Five (More) Points to Giving Your Writer Better Feedback

Five Points to Giving Your Writer Better Feedback

Following up on the last post, here are five more ways you can give your writer better feedback that helps them deliver exceptional work.

Keep Track of the Feedback You Are Giving

Unless you keep track of the feedback you are giving, you won’t know whether the work is getting progressively better. You can do this by keeping a feedback journal of what has been communicated and what has been implemented. Use a simple Word document or a note taking app like Evernote for this. Note down the feedback, then once communicated to the writer, jot down their feedback on your feedback and then after they have implemented the feedback go back and determine whether they met your feedback goals. This simple journal-keeping can also help you improve your requirements next time you hire a writer as you’ll know what pitfalls to look out for and what feedback is most effective and which isn’t.

Allow the Writer to Thwart Some of Your Feedback

Yes, some of your feedback may actually not be useful or practical so you’ll need to live with that. After communicating your feedback, allow room for your writer to counter that feedback with their own feedback. Also remember the writer may have more experience than you in terms of writing so they may have some deeper insights than you do. The important thing to keep in mind here is that not all feedback is usable, so be willing to dump your feedback if it’s determined that it cannot be used. An interesting side effect of this is that discussing your feedback with the writer could stimulate additional improvements that neither of you had thought about.

Feedback Is a Two-Way Street

Feedback is a dialogue, not a monologue, so be open for counter points from the writer when offering feedback. This a good thing because when information flows back and forth, greater understanding is developed and new synergies formed. When you do offer your feedback, try and elicit feedback from the writer as well. Let them know you are open to hear their thoughts on how to improve the work on hand. Keeping the feedback flowing in a positive loop is the best way to make progress on your writing project without any party feeling like they are just being carried along with no room for their voice to be heard.

Feedback Helps You and the Writer Both Now and in the Future

Think about this for a moment. As you send the writer feedback and journal this information, you are building a wiki of sorts of the sort of feedback that writers will typically respond to best. This can be extremely useful in your future projects as all you’ll need to do is recycle the feedback you’ve already used in the past, saving you time and effort. On the writer’s end, any constructive feedback you give them helps them polish up their skills even more. They can see areas that were previously blind spots and improve accordingly. When you look at feedback this way, it stops being an arduous task and becomes a knowledge management workflow that can fit in well with your overall business strategy. You can also think of it as an opportunity to help your writer become better at what they do.

Do a Postmortem of the Project

Once the project is complete, go back and do a postmortem of the project. What were the major challenges you faced during the project? What was the main issue you had to deal with with your writer? Did the feedback yield any insights on how to run your next project better? Is the writer someone you would hire again or should you start looking for another contractor? Doing all this immediately after the project will help you clearly dissect the project details while they are still fresh in your mind. Do also remember to provide your writer with exit feedback, as this will help them know how they did overall in the project. Although if this is the only feedback you will leave then it’s pointless because the writer no longer has an opportunity to do anything about it.

As a writer, I value feedback highly. I wish more clients would provide it as all the progress I have made as a writer has been as a direct or indirect result of the feedback clients have left me. It’s also true that clients who make the effort to provide feedback tend to be more committed and better clients than those who do not provide feedback.

Five Points to Giving Your Writer Better Feedback

Five Points to Giving Your Writer Better Feedback

When you hire a freelance writer, one of the best ways to ensure you get your money’s worth is to offer then good feedback. Good feedback helps a writer focus their effort and skills on giving you just the right outcome that meets your requirements. When hiring, it’s obvious that you want the best writer. However, the writer is also looking for a competent client, one who can give then constructive feedback. Understanding feedback is therefore crucial to how well the project will progress for both parties.

Praise or Criticism Isn’t Necessarily Feedback

Telling the writer something is great may sound like feedback but it’s not entirely feedback. For example, if you tell me the preceding paragraph is great, I’ll be pleased but I won’t know why you think it’s great. Are the short sentences easier to read; is the grammar not too complicated; etc.? On the flip side, just saying something doesn’t read right also does not help make it better. Remember, the writer is outputting what he thinks is best, helping them understand how to change it is what will make more sense.

Put It All in Writing

Now that that’s out of the way, you’ll want to make sure you put it all in writing. Even if you prefer speaking to the writer, it’s best to first send them the feedback via email or chat then call them up to discuss it. That way, it’s clear what is being addressed. Also, remember feedback can mean the writer doing additional work so you need to be very clear as to why you need them to do so and that you are feedback is not merely superfluous. It’s always good to remain on the same page so the work proceeds smoothly and in good faith.

Feedback Has to Be Actionable

When you read the drafts from your writer and they just don’t read right, don’t just send them back and ask for a rewrite. Take time to figure out why you think they don’t read right. Think of some actionable things that may help the writing get closer to what you are looking for. For instance, if the writing has many long and complicated sentences (these are easy to pick out), note this down and ask the writer to redo the work with shorter sentences. Then go over it again and see if the readability has improved. Keep iterating until the work reads just right. While at it, do avoid vague and unactionable feedback. An example of vague feedback would be, “Please rewrite these three paragraphs to sound more interesting.” That’s as vague as can be.

Prompt Feedback Is Best

To provide prompt feedback you’ll need to factor in feedback sessions before you start the project. If it’s a short project like say an article, you can have the writer do a paragraph first and then see if they are on the right track. Also, give it as short a turnaround time as possible. As soon as you hire, let them know that you require the first paragraph written and submitted within an hour. This has the added advantage of ensuring your project takes priority with the writer. On delivery, provide them feedback within a similarly short turnaround time. Once the feedback has done a full loop and you are both on the same page, proceed with the rest of the project.

Focus on the Work, Not the Person

Sometimes you’ll hire a contractor who’s gifted but has some personality quirk that doesn’t make them very likable. For instance, they may not be very eloquent in speech, or be extremely brief in chats. While these can be irritating, it’s the work that matters. As you provide feedback, please do not provide feedback based on personality and character traits as far as they do not directly impact the project. In the example above, feedback should not include asking them to take public speaking classes or beefing up their chat replies. Stick to the work and what will make the work better.

Feedback in any project is crucial. I’ll be publishing another five points to better feedback tomorrow so be sure to check out the next post.

How to Hire the Right Freelance Writer for Your Project

How to Hire the Right Freelance Writer for Your Project

As a startup or small business, you’ve doubtless turned to freelancers to provide you with some service. It’s the easiest way to get talent without making a big commitment on hiring them permanently. Platforms like Upwork and Freelancer have also made this very easy. What’s not easy, however, if picking the right freelancer, especially when it comes to finding a competent freelance writer who will deliver. As a veteran 10-year freelance writer who has both been hired and hired other writers, I know the ins and outs when it comes to finding the best writers for your project. Here are several important things you should consider when recruiting.

Determine What You Need

Ask yourself, when the project is done, what do I want to have in hand? How does the content look? How many words/ pages will it be? What will it read like? Put yourself in your readers’ shoes and imagine reading the content, what does it sound like, what does it make you feel? How do the sentences read? Are they long or short? Write all that down. If you are also looking at keyword optimization, also write this down. This is a needs assessment and will guide you on developing requirements for the job you are about to post.

Your Job Description

Using the points you came up with above, write out a job description that’s as detailed as possible. The clearer the job description, the easier it will be to recruit the right writer. I’ve read dozens of job descriptions on Upwork where the client isn’t clear on what they need. In many cases the job description is just two or three sentences. Ironically, these short descriptions tend to attract a higher number of mostly low-quality writers while long and detailed descriptions attract a shorter roster of high-quality writers. While brevity is sometimes important, you don’t want to be brief when looking for a freelance writer. Be as detailed as possible in your job description and don’t worry about not getting “many” applicants. Getting 100+ applicants is tedious and a huge waste of time. A detailed job description will snag you fewer applicants with the added benefit of helping you determine who has read through it when you begin reading application letters. A good writer will always mirror your requirements in their cover letter, a sign they have read and internalized what you require.

Skill vs. Experience

I find this to be a major dilemma website owners face when it comes to hiring writers. Here’s the thing, while getting someone with experience is great, I suggest you go for a blend of experience PLUS skill. You see, someone may have been writing for years and years, but their skill isn’t top notch, while a newbie may have just started but they are a natural when it comes to writing. The best way to determine a writer’s skill is to look at their cover letter. How does it read? Is it well crafted? Does it sound like the kind of writing you would like for your project? Poorly written cover letters are usually a sign of things to come so don’t get carried away by someone’s extensive experience, vet their skills as well.

Interviewing

The interview, whether via phone call or chat, is the clincher. While interviewing, do more listening than talking. While you may be tempted to go on and on about your project, what you want is to get a feel of the writer’s thought processes. How well did they understand your job requirements? Do they understand what the content is about? Have they done any additional research on your business industry? What are their thoughts on how best to position the content? And so on. These leading questions will give you a clear understanding of the kind of writer you are dealing with. I always say how someone thinks is how they write because all writing begins as thoughts in the writer’s mind. So, if you can get a sneak peek into their thinking, you have a good idea of how they will write.

Feedback

Feedback is crucial. I must repeat this: Feedback is crucial. Think of a soldier who goes to the battlefront and then all communication is cut off. How do they advance? Do they need reinforcements? Is the enemy retreating or advancing? It’s the same for a writer. Once the task begins, it helps to be available to provide feedback on a regular basis. There’s nothing that kills creativity like working while wondering whether you are on the right track. To remove this speculation, plan regular feedback briefings with the writer to keep them on track and the whole project on track. Be open, candid and most importantly, clear about what your feedback is about. Just saying it doesn’t sound right isn’t much of helpful feedback. Saying instead you would like it to sound friendlier/more serious/ less serious/ funnier/ etc. works better.

There’s nothing like a perfect writer out there but there are some great ones. If you find one of the great ones they can be a real asset for your business. When hiring, be sure to follow these steps to avoid finding yourself stuck with one of the bad apples.