Avoiding writer roulette—and the consequences of hiring bad writers
“Writer roulette” is never fun. If you play, you’ll lose.
If you’re reading this post, chances are you’ve played this miserable game. Here’s the typical setup: You’re under pressure to get something produced. It could be a blog post, a white paper, an executive presentation, an e-book, or a video. Sure, you could write the copy yourself. But you know you’re already behind on more projects than you, your boss, or your organization should honestly ever admit.
The big spin will probably have you running in circles
So you ask around. Does anyone know a good writer who’s familiar with X and can make a compelling case for the way your company packages X? You get a few names, you call around, and then find somebody who’s available, has done something that’s sort of similar, and appears relatively professional via email and during your phone interview.
You review some samples that look okay. You get positive feedback from a few references. You agree to a fee, and go through the headache of setting up this freelancer as a contractor in your company’s system.
Congratulations. You’re now playing “writer roulette.”
The ‘getting started’ part will probably hurt
Now that you’ve decided to gamble on your new writer, you get ready to play. At this point, you arrange a kickoff to talk about the deliverable, the target audience, and the goal of the asset you’re looking to produce, as well as identify the subject-matter experts who will provide the content for the piece. You also send a bunch of background material to the writer.
Then the interviews happen, and time passes. The deadline, once looming in the distance, is clearly in sight.
You send an email to the writer to ask for an update.
So you send another email the next day.
You’re beginning to realize how much fun writer roulette really is.
The next day, you call. You leave a voicemail about getting an update.
That night, you get a reply. It says not to worry, the piece is almost finished.
The following day, midday, you get an email with an attachment. At long last, the draft has arrived!
The payoff makes you wonder whether to keep playing
Then you read the draft.
And reread it with a sinking feeling.
The draft doesn’t follow the direction you had specified. It’s not well-organized. The lede is buried, and the main points—which you thought you had explained clearly—are briefly mentioned in passing.
Now you face the hardest part of the writer roulette game: Do you spin again and look for another writer? Or do you keep working with your current writer? Do you take the time to provide the extensive feedback that will be required? And if you do provide a thorough review, do you bet that the writer can fix the draft before the deadline?
Or—gulp—do you cancel your plans for the evening and this weekend and just rewrite the draft yourself?
No matter what you do, your deadline is now in serious jeopardy. Missed deadlines translate to lost opportunities, less-effective events, and ultimately, lower sales. You know this. Your new writer may not.
Why bet your time and budget on the unknown?
The nightmare scenario described above is based on several real-life experiences. I dealt with it before coming to TDA. My colleagues experienced it when they held previous positions elsewhere. And many of our clients have confessed to playing writer roulette prior to working with us; getting out of that miserable game is one of the reasons tech’s most demanding brands turn to TDA.
So, why not work with an agency and increase your odds of success? If you do, you’ll farm out projects to a stable of proven writers who collaborate with a detail-oriented, editorial QA team. That way, you’ll happily sink into your chair as you review a spot-on first draft—instead of getting that sinking feeling when you realize you’ve been playing writer roulette.
Have a writer roulette story to share? I’d love to hear it. Contact us.