When you think about it, hiring anyone can be hard. Hiring the right person at the right time is often very hard. Then there's the idea of hiring someone to do something you have no knowledge about.
Let's apply a process of elimination to looking for the right White Paper writer for your business. If they don't meet the requirements, we move onto the next one.
1. Do they offend you or strike the wrong chord? If this seems highly subjective, it is. You don't have time to waste with people you would struggle to work with. If you have a laid-back approach, someone with an aggressive personality may not be the best fit. Only you know who you can work with.
If this is apparent in the beginning, don't waste time trying to turn either one of you into your 'perfect person'. Just say 'No Thanks' and move on.
On the other hand, always go in hoping for the best. You may find someone you can work with for years to come.
2. Look for those who are looking for you. Those that are seeking you out want your business. You can't afford to hire that distant nephew because he needs the money.
You have a business to run.
Now, that email that you got last week from the gal you've never heard of asking if you hire external writers? The one with the link to her web site & an offer to talk? That is worth taking a look at.
She is looking for you and others like you. She has gone to the trouble to put together some information on a web site, found your email address and written to you. Go back and read it.
Look for a few things:
If not...we move on!
3. Are they easy to contact? If they want your business they will make it easy for you to contact them.
If you spend more than a minute to find their contact information or there is no contact form on their site, or their phone AND email address are not in their signature block, move on. Now.
This is not a scavenger hunt! They are looking for you. This can be indicative of someone who views accessibility as a detractor to working (which it can be) but may also happen because they did a mass email. Taking a Gatling gun approach doesn't show they know anything about your business.
You want to talk for 10 minutes twice a week while they define only specific meetings and anything else requires email with 24 hour response.
This may not be a good fit for you.
At a minimum, this should be a discussion during the first call. If you can't make this one work for you, it falls under item number 1, different personalities...move on.
4. Is there a consultation process? Some writers charge for an initial consultation and some do not. Most are asking you to commit to their time. This eliminates a lot of consultation calls and no-shows that result in a zero return to the writer.
Almost everyone who has a very narrow, specialized niche or solid, proven results uses this approach.
Remember, writers deal in intellectual property, we aren't selling widgets. The real value of our work comes in our contribution to your business. Think of it like talking to your attorney, not your local shoe salesman. And yes, the rates can vary widely.
This discussion should be focused on your business needs. There should be lots of questions and discussion about your business goals. The purpose is to determine if you and the writer are a good fit, not to get a complete marketing plan in 60 minutes.
Honesty in our interactions is key to building happy, long-term relationships. Always treat people with respect regardless of how they treat you. If you are not feeling like a partner, move on before you get in too deep.
5. Is it clear what you can expect? You should both discuss the process and agree on it. You should expect to get a proposal with deadlines and a definition of scope before the major money changes hands.
This lets you see and discuss differences up front. Flexibility and communication usually resolves most items in this category.
Beware of someone who seems to sidestep questions on how things will proceed. They don't have a process or a plan for their work that they can share with you.
This is a warning sign.
This person lacks a certain level of professionalism and the impact on results can be critical. Deadlines may be missed, turnaround times are longer, extensive editing requirements, repeating the same mistakes.
If you can't get clear answers...move on!
6. Do they use a white paper plan? Many white paper writers (me included!) will build a detailed plan and get approval for it before the research and writing begins.
This plan will outline the entire process and expected content, in detail, naming names, getting approvals, and applying time estimates.
Often this plan can be purchased ahead, sometimes as its own product. A portion may be credited back if they also finish the work for you.
With just the plan you could assign it to an in-house writer or shop for someone else to produce the content. The downside here is that they have to learn the plan. The builder of the plan has the greatest knowledge of how to execute it. The upside is that you have an approved roadmap to proceed.
Bottom line, a white paper plan is key to a smooth and effective result and any writer worth their salt will build one. This should build your confidence in them and the project. If you don't have a decent comfort level at this point, move on...Next!
Now you know more.
So, there you have it.
A few items to put on your notes to guide you in search of the elusive 'perfect person'. I can tell you that there are no perfect people here, but if you want a really good white paper writer...you can find them!
And yes, you can contact me for exactly this purpose.
I am a Freelance Writer with a specialty in software.