Tag Archive for: hiring a freelance copywriter

Angie and Matt Howell of Farmhouse Creative: Suck it Up, Let’s Do This

The Howells know small. They grew up in small towns. They have a small office in a big building: Madjax*, the makers space in downtown Muncie.

You can’t miss it. It’s the only one whose walls are covered in bright green paint from floor to ceiling, like a beacon of hope for the mom n’ pop struggling to keep up with marketing demands.

“I treat their money like my money. We want them to look good,” Angie said, when I interviewed her and Matt in December 2017.

(Okay, “interview” is a bit too formal of a word. I’d been writing for Farmhouse clients for four years. If chatting with your coworkers about their family and complaining about the printer acting up again while sprawling on the company couch counts as an “interview”, then sure.)


The Howells’ USP (unique selling proposition) is nothing fancy. They set themselves apart from other marketers by doing the things they know small businesses care about: responding promptly to service requests; executing orders quickly; exercising fairness in customer service; and ensuring quality control.

As an example of that last one, Matt gestured to a stack of hundreds of boxed business cards on the floor beside him.

“The customer ordered these on Monday. Here they are, but we said we’d have them by early next week. Here’s why. They’re not right. The color is all wrong, so we’re sending them back. We’ll have it right for the client by the deadline,” Matt said. “That’s what we mean by quality control.”


Of course, every small business owner needs an answer to the question, “How much is this going to cost me?” Matt answers that question with a story.

Matt’s father was a farmer in his hometown of aptly-named Farmland, just down the road from Muncie on SR 32 toward Ohio. He remembers how his dad would sell hay bales for $1 when everybody else was selling them for $2.

“He saw charging those higher prices as screwing people over. He taught me that in a small town, people are supposed to take care of people. That’s what we do.”


Like any small business, it was no cakewalk getting Farmhouse Creative off the ground for Angie, its founder. She was doing project management for Integrity Marketing in Fishers when she decided it was time to do her own thing.

For one thing, it was no fun for her and Matt to be separated newlyweds. After their marriage in 2011, Matt was still doing web design out of his home office in Farmland, where he lived with his three kids. Angie wanted the freedom to work close to her family.

In early 2013, she made her move to go independent.

“I sent a letter to 250 businesses in Muncie to announce the new business. I met with 100 prospects that year,” Angie said. “All while being pregnant.”

That’s right, while Matt was working 12-hour days to make ends meet and Angie was beating the bushes to grow her business fast, the Howells’ baby daughter was on her way.

“The baby was born in November 2013. Angie was back to work the next day,” Matt said, grinning with dumbfounded admiration.

“When people tell me they can’t get something done because they’re under the weather, sometimes I’m like, I built my business while I was pregnant and basically sick all the time,” Angie said. “You know. Suck it up.”

That said, just like their clients who don’t have the capacity to do their own marketing, everybody has their limits. While Angie had the print side covered, Matt joined in early 2014 to do website design, maintenance and manage digital marketing for clients.

As they continued to grow, the Howells realized they needed help with project management. That’s where their third employee, Amy Leffingwell comes in. The Howells hired Amy in summer 2017 to take on some of the design work, make product deliveries and to act in a CSM capacity for Farmhouse’s 350+ clients.


If you’re thinking, “Surely three people can’t handle ALL the marketing needs of that many clients,” you’re right. That’s where freelancers come in.

There are basically two kinds of freelancers a small shop like Farmhouse Creative needs. The first is back office support. The Howells routinely rely on freelance developers and designers to perform the tasks as directed by Matt on the digital side and by Angie on the print/graphic art side.

As I listened to the Howells describe this dynamic – they take the lead, freelancers execute – I realized the work I’ve done for them for the last few years feels different.

“Right, it’s totally different,” Matt acknowledged. “Content is something we have to offload to someone who knows how to take care of the client. You get the detail, you’re the storyteller. You’re more of a partner, an extension of the Farmhouse.”

Hiring a freelance content writer requires a great deal of trust, because they are by necessity client-facing. You have to be able to say, “This person represents us and our ability to represent you, to capture your voice, to tell your story.”


If they’re going to put that much trust in someone, why not create a position and hire someone to do it?

That could put the Howells on a slippery slope toward what they don’t want to be: a full-scale marketing agency.

“We want to help clients plan out the year, to make a marketing strategy, but we want to remain small enough to help small businesses and nonprofits affordably,” Matt explained. “Our niche is to develop and execute a plan, not own the whole thing.”

In other words, they don’t want to be the mammoth Sterling Cooper (… Draper Price) agency from Mad Men. They don’t want to tell businesses who they are and what they should be doing, or to manage their national media buys.

They want to stay true to who they are, a small business serving small businesses. That means never requiring clients to invest in packages that bundle in copywriting services. Instead, to whatever extent the client wants to DIY, they can.


