nonprofit freelancer advice

Working with freelance copywriters… Is it a good idea for your nonprofit?

With all the plates your nonprofit has spinning, the thought of having another member on your team to help sounds ideal. However, when it comes to specialized needs, as with the case of content marketing and copywriting, is it really worth it to hire on another full-time staff member? In many cases, the answer is no.

A common solution to this predicament is hiring a freelance copywriter. That way, you have a go-to freelancer you can ping whenever you need new content, and you don’t have to set aside the budget for a full-time staff member.

If this is something you are considering for your nonprofit, we want to make you more aware of what this typically looks like and how you might best go about it.

First, let’s go over some more of the benefits of hiring a freelance copywriter for your nonprofit

  1. More quality content. We talk a lot about the benefits of content marketing for your nonprofit. Yet we’re aware that it’s really challenging for nonprofits to have enough content to actually be successful with this strategy. With a freelancer, it’s much more likely you’ll have quality content when you need it. Likewise, unlike when the only option is to assign writing tasks to any available staff member, a freelancer will come in with training and writing chops. Lastly, the writing won’t fall to the wayside when your team members are busy.
  2. More creativity. When your nonprofit is doing so many things for the community, it’s hard to step back and talk about it effectively. You get too caught up in the day-to-day. Having a third-party come in and get to know your nonprofit on the inside, but also see it from an outsider’s perspective, could spark more creativity and more exciting ways of describing what you do. What’s more, if you have a go-to freelancer, you won’t have to re-introduce them to your nonprofit each time you need new content.
  3. Less cost. As we touched on above, a freelance copywriter can get you the content you need, but you can also avoid the costs of a full-time writer. When you don’t need the work to be done, you won’t need to pay.

Next, some of the challenges of working with a freelancer

  1. Understanding your needs. A common challenge we’ve seen at ArcStone and for nonprofits is understanding how many pieces of content you need and when you need them. With a freelancer, you’ll need to tell them exactly what you want and when you want it. This amount of forethought can be difficult. A benefit to having an internal team member handle this writing is you can pull them in last-minute and they’ll just tackle whatever needs to get done. To avoid this downfall, plan out your editorial calendar in advance; here’s how we use a free tool, Trello, to do so. Likewise, still have a team member on hand that can handle some of those last-minute requests.
  2. Authenticity and consistency. Obviously, when a freelancer comes in and tries to talk about your work, it’s not the same as having one of your actual team members do the same.
    • To achieve consistency, set up brand guidelines to hone in on what tone you’d like your writing to strike. You can also start re-using the same copywriters.
    • To help with authenticity, have your freelancers come into the office and get to know your team before they write.
  3. Accuracy. With freelancers, you’ll want to ensure you leave room in your schedule for proofreading. No matter how much info you share with them, they will never know the inner-workings of your nonprofit as much as you do, so you’ll want to be sure you double check their facts.

Additional tidbits to avoid the downfalls of outsourcing your copywriting:

Even with the above concerns in mind, we still think freelance writers are a solid option for your nonprofit. You just need to properly plan for using them. Here are some more ideas:

  1. Set up clear expectations. As we touched on above, you’ll need to be clear here. It might seem easier to just hire on a team member and then figure out the details, but we recommend setting up your strategy, deadlines, and expectations before you even bring them into the picture.
  2. Set up a style guide. With each new content marketing client, we try to set aside time in the budget for creating a style guide that specifies rules for content. We talk through how to determine your tone and guidelines in the post “Build a consistent brand voice through all your content marketing efforts.”
  3. Provide resources. Besides setting up a guide, you can also send them examples of content you like. This way, they can get an overall feel for the direction you hope to go. Likewise, provide digital resources that your nonprofit trusts. If they ever need to write something that dives deeper into facts and figures about the nonprofit world, don’t assume they know what is viable data and what isn’t.
  4. Partner them with SMEs. In the content marketing world, an SME is a Subject Matter Expert. They are the go-to team members who understand the subject most intimately. That way, the freelancer isn’t scrambling to know to whom they should ask their more specific questions.

Now, where can a freelance writer best be used?

You might have a specific area where you already know you need a freelance writer for your nonprofit work, but there are several other projects you can consider.

  • Website content—this could include your about page, contact us page, staff bios, special event landing pages
  • Email content
  • Videos
  • Printed collateral
  • Infographics / ebooks / annual reports
  • Social and blog content

We hope this makes you a little more comfortable about the prospect of hiring additional team members. We also hope it helps you avoid some unforeseen conflicts down the road. At ArcStone, we often recommend copywriters to our clients. Contact us for details.