In the words of content marketing guru Brian Clark, “the writer runs this show.” Whether you’re running an agency, publishing a magazine, or just trying to keep your brand’s blog updated, the quality of your writers can make or break your business. If you’re looking to hire and retain the best talent, here are ten factors to consider.
1. Do you have a strong core mission?
No, I’m not talking abut the statement you wrote in some retreat that’s been doing nothing but collecting dust. A mission for your business should be palpable. It should be a guiding factor in all of your decisions and be based on something greater than just making money. Having a strong vision will attract writers with the same vision, and it’s the reason they’ll go the extra mile to find cutting edge research, or scrap a draft and start over when new details emerge rather than turn in work that’s passably good–but not great.
2. What does the energy feel like?
Even remote workers can pick up on your company’s vibe. High expectations, consistency, and a clear company culture go a long way.
3. Are your expectations reasonable?
You may work 60 hours a week and on evenings and weekends, but expecting freelancers to submit rewrites at 1AM is completely unreasonable. Asking for twice as much work as negotiated in the scope of your original agreement is completely unreasonable. The list goes on and on. Remember that just because someone is responsive to these requests at first doesn’t mean they’re thrilled about it. Trying to see just how much you can get away with is not a good recipe for retention.
4. What about everyone else’s expectations?
You’re probably not the only person interacting with your freelancer. If clients treat them like automatons or are disrespectful, that’s a part of their experience with your brand. So are those endless conference calls where they’re not really supposed to talk and are playing 2048 or muting their line so they can do their dishes.
5. How do you resolve conflict?
You may think you treat your freelancers just fine, thank you very much, but what do you do when there’s a conflict between a writer and a client? Bending over backwards when someone’s being unreasonable may keep them happy in the short-term, but freelancers like to work with people who have their back. Drawing a line with a client when necessary is a sure-fire way to win points with freelancers. So is working on eliminating extraneous steps and streamlining a process, with everyone’s feedback. If you do this on your own without them having to talk to you first, all the better. This isn’t to say that you should always placate freelancers, either. Just be fair.
6. How much of a cut are you getting, and what are you doing for that cut?
You’ll never hear this brought up to your face, but every freelancer will wonder about this at some point. If they’re practically running one of your projects, and you’re pocketing a hefty percent, you damn well better be providing value in some way or another. If you are micromanaging, adding extraneous tasks, or making mistakes your writer has to clean up for you–and adding additional steps for them in the process–you may wind up with a retention problem.
7. Do you have a crazy Draconian contract?
Nobody wants to sign those. Even if you pay enough that they will, they probably won’t feel good about it.
8. What does your CMS look like?
Do you have a sleek, sexy CMS that’s easy to use? Or are you forcing your freelancers to use some antiquated system that is ridden with bugs and occasionally breaks? Redesigns that everyone complains about and which don’t actually solve the problems people have don’t count as an improvement.
9. Do you give specific feedback?
The best writers want to improve their skills. You using their work as is could very well be a red flag. That said, it’s important that the feedback you give them is actionable and specific. And make sure to throw some praise in there as well, when warranted. If you can share metrics, all the better.
10. Do you accept feedback?
If you ask for it and ignore it, it doesn’t count. If your company isn’t agile enough to act upon suggestions, you’ll likely have problems beyond attracting and retaining talent. Also, it’s worth noting that feedback isn’t always honest when you’re just chatting by phone. Anonymous surveys are a good start. Hiring someone else to analyze them is even better.
Following these steps will not only help you attract and retain top talent and win their loyalty and affection, it’ll also help you build a damn good business that can weather any storm.