June 8, 2017 by Ed Kennedy
Why Hire a Writer Anyway? The Difference between Communicating and Writing
When someone has hired a writer it is pretty straightforward. ‘Hi, with the contract now signed you can begin! Here’s the content outline in full, and I’ll look forward to hearing from you soon’. All is simple and easy when you’ve a brief in-hand like this. That is the stage when all is certain surrounding the needs of a project, but it is the period beforehand that this article will address.
One of the common questions this author gets asked in his daily work his ‘do I really need to hire a professional writer for this project (website landing page, blog, press release etc. etc)? Usually, but not always, this is done by clients who are seeking this author out for something beyond writing, such as for graphic design work, website building, or media relations, who may not yet know this author is also a journalist and ghostwriter – and so could find this question offensive!
Instead of taking offence though, this writer recognises there is indeed a question of value here. Maintaining a number of business interests on the side in tandem to his 9-5 day job, the need to meet a budget, and ensure money spent brings a return on investment is wholly understood.
Accordingly, writers need to recognise clients know what we know: not only are writers available for just a few dollars around the web (like a deep-fried Mars bar they are not good for you long term, but may appear tempting at first), but hiring a professional writer can be expensive. Quality professionals fairly attract a quality sum, but so too is it fair game for a client to ask for proof of value. Let’s look at this in-depth at this, from the client and writer’s perspective.
The Client’s Perspective
Surely recognise two principles here, and that there is a simple test to figure out the answer, as well as an answer that is pretty universal for use as a reply.
Nobody likes being sold something they don’t need – and just as oftentimes this author will indicate to his clients they do not need a professional writer to complete the project they’ve in mind – and any writer who seeks to build a habit of being dishonest with clients shall not be in business for long.
The value of a professional writer can be questionable – at least at first, and especially if the role isn’t properly understood. It would be worrying if a colleague of this author couldn’t explain in writing their value as a professional writer, so this piece is instead for another audience. After all, that is what they are paid to do.
Good writers shouldn’t be fearful client’s know this. Especially new writers just starting out in the sphere. For while it’s not news this field can be one which requires patience and hard work to grow a solid business, so too it is one that has interesting, diverse, and engaging work – and this is the case each and every day.
Instead it is just a matter of ensuring you can clearly provide real value to a client. Unlike other fields, writing might be a pursuit that requires few-to-no tools to get started – really just a keyboard and an email account are required – but this doesn’t mean it is easy. The ground level may be easy to access, but climbing the stairs requires an illustration of your skills and ability.
The Writer’s Perspective
There is a difference between writing and communication. Anyone can write, but there is a distinction between writing and communication. While good communication shall always have good writing as a feature, good writing (even if grammatically correct, free of spelling errors, and so on) will not always communicate effectively.
While good writing is of course always preferable to poor, this is becoming a particularly important distinction as we experience the rise of the online era, and shift towards a truly digital economy. For while a online global economy has seen more writers than ever hang up an online shingle and offer their services, this has also made it harder for businesses to cut through ‘the noise’ of online.
Viewed from this perspective, businesses seeking to build and writers seeking to write are not in opposite camps. Instead, they are both seeking to progress in the same direction, but require a shared understanding of these unique aims that each shall bring to a project, and business deal.
What this means for Client and Writer
Nobody has a monopoly on good communication. So too can nobody really explain what makes a good writer good. Sure, good writers shall have common features across their work, but each shall also hold that a certain je ne sais quoi that makes exactly what they do unexplainable, and impossible to imitate.
One need only to look at the famed address by Abe Lincoln at Gettysburg to know – while the world has had many imitations and efforts to replicate the impact of that speech prior – arguably none since have impacted or endured as Honest Abe’s remarks did. Praised then as now for its concision and mastery of the topic, it is also content that undoubtedly impacts its audience.
Good writing doesn’t need exactly to be grand or concise, or any other particular adjective – it just needs to fit the aims of your venture, and what you seek to achieve by hiring a writer.
With this understanding, it is clear there is the demand and the market for writers. And, by many measures, this demand has never been greater, or more essential. Nonetheless, if a writer is (ironically) unable to properly communicate with a client, they’ll find the time between one project and the next can be very long, and may even grow over time. Understanding the client’s perspective is the first step in the right direction.
So do I need a Writer?
There is no universal test or way to ‘tick the boxes’ in determining whether you need a writer, but there are some guiding stars. If you are a professional writer seeking a ‘fresh pair of eyes’ for content, you likely do not need another writer. What you need instead is an editor. The role of an editor could fill a completely different article, but suffice to say: writers write, and editors edit. Finish the content your writing, then go hire someone to cross all your i’s and dot all your t’s.
You also do not need a writer if the work is uniquely personal to you. If you are a corporate CEO writing a profile for your local chamber of commerce, get yourself a professional ghostwriter. Yet, if you are a new retiree looking to pen a book of poems concerning your life and times? You don’t need a professional writer to communicate what at its core is a telling of your heart and soul. Content like poetry and other creative writing are an expression of you – so while an editor shall be useful before publication to tidy a piece up and make suggestions – hiring a writer to write content in this field is usually needless.
By contrast, you do need a writer if by your own admission you are ‘no good at writing’. You need a writer if you feel you’re OK, but want the peace of mind that comes with hiring a professional. Doing so decreases the chance your written content won’t impact, and ups the odds dramatically it’ll draw in your audience.
You also need a writer if your business has a strong online component (as most businesses do these days), and you know the quality of your website’s content means the difference between growing your brand or losing out on a ton of business due to its poor quality. While many elements are required to make a business successful online, poorly written content that doesn’t explain what you do and what you offer will always be a killer, just as quality content can offer you a real competitive edge in your market.
The Decisive Factors: Essential versus Optional
A good writer should have an established portfolio. This can be complicated (as it is for this writer) if the produce work for a number of clients on a ghostwritten basis, due to confidentiality agreements, and ethics of the field. This notwithstanding, if unable to reference a particular article or piece of content that illustrates their skillset, a professional writer shall always be at the ready to drum up some form of a sample to show what they can do for a client.
The ideal for a writer when it comes to the client’s obligation is simple: detail. Detail at the start of a project, and detailed feedback throughout a project (especially if alterations/a change of direction is desired) that clearly gives the writer the essential information needed to create the content.
The in-between for these two perspectives comes with the online era: SEO, ads, and social media have fundamentally changed the way in which a business operates. This is true whether it is online-only, a traditional ‘real world’ brick-and-mortar, or a combination of both.
In the day and age where good keywords and SEO can mean the difference between your business being on the first page of a Google search (which statistics show is essential) or stuck 10 pages behind, if in doubt it is always a prudent business decision to seek out a writer for a consultation.
Ultimately, you may find you don’t need one after all, but the initial consultation shall deliver you certainty – and in a day and age where disruption has ensured amidst the many opportunities there are more uncertainties in business – the answers you receive could prove invaluable to your business in the road ahead, just as it’s hoped this article provided some useful insight to you here and now.Ed Kennedy is a journalist and web designer proudly from Melbourne, Australia. Say hi to Ed via firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Edkennedy01