How to brief a freelance writer (with real examples)

Estimated reading time
4 minutes
26th March 2020
Author: Kit McKay
Posted in: Content operations, Content production

Faced with the current pandemic, many marketing teams have seen their budgets slashed to cut costs. Understandably, the areas seeing the biggest cost reductions are physical events and print, with 75% and 45% of marketers reducing spend respectively. However, 44% are also reducing content spend. 

As we are all aware, content marketing is now one of the most effective channels to reach audiences isolating at home. But with decreased budgets making agencies out of the question for many marketing teams, it’s the freelance writer who offers a more affordable alternative, but how successful they are is ultimately down to your brief.

How to structure a brief for a freelance writer

How you structure your brief has a big impact on the final piece of content your freelance writer produces. You can’t give a freelancer a vague topic and act disappointed when what they independently produce doesn’t match up to what you envisioned. You need to research and determine the arguments you want them to make in the article so they are reflective of your intentions for the output and that the quality bar is set high.

A brief for an article should include:

  • A functional working title
  • A word count
  • Information about the target audience 
  • The key arguments you want them to make in the article – clearly stated
  • The style of language you want them to use (this will be your style guide)
  • Info on the context in which their article will appear.
  • [Optional] Any key data points you want to be included – these always help to elevate the credibility of an article. 
  • [Optional] Info on any specific people, or types of people, you’d ideally want to be featured in the article
  • [Optional] Relevant research or existing reports is a nice addition to help the writer.

If you’re working with a single writer on an entire report or guide (multiple chapters), they still need a brief for each individual chapter/article. The article briefs should be presented in the order you expect each piece to appear in the final document.

Example of a brief for a freelance writer

This is a real example of an article brief we gave to a freelance writer. This particular brief was for an article within one of our long-form guides:

Working title: Why customer obsession pays off

Wordcount: 1,200

Primary target audience: CMOs, VPs of marketing, Marketing directors (the people who set strategy within the marketing function)

Secondary audience: C-suite (those who set strategy within the business)

This article will open the entire report. It will explore the business value of customer obsession and why it’s such a powerful strategy for businesses, setting the scene for the chapters that follow on how to successfully design and implement a strategy and culture around customer obsession.

Key arguments:

  • Customer obsession builds trust which encourages customers to try out new products. This supports greater experimentation in your business and your offering – critical for companies to remain successful
  • Customers who feel well supported and understood by a business are more forgiving, less likely to churn and more likely to become ambassadors + introduce a supplier when they move to a new role.
  • For a company to be customer-obsessed it must also be aligned around keeping employees happy and engaged, which in turn increases retention of talent.

Key data points

  • “Companies [earning $1 billion] can gain $775 million on average over three years by modestly improving the experience they deliver to customers” (Qualtircs XM Insitute)
  •  “Software companies have the most to gain from improving CX ($1 billion)”
  • Only 10% of companies regard themselves as very advanced at CX (Econsultancy/Adobe, 2019)
  • Optimizing the customer experience was seen as the number one most exciting opportunity for B2B companies in 2019 (Econsultancy/Adobe, 2019)

Ideal commentators

CX and marketing leaders. Focus particularly on those with a strong LinkedIn and Twitter presence, if possible.

Note: We normally provide the contact information for specific individuals we would like to be quoted. This has been omitted for their privacy.

Related whitepapers and reports:

Example of an article written from a brief

Like I said earlier, the more detailed you are in your brief, the happier you’ll be with what your freelance writer submits. As you’ll be able to see from the article, our freelance writer took our brief and incorporated the majority of the content we wanted to be included. This still allows space for the writer to be creative and do their own research, but it means they have a crystal clear understanding of what we want from them. The tighter the brief, the better the output.

Read the finished article in this guide:

Cover page for the customer obsession guide shows a smiling woman shaking hands