But when a client wants or needs a professional copywriter to help capture and retain an audience, to help convert attention to sales, sales to loyalty, and loyalty to advocacy over time, the Farmhouse will always have a freelancer on call.

Small and nimble, helping others remain small and nimble. That’s what drives Angie Rogers-Howell.

“I know what it’s like to be a small business, to work hard without a lot of resources,” Angie said. “I just want people to succeed.”

Amen. See why I like these folks?

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*Not anymore! They actually announced their move to the Lofts at Roberts the day after I published this story. I’m pretty sure they did it just to prank me.

How Much Does it Cost to Hire a Freelance Writer?

Image Copyright: choneschones / 123RF Stock Photo

This blog post has been updated from its original version. It now includes a link to my rates page. You can also click on Rates in the menu above to go to the same place. But read the article first, because you totally need a break. Right? Enjoy.


It was time to get a decent pair of shoes for once. I was working at the AT&T retail store in Muncie, Indiana. The job had me on my feet all day. I was tired of having to replace my dress shoes every few months when the heels wore out.

I told the shoe store salesman, a tall gentleman in his early sixties with a warm smile and bright eyes behind grandfatherly glasses, that I wanted something durable.

Before pulling anything out of the stock room, he measured my feet. Then he watched my gait and told me I tended to put more weight on my right foot, which explained why my right shoe heel was always the first to go.

He picked out a pair of black dress shoes and inserted a wedge under the right sole at the heel to reinforce it.

I put them on and took a stroll across the lobby and the floor turned into marshmallows and gum drops. These shoes were not only durable; they were some of the most comfortable I’d ever worn. A perfect fit.

Then it came time to ask the question. How much?

“A million dollars,” he said earnestly.

Then he laughed. “The price never sounds so bad when you start at a million dollars,” he said.

He’s right. Once I’d experienced the value of these magical foot pillows I didn’t think twice about spending what I did.


Buying the right pair of shoes is like hiring the right writer. It costs far less than a million bucks to make you feel like a million bucks with a comfortable fit and strong performance over time.

Buying the wrong pair of shoes is like hiring the wrong writer. You’ll be groaning after a few months when you realize you can’t get the mileage you need out of what you’ve got. Sore from trying to make an uncomfortable situation work, you re-enter the marketplace to buy another throwaway brand …

Or make a greater investment in one that will take you the distance.


You can find shoes at $5 a pair and writers at $5 per page. Neither will get you very far before folding under the demands you place on them.

When you invest a few hundred bucks in a pair of shoes, you can reasonably expect you’re getting materials that will stand the test of time. (Or your money back.)

The same goes for writers. You know you’re making a strong investment in quality if:

  1. You can guess the rate per hour or per page they build into their quotes has two or three digits in it, never just one. Some top writers charge $1 or more per word; that’s the only time General Washington should be involved in the conversation. (Unless you need copy about U.S. history, I guess.)
  2. You can tell by client testimonials, sample work and by talking with them that they have substance. Professional writers worth the investment will be interested in you enough to ask questions, make suggestions and increase your comfort level. You should be able to imagine having them on staff.

I know what you’re wondering now.


You guessed it: $1,000,000. Just kidding. I have published rates for the most common project types here.

Take a look at my portfolio and client testimonials. Then let’s talk about your project. Maybe we can work out a discount. How about we knock it down to $999,999?

True or False Quiz: What to Expect from a Good eBook/Whitepaper Writer

If you’ve never hired a copywriter to produce the text for a long-form marketing, sales or PR piece (e.g. ebooks and whitepapers) and you’ve determined you need to, it’s understandable to be a bit nervous.

Maybe you’re not a writer. You hated English class, curse the name of your last comp lit prof, reach for the crayons to immerse yourself in therapeutic coloring whenever your CMO brings up that ebook idea again.

How do you direct a writer to a produce the piece when your gifts and talents are in a completely different area?

Maybe you are a writer. You loved English class, send a birthday card to your last comp lit prof with Xs and Os on it every year, absolutely can’t stand the fact that your workload prohibits you from taking on another project, especially one you’re so excited about.

How do you delegate the task of putting the piece together when the most qualified person to write it is you?

These questions come down to expectations. For the non-writer, the hope is that the freelance copywriter will just take the reins and get it done. For the in-house writer managing the project, the hope is that the freelancer will be your perfect ghost, a clone of yourself getting done what you wish you could.

What’s realistic? Here’s a little true or false quiz to test those expectations:

  1. T or F: A good copywriter ought to come in knowing my industry inside and out.


Professional freelance copywriters are adept at learning quickly the details of the subject matter they are hired to cover. Think of them as journalists. They are not subject matter experts themselves; rather, they ask questions and conduct research to get to the bottom of the story. Some are specialists with experience on a particular “beat” that may appear to match your industry (you’ll know from their portfolio), and that can have value depending on the project; however, every piece is unique. You will need to be prepared to provide access to members of your team who can share knowledge and insights.

  1. T or F: I should expect clean copy, free of obvious spelling and grammatical errors.


Bargain basement writers abound online. For a penny per word you’ll have a slushy mess of text that you’re welcome to toss into your branded communications if you dare. Good writers self-edit to ensure their work is clean, clear and concise. The caveat here is that there is a difference between clean copy and professionally edited copy. The longer the document and the more permanency there is to the finished product (i.e. printed in multiple copies), the more important it is to utilize an in-house editor or hiring one on contract. This second pair of eyes that may find those inconsistencies, redundancies, citation errors, etc., that the writer may have missed. To error is human. (Get it? Nevermind.)

  1. T or F: An experienced copywriter shouldn’t need any feedback from me. They ought to have the task in hand.


No matter how much experience a copywriter has producing long-form materials, even for companies just like yours, even on the very same topic as the one you’re hiring him to write about, remember he’s never written this particular piece before. Beyond the subject itself, there will always be questions for you to answer about the target audience, how the piece will be used and what your goals are. Those factors influence the length, tone and format; in other words, the overall writing style. Your feedback is essential to ensuring the finished piece fits your brand and falls in line with your overall strategy.

  1. T or F: A freelance copywriter worth hiring will have the graphic design skills to produce a piece ready to publish.


Copywriters write, graphic designers design. Experienced copywriters should have trusted graphic design partners, however. If you don’t have the resources in house to design an attractive layout complete with graphics, logos and images for your ebook or whitepaper, your copywriter should be able to recommend a designer or two. What you should feel free to ask your copywriter to do is provide structure and formatting recommendations in margin comments, or even to execute them. Frankly, you wouldn’t want a writer to attempt doing more than that.

  1. T or F: A professional copywriter will either agree to meet my deadlines or will propose deadlines himself.


Professionals know that producing work on time or early is part of how they demonstrate their value. Barring some life-disrupting emergency rendering your freelancer incommunicado, you ought never to have to poke and prod him about getting something to you. On time is always a reasonable expectation. If tardiness happens once, ask why. If it happens again, consider finding a new copywriter.

How’d you do on the quiz? It should be pretty easy; so should the process of hiring a freelance copywriter. If you have any ideas about it you’re not sure are true or false, don’t hesitate to ask.

How the Copywriter Fits into the Project Manager’s Workflow

The best project management professionals (PMPs) are excellent delegators. They are not only able to plan and direct a team, but they trust each member of the team to do their job.

This is difficult for the leader with the gift of the bird’s eye point of view. The clearer the idea you have of what you want to accomplish, the harder it is to give other people freedom to execute it.

Especially the copywriter.

“Do we really need to hire a writer on this?” you ask yourself, while in the back of your mind you worry, “Will hiring a writer make me lose control of my message?”  If you’re seriously asking these questions, it means you’ve gotten through at least the first two stages of the planning process to push your initiative, or “widget.”

Stage 1: Analysis of Opportunities. (“This widget can help us reach our goals.”)

Stage 2: Identifying the Aim of Your Plan. (“Where exactly do I want this widget to take us?”)

Stage 3: Exploring Options. (“How might we get there?”)

Here, you are opening your mind to potential resources to help you sell your “widget.” This is where you demonstrate what kind of project manager you are, the Taskmaster or the Delegator.

The Taskmaster will run through subsequent stages rather quickly. It takes far less time to come up with a few options independently than it does to seek input. The result is a executable plan, but not necessarily the best environment for compelling content.

The Delegator, by contrast, might engage the copywriter much earlier. Trusting his or her ability to clearly communicate goals, the Delegator will ask in Stage 3, “How do you think we might get there?” Now the task of developing communication strategy falls on the copywriter-consultant, who at this stage has far more creative potential and ability to take some of the load off the PMP’s shoulders.

Stage 4: Selecting the Best Option. The copywriter presents different pitches for content across various channels (newsletter, email, blog, white paper, etc.).

Stage 5: Detailed Planning. The copywriter participates in decisions regarding deadlines, ways to communicate with the rest of the team and how frequently.

Stage 6: Evaluation of Plan and Impact. The copywriter understands the expected outcomes and plans ahead for annual reports and other stakeholder communications.

By Stage 7, communications content is aligned with the shared vision the Delegator has facilitated through dialogue.

Taskmaster, strive to be more of a Delegator. You will have a more engaged and motivated team, and you will be forced to have higher standards for that team. If you are not sure whether the freelance writer you’re using is able to consider vision and participate in the planning process, hire a new one.

The alternative is either bland copy or content that diverges sharply from your vision. Either way you’ll have to start over, and that’s an expensive mistake to make!