If you’ve ever tried writing your own marketing materials, you know how difficult it can be. A freelance copywriter can help, but working directly with creative talent calls for some thoughtful planning and clear communication.

Step 1. Make sure you have enough time

Underestimating the time required is the biggest mistake most people make. A freelance copywriter will typically need a week to 10 days to provide you with a first draft. Once in-hand, you’ll need time to review it (most clients think this won’t take them more than a day or two, but a week is about average). Then the writer will need a few more days to incorporate any edits you may request.

Step 2. Determine the basic design

Before a copywriter can develop the text for your marketing project, you’ll need to show them the basic layout / design (or an example you’d like to emulate). They will want to see how long the headlines should be, how much text to write, if there will be side-bars or sub-headlines and more.

Step 3. Select your preferred writing style

Writing styles can range from “formal” to “playful,” “corporate casual” to “conversational.” Rather than trying to describe what you want using such terms, just find a writing sample you like and pass that along.

Step 4. Gather your thoughts and background information

Good writing is the result of great research and clear direction. The more background information, input and samples you provide a copywriter before he begins work on your project, the better the end-result.

Step 5. