Updated: Jan 21
I was sipping coffee the other day with a close friend, who is setting up her business, and she needed my advice as a business owner myself. She was looking for freelance content writers to help with the website and her brand’s online marketing angle, but the process did not seem seamless. She was utterly at a loss and was not sure where to begin.
She had already tried working with a couple of content writers and was not happy with how things were turning out. She felt that with so many freelance writers out there, copywriting was a thing that everyone adds to their CV, whether they have any real credentials to do so or not. After hiring and firing a few freelance writers who were not what they professed to be, she had learned this the hard way.
My friend was right. I realized that with so many freelance content writers out there, content writing really does seem to be something everyone can do. Are content writers nothing more than a bunch of liars pretending to be all that jazz and something that they are not?
And there! Amidst coffee and nonchalant chit chat, I had an epiphany.
There are certain types of content writers that you should avoid. As a business owner trying to promote your brand, you should be extra careful of who you trust your marketing to. Because, truthfully, there are individual freelance content writers who ruin the good name of all others.
There, I’ve said it out loud. It is accurate, and it hurts, but it is time to set the record straight.
Why So Much Fuss Over Content Writing
Content Writing seems to be the new buzzword nowadays. With sales going crazy online, digital marketing is the go-to option to attract customers and increase sales. From webpage, landing page, FAQ page, About US page, Google My Business, SEO, and social media, businesses are always looking for some high-quality content.
And voila! The rise in interest in content marketing leads to an increased demand for freelance content writers. And low and behold, content writing becomes the new hip thing.
Want extra cash? Content writing. Want a part-time job? Content writing. Studied psychology, astrology, linguistics, aerial dancing, and unemployed? Content writing. Can you write? Well, then content writing it is! Can you speak English? Look no further! Content writing is your answer. Blahhh!
The truth is, there are so many types of incompetent and unqualified freelance content writers out there. It is so hard to distinguish the good from the bad, which is why my friend had so many unpleasant experiences with a few content writers and why she was wary of trusting another to do her copywriting.
I trust that as a business owner, you may have found yourself in my friends’ place a bunch of times. Assigning important content writing jobs to freelance writers who consistently fail to rise to your expectations can be frustrating and disheartening.
So for her sake and your sake, I have compiled a nifty list of the types of content writers you should avoid if you are looking to promote your brand via online marketing. (Types conveniently packed under the big umbrellas they fall for easy reference. You are welcome).
A. The Overqualified Lie
#1. The “Trust Me, I Am A Native English Speaker” type
This is one of the first white lies that content writers frequently use. “Trust me! I am a native English speaker!” when they are clearly not. The reason you should avoid these types of writers only has to do with what you are looking for as a brand. Being fluent in English is not the same as being a native English speaker.
If you are looking for a writer that will understand your markets’ linguistics, your perspective brands’ clientele, and the jargon and inside jokes that only native English speakers understand and use, you should be adamant about that.
You should make it clear from the beginning that you are not looking for writers fluent in English. You are looking for native English speakers instead. Truth be told, there are some fantastic writers who can write in English perfectly, but unfortunately, most ESL writers cannot.
#2. The “I Have Worked For So Many Businesses” type
This type of freelance content writer is pretty obvious to pick out. They will proclaim to have worked for numerous businesses and credit themselves for multiple brands’ success. However, if this is true, all they have to do is show you their portfolio, and you can decide for yourself just how many businesses they have worked for so far.
If they keep insisting on their awesome experience but have no portfolio to back it up, then you have a type of freelance writer in front of you that you need to avoid at all costs.
#3. The “I have a Degree in Journalism” type
This is perhaps one of the biggest misconceptions in content writing. Having a degree in journalism does not make you a talented content writer, much like writing excellent web page content does not make you capable of covering the news in recent elections.
So, if you own a business, do not fall into the degree trap. A degree does not make you a gifted writer, nor should it be considered as a prerequisite when hiring a freelance content writer. If you keep dismissing writers looking for the one that has a journalism degree, you might actually be dismissing the one that will think of your brand’s catchphrase. I am pretty sure it was not a journalist who came up with the “I’m Lovin It” Mc Donald’s phrase.
So keep an open mind and search for talent, not a degree.
#4. The “I Will Just Steal Someone else’s portfolio and push it as mine “ type
This type of freelancer is the absolute worst. She will steal someone else’s portfolio or edit a few pieces here and there and make it look as if it is her own work. These types of “writers” are so mischievous that they often steal from a book or a print magazine so that prospective clients will not be able to find plagiarism via Copyscape. This makes their hijacked content appear to be unique and lands them straight to a job.
Fast forward a couple of days later, and duped clients discover that this is not what they signed up for. Business owners are tragically left with a bunch of garbage content that will not help their brand the way they were promised it would.
#5. The “ I know what I am doing, so there is no need to worry” type
I don’t know about you, but the minute someone tells me not to worry, I do the exact opposite and start panicking. Because, if there is no need to worry, why even tell me that I don’t need to worry? Add to that the arrogance of “I know what I am doing” and I am in a full panicky mode.
If you are a business owner, avoid these types of content writers. First of all, they appear to be arrogant and superficial from the get-go. If they really know what they are doing, there is no need to declare it adamantly. Instead, they will make you feel at ease, and show that you don’t need to worry, by giving you high-quality content. Show and not tell should be their method.
And if they keep insisting that you don’t need to worry, chances are they will not take well to criticism and will possibly refuse to make any changes to their content. Because after all, they know what they are doing and you don’t.
#6. The “I have tons of offers from other Businesses, so you better hurry and hire me” type
Ermmm. NO. If they have so many tons of offers why are they pushing you to hire them? With so many brands lined up at their feet, they can wait for the offer to come and then choose accordingly. Right?
This kind of pushy attitude, should put any business owner off. You do not want this type of content writers who manipulate their way into your payroll. This borders on emotional blackmailing (sort of) and will make you rush into a decision that you may later on regret.
So, no. If a content writer is pushing you to hire them, just show them the way out.
B. The Always Something Happens Lie
#7. The “Oh, I did not get the memo” type
I always laugh when I get this type of excuse in my inbox. Then I get royally pissed off, because I am working on a calendar here and want certain types of content ready for my brand on certain dates. The “Oh, I did not get the memo” type of freelance content writer throws the entire monthly planning off course and you should definitely avoid working with one.
#8. The “I am sorry, I thought you meant next Thursday” type
This is downright silly. If you are not sure which Thursday I mean, then you could obviously ask to clarify and not simply assume that the deadline is on whichever Thursday suits you best. Also, most projects have a dated deadline, not just a day, so if this is the best excuse this content writer can come up with, you are best to cut all ties with her and hire another.
#9. The “My Computer crashed” type
This is almost as funny as the “my dog ate my homework” excuse. I swear, whenever one of my content writers gives me that excuse, I have the urge to send them straight to the principal’s office. I might even glare at them a bit, the way an exacerbated high school teacher – who is fed up with excuses – would.
I am not saying you should immediately fire this type of freelance content writers. Or that you should avoid them altogether. Because truth be told, technology may sometimes leave us hanging.
But you should definitely consider it, if such technical problems, keep getting in the way of timely delivered content.
#10. The “My Cat/Dog/ Grandma died” type
We are all humans. We have personal lives that rise above and beyond our jobs. Our daily lives and normalcy are sometimes interrupted by tragedies. We have all been there, we know, and we understand.
As a fellow human and a business owner, you should also show understanding and empathize with your freelance writers. Nevertheless, if you happen to have a writer that is having a disproportionate share of tragedies at a high frequency, then maybe, you should consider ending your business with him.
If you have a writer that is willing to bury half of his acquaintances to ease his way out of deadlines, who knows what else he might be willing to lie about? Stay away; keep clear.
C. The Price Charge Lie
#11. The “Oh I will Charge you Per Word” type
This is a bit iffy here. You certainly want to know how much your freelance content writer will charge you, but let’s face it. Not everything can be priced according to its length! Some of the catchiest phrases are only three words. Did McDonald’s pay 10 cents for the “I Am Loving It”?
Even though you might find such an offer tempting, it is a red flag that your freelance content writer is probably not very experienced.
Avoid the “oh I will charge you per word” types and instead opt for a writer who has clear set prices for each different service he or she offers. This makes it easier for you to budget your marketing accordingly. Moreover, if you have clear pricing from the beginning, you will avoid unpleasant surprises with unexpected costs along the way.
Professional content writers know how much time they will spend on each project. They have the experience and knowledge and can price accordingly. On the other hand, inexperienced freelance writers who are just trying to grab a piece of the copywriting market pie, will simply offer to charge per word.
#12. The “I really have no time, so you have to pay the extra fast service charge” type
This is definitely another type of freelance writer to avoid. Whenever a writer gives me that line, I simply kindly refuse to play the game and re-assign the job to someone else. Three times out of five, their schedule magically clears, or a sudden cancellation gives them the time to work on my project. Truth be told, I rarely go back to these writers. I honestly believe that if they have no time, they should not take on more projects. And if they are willing to forego other projects from other brands in lieu of extra charges to work on my brand, there is no guarantee that they won’t do the same to me along the way.
#13. The “I will make you an offer you can’t resist” type
Ok, there, Don Corleone. Hit me with your best offer. Or not. Because truthfully, I am not really interested in offers. And neither should any self-respected business owner, like my friend or you.
Your brand should not fall into the trap of 1+1. You are not buying cookies. You are buying the content that will either make or break your brand and your success. No discounts here.
If you find a content writer whose style and passion perfectly align with your own, go for it. If that said writer is willing to give you a better price and an offer for your projects, then you are fortunate. But do not sacrifice quality to save a few bucks.
Remember, you can cut your expenses in a number of ways if your budget is limiting. But taking up offers you can’t resist, rarely is the best available option.
So, is there no hope?
There are so many types of freelance content writers out there that you will be best to avoid. Does this mean that there is no hope? Well, not really. There is always hope, and nothing is completely black or white. There are tons of shades of grey in between.
The truth is, there are a plethora of freelance copywriters out there. Some of them are awesome and will send your marketing off the roofs, but some of them are, well, not so awesome. And that is ok. This is a free market, and as a business owner, you can hire or not hire whomever you want.
A content writer can pretend to be anything he wants to be, and though this is immoral at best and slightly illegal at worst, nothing can prevent him from doing so. As a business owner, you have the responsibility to check out the validity and credibility of your potential content writers. It is a pain, I know, but c’est la vie. At least, you have this pretty amazing nifty, useful list to help you watch out for certain types.
But not all hope is lost. There are some fantastic writers out there who will be the perfect fit for you and your brand. It takes some searching, but trust me; they are out there. Take your list, write down your notes, and go out there and find your perfect match.