Briefing your writer with the right information ensures the quickest possible turnaround and the best possible content. So, what information does a writer need to successfully complete a project?
I have successfully completed orders with as little as a keyword, but I usually ask for a few different pieces of information to ensure a client’s piece perfectly aligns with their needs. Regardless of whether you’re hiring me or someone else, here’s my advice for briefing your writer correctly so that you can minimize back-and-forth and get the best possible results.
What Information Does A Writer Need?
Whether you’ve hired a freelance writer before or not, deciding what information you need to convey to them can definitely be tough. Maybe you need a long-form article, a short blog post, social media posts, or something else entirely. In all situations, you need to make sure you get the right info across. Here’s the information you need to think about.
What length do you have in mind?
Word count is possibly the single most important detail you can provide to a freelance writer. After all, it tells us just how concise or expanded our writing needs to be. Most writers (myself included) also charge on the basis of word count, so you need to get this detail figured out before you pay for any content.
If you have no idea how long your content should be, a quick look around the internet can help you decide. If you need a blog post, most start at 500-600 words. However, if you want to optimize your content to rank in the search engines, research shows that a length of 1,600 words or more is ideal. Of course, the total length of your content will depend on just how may sub-topics you wish to be included.
Like most writers, I always try to avoid “fluff” and filler content. That means that I will never add meaningless content for the sole purpose of hitting a word count target. If there isn’t enough information on a topic to warrant the length a client requests, I always reach out to them for input on potential sub-topics or to suggest shortening the piece.
It’s far easier for both of us to add words than to remove them, which is why I always suggest that my clients start with a smaller word count target and we can expand if necessary.
What point are you trying to make?
A writer cannot produce content for you unless they know the topic and direction you have in mind for the piece. If you have a keyword you’re trying to rank for, definitely tell the writer what it is. This gives them a great starting point (and they may even be able to write with a keyword alone) because it enables them to see what content currently ranks for the keyword.
When clients tell me they are trying to rank for a specific keyword, I will go through all of the content that ranks on the first page for that keyword and compile a complete list of all of the information and sub-topics those articles cover. I’ll also try to spot long-tail keywords and patterns related to style, terminology, and imagery. I use all of that information to guide my writing in an attempt to out-do the keyword’s existing top-ranking content.
If you aren’t trying to rank for a specific keyword, which is a given if you are requesting an eBook or social media posts, that’s when I’ll ask you for guidance on the sub-topics I should include.
You can provide information about your topic in a number of ways:
- Send me keywords. If you have one or more keywords related to the content you want me to produce, please provide them.
- Send me an outline. List out the sub-topics you want me to include in your piece. Tell me if you’d like me to find additional sub-topics myself or stick to the list.
- Send me links. Send me examples of existing content (maybe from your competitors) that covers the information you want me to write about. I’ll review these links during my research.
What perspective do you want to take?
Once I know what you want me to write about, the next thing that is helpful to know is whether or not you have a specific perspective in mind that you would like me to take on when writing.
For example, I periodically write about trucking industry news for one of my clients. When the news is being perceived quite negatively by those in the industry, my client always requests that I stray away from bias and lean strictly towards factual coverage. On the other hand, you may want an opinionated piece that presents information in a more positive or negative light.
Who is your audience for the piece?
Knowing who will ultimately be reading a piece can help a writer tremendously. For instance, if I’m writing an explanation of mortgage products, I’m going to use different terminology if you tell me it will be read by first-time home buyers than if you tell me the piece will be targeted towards people purchasing a secondary home.
Having an idea of the audience’s potential background knowledge will help me determine just how simplistic or technical the language should be. It will also help me determine the tone I should use in the event that you haven’t described a brand voice.
So, if you tell me an article on “how to dress for an interview” will be targeted towards teenagers looking for their first job, I’ll probably opt for a more lighthearted tone than if I was writing the same piece for an audience of recent graduates who are at a much more serious point in their careers.
Of course, if you have a specific tone in mind for your piece, be sure to describe it to your writer when you order. Providing examples of writing styles that you like will also be very helpful.