You can do an Internet search, tap into online services like Elance, check local writing organizations and workshops, or get referrals from people you know. No matter how you get a name, there are still things you need to do to make sure you have a good fit.
- Check the work. Any writer or editor, if she doesn’t already have examples on a website, will be happy to provide a prospective client with examples. However, don’t get too caught up in whether those products are exact matches of what you want. Look more at the style and how the content gels with your goal. Don’t eliminate someone because she hasn’t produced a three-fold brochure. Mechanics can be learned quickly; it’s the skill and tone you want to concentrate more on.
- Kick the “tires” before committing. Just like anything else you invest in, spend some time reviewing the process the writer or editor uses. Is the writer or editor willing to sit down with you and get a feel for what you are looking for? Does the writer or editor work in a way that jibes with your process? Are you more a face-to-face type person or do you find “flying e-mails” an efficient way to work?
- Don’t forget the logistics. In an age where electronic communication is so prevalent, make sure you and the person you hire have compatible systems. Do you use Microsoft Word or some other program? Can your e-mail handle large chunks of data or are you still in the fax age? Can you Skype instead of having in-person meetings? Are you providing a written piece electronically or is it hand written? (Note: Most editors will not accept hand written products; hire someone to transcribe it first – it’ll be cheaper in the long run.)
- Make sure everyone knows what is expected of them. Don’t go into a situation assuming everyone knows what to do. We all know what the problem is with “ass-u-me.” Be very clear about what you expect. Editors and writers should also give you an idea of what they think you should provide and what they are willing to do. For instance, are you expecting an editor to do deep rewrites? How many revisions do you expect for a project with a flat fee? How will the information be gathered or presented? If everyone knows up front what to expect, there will be no nasty surprises.
- Get it in writing. You wouldn’t put an addition on your house without a contract to protect you, so don’t enter into a writing or editing relationship without some sort of written agreement. A good writer or editor would probably suggest it anyway for her own protection. It doesn’t have to be a long, drawn out contract. It could even be a letter of intent. Just make sure that somewhere you have in writing what work you are agreeing to pay for.
- Remember that you get what you pay for. Quality is not cheap, but it tends to pay off in the long haul. Don’t always go for the cheapest option; go for the professional who will give you a good return on your investment. (Hey, if that person’s rate is inexpensive too, it’s a bonus!) Also, don’ be surprised if the editor or writer you hire expects payment at certain milestones of the project – maybe even a percentage up front. This is the way professionals work.
Keeping these six things in mind when hiring a writer or editor will help create a good experience for all concerned. It might even be the beginning of a “beautiful friendship.”