to part with copyrights. Just know those offers will usually come from more inexperienced bloggers. And their lack of understanding in this areas is problematic for you because you don’t know that they won’t give you derivative content related to something they’ve already sold the copyright for, putting you at risk with their previous clients. That’s why buying the copyright will cost significantly more. You’re paying for the limitations you’re putting on a specialist’s future earning potential, which is already naturally limited.

There are some exceptions. For example, if they’re blogging about company news or writing posts based on interviews with your staff, that content wouldn’t have much further value to them. It makes more sense there for you to retain copyrights, especially if you’re providing the source material. But in the vast majority of cases, what you really want are exclusive publication rights to make sure no one else can be sold the same article. That’s where you’ll get the best balance between unique content for your blog and keeping costs affordable, not to mention building a better long-term relationship with your blogger.

5. Be prepared for what comes next.

This goes back to having realistic expectations in that it’s not enough for a freelancer to put fresh content on your blog. If you want results, you have to go beyond that. You can have the best content in the world, but it won’t help you if you don’t get eyes on it.

So before bringing a freelance blogger onto your team, have a promotional plan in place and know that you’ll have to market your blog content if you actually want your money’s worth. Some bloggers will offer to promote content for you. But unless they’re a true marketing expert, you might be better off having an in-house marketing team member handle it or working with a freelance marketer to tackle the promotional side of things. An expert blogger could be an amateur marketer. And that combination isn’t going to do you any favors.

Keeping these five things in mind can help you and your freelance blogger work better together and help you get what you really want out of your company’s blog.

Need help crafting a content strategy or creating content for your business blog? Get in touch today for a quote.

Jennifer Mattern is a freelance business writer, professional blogger, consultant, and publisher.

Jenn has 25 years' experience as a professional writer and editor and more than 20 years' experience in marketing and PR, specializing in digital PR and new media (with significant experience in social media, online marketing, SEO, and thought leadership publication). She also has 19 years' professional blogging and web publishing experience, including web development, mostly in the WordPress environment.

In addition to offering client services, Jenn also developed and runs numerous online publications including All Freelance Writing, Freelance Writing Pros, NakedPR, and Kiss My Biz.

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