Monday, June 22, 2009

Hiring Writers V

When can you afford not to hire a writer?
By Alan Eggleston, writer, editor, SEO strategist

Shakespeare once said, All the world's a stage and we are all the actors*. That seems to be some peoples' attitude toward writing: All the world's a book and we are all the authors or All the world's a website and we are all the writers. To a small extent, that's true. We all have an ability to set a few words down on paper or on a screen and have it make sense. Some of us even have the gift of orginality or creativity. However, like any profession, it takes experience and practice to perfect a skill or make a talent pay off. It also requires hard work, which most people aren't willing to endure. I have written for more than 20 years, written for the Web since 1995, and I learned a lot along the way.

That said, there are times when it makes sense for you to write your own project. In those cases, you should not need to hire a writer and would be foolish to do so.

  1. If you are a gifted writer -- in the opinion of someone other than yourself or a close relative -- and have the time to write the project, by all means save some money and write it. However, do have an outsider read it to point out any flaws and suggest ways of improving it. Editors usually cost less than writers and will catch things you wouldn't dream are problems.
  2. Some parts of a project don't require as much creativity or finesse. Save some money by writing those parts and leaving the creative, more demanding parts for your writer. However, do allow the writer to adjust the language so everything flows as a unit and it doesn't show that multiple writers worked on the project. Or, have a less expensive editor pull the two parts together.
  3. In-house pieces with limited public exposure may require less writing skill. Pieces that set or explain policy may benefit from a legal review rather than a writer's hand.
  4. Signage, although you may want some kind of scrutiny of customer service signage.
  5. Small projects like short notices or web pages or quick promotional mailers, although a writer can often help you come up with a clever hook or intro that catches attention.
  6. Instances in which you need to provide a lot of detail and it would take a lot of time to explain it to a writer may be wiser to go ahead an write yourself and then turn over to a writer or editor to smooth out. They may have questions later, but it will be less costly than your trying to explain the all the details. Do have a writer or editor review it, though, to make sure it communicates clearly.
  7. A product page that is either more about details than sell, or that is copy and paste rather than writing may be a better investment in your time than a writer's -- or hire a virtual assistant or data input person. However, look for someone who is detail oriented and will catch mistakes and inconsistencies.
  8. If you simply can't afford a writer, you simply will have to do it yourself, unless you can find someone to donate his or her time. Perhaps your project will make a good portfolio builder. If you find yourself with a project to create and no money to spend (lack of cash, not lack of willingness to spend), at least find a word processing program or e-mail program with spell check and, if possible, grammar check.

Just remember if you decide to tackle the project yourself: Whatever it is will represent your company. Misspellings and typos, erroneous grammar and punctuation, strange formatting and unwise word choices will say something to potential customers, something you may not have intended. An experienced writer or editor will help guide you past those, even if you write the rough draft and they do a revision.

Look at it this way: When Hollywood does a blockbuster movie, they don't advertise for just anyone off the street to play the big parts -- they go for superstars. Sure, once in a while a production will cast an unknown and getaway with it. But more often than not, they go with the big names who can sell the story. Which way will you go?

*There's more meaning to this Shakespean wisdom than I'm attributing here; I don't mean to short-change The Bard, but it illustrates the attitude sometimes shown toward hiring creative talent.

Look me up on Twitter:
Personal: @alaneggleston
Professional: @a_copywriter

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