How to brief a freelance writer

Hiring a freelance writer? Find out how to write the perfect brief so you end up with a stellar writeup.
5 minute read
Gauri Gautam @GauriMelb
Technical Co-pilot
Cover photo for How to brief a freelance writer

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Briefing your writer thoroughly helps you get exactly what you need

So you need to hire a freelance writer to produce some copy for you. Maybe you're looking for a blog post. Maybe it's a company presentation. Or you could be looking for some inspiring marketing copy. No matter what you're looking for, the best way to get it is to give your writer a clear brief.

What is a brief?

A brief is the job description or set of instructions provided to a freelance writer by the client. The brief can be a detailed document or a few bullet points explaining the inclusions and exclusions of the project.

There are numerous ways to write a good brief. However, the one thing that good briefs have in common is a thorough explanation of the purpose and structure of the piece.

Importance of a well-written brief

A clear and well-written brief can be equally beneficial for the client and the freelancer.

  • As a client, if your brief is a detailed document covering all points, then there's less chance of expectation mismanagement with the end result. You'll have set clear expectations, and you can mitigate the need for back-and-forth communication about the project.
  • For freelancers, a well-written brief is a necessity for providing accurate deliverables. Extensive project brief documentation enables faster completion and the freelancer can take on more work.

Clearly, a well-written brief is a win-win situation for both the client and the freelancer. Yet, freelancing platforms are filled with half-baked project briefs. As a client, you know what you want from the project. However, a freelancer is only aware of what gets documented in the brief. Therefore, the project brief is a very important document.

How to write a perfect brief

Writing a clear and comprehensive brief can seem challenging. But if you include these components, you'll have armed your writer with information that helps them exceed your expectations.

Context

As a client, your aim should be to familiarize the freelancer with the context of the project. Apart from including the project details, provide a background and history. Help them understand the nature of your project and business.

If you want a blog post for your website, then share links to your company’s blog. Allow the writer see what's been written in the past to get an idea for your brand voice. If it's your first attempt at setting a brand voice for your content, point your writer towards brands you'd like to emulate. It's important to remember that the freelancer’s understanding of the project is limited to the information that you provide.

Expectations

This is where you need to provide crisp and clear details of the deliverables that you expect from the freelance writer at the end of this project. For example, if you're hiring freelancer’s services for article or blog writing work, make sure you provide answers to the following questions:

  • What is the word count?
  • Who is your target audience?
  • What is the project title?
  • What do you want to convey through this writeup?
  • What tone or style do you want to adopt?
  • What is the deadline?
  • Are there any keywords that should be used?
  • Is there a specific structure you want for the piece?

Finally, provide the freelancer with any examples, if you can. Also, provide any sources or links that you think might be useful for the project. Mention if you want any compulsory inclusions. This could mean keyword usage and density, mentioning the contact details in the conclusion, etc.

Limitations

Now that you've highlighted what you require from the project and mentioned the context, the next step is to set the boundaries. Dish out a list of exclusions for the project. For a freelance writer, it's important to know anything that's off-limits. For example, you can ask the freelancer not to include the names or products of certain companies that are your direct competitors. Tell them the formats that you won’t accept. For instance, you may require the written work in a .docx format only. Don’t overlook the importance of exclusions. They help convey your expectations in a much clearer manner.

Current issues

If there are any current issues that you plan to address with this writeup, then the brief is a good place to highlight them. Mention your larger plan to overcome these challenges and what role the writeup will play in helping you and your organization. Ask the freelancer upfront how he or she can help you address the existing issues.

Passion

Your writers are likely to follow the passion that you bring out in the brief. Your enthusiasm is bound to rub off on the freelancer. Drive home the point with enough excitement to get your writer excited about the project.

Emotional connection

You want your readers and audience to feel a certain emotion when they read the writeup and end up buying your product or subscribing to your service. Are you looking at surprising your audience or simply offering information? In other words, you know the emotional response that you want to generate through this project. All you have to do is convey this to your freelancer. This can be the perfect garnish to your showstopper dish.

Q&A

Lastly, ask the freelancer if they have understood the requirement and if they want to ask any questions. Maybe they could suggest a modification that will improve the end result. Be open to suggestions and encourage the freelance writer to ask questions. Ask your freelancer for ways you can improve your brief.

This might seem like a lot of information to include. Fortunately, you can use templates to help you in composing the initial few briefs. This can help you distill all the information into succinct bullet points.

As a client, you can use the points listed in this article and create your own unique way of drafting a brief. Whatever you do, make sure that the brief is not vague, and it sets out expectations clearly so that the end result is in line with your requirements. You can’t expect to be served lasagna when you've given instructions for cooking a pizza.

Having said that, keep in mind not to go overboard with details. Don’t bury your freelancer in the documentation that may have little or no impact on the project. After all, it is called a "brief." It ought to be concise.

Since the project is based on how you've defined it, it is always good to find out if the freelancer has understood the brief or not. Ask them to summarize the brief document in a few sentences so that you can determine their level of comprehension.

With well-written briefs in place, you're all set to get better results from your projects. The time and effort that you invest in composing a brief will help you get the right results in the first draft itself. In the end, you would have increased efficiency by improving the project turnaround time.

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