When I started as a freelance content writer, I would browse listings in the ol’ content marketplace, which seemed like a good place to hook up with people in need of a service I could provide. And there was no end to the listings from people on the hunt for writers, with projects that included website content, blog content, social media stuff, even the more traditional print and press release stuff. The gist of these listings was always the same – a need for a good, quick writer who could make it happen.

These listings always had dozens of writers vying for the same projects, which made me wonder how the person posting the job made the final choice. Not only was he or she in need of a writer, but now there was a mountain of eager emails to wade through first.

As a freelance writer on the flip side of that coin, I’d like to help you out. So if you’re one of those people trying to narrow down your options to the perfect writer for your project, here are three essential tips.

Check the Portfolio First

First things first – if any writer bidding your project hasn’t included portfolio or writing links, ask for them. You need a clear understanding of a writer’s ability and range so you can make the most well-informed decision about whether he or she can handle your project. Writing jobs vary, after all, in everything from tone to length, so it stands that not every writer is right for every project. Take the time to be choosy – it’ll pay off in the long run.

rates say a lot

Everyone knows the old saying, “You get what you pay for,” and it applies in this instance too. With so many writers flooding the market these days, you may be tempted to go with the lowest bidder for your project. But the writer promising to compose stellar web copy for just $50 may actually end up costing you too much. Writers with experience, chops and SEO savvy understand the value they offer, and it’s critical that you understand it too. You can ask for a writer to bid your project by the hour or for a flat fee, but prepare yourself for something in the $50 – $80 per hour range. That’s a competitive price for a serious writer who knows his or her stuff, and a good writer handling your stuff means copy that gets results.

ask for references

And then use them! Call or email and ask what it was like to work with the writer – was he or she reliable, accommodating, professional? Would you work with him or her again? Would you recommend him or her? Taking the time to do a bit of detective work about your potential writer will give you a sense of what it will be like to work together on your project, and that can only be a good thing.

So what’s the takeaway today? When it comes to choosing a writer for your project, spend the extra time perusing portfolios, asking for rates and checking references. The odds will be that much higher that the writer who shines in these areas is the right writer for your project. Good luck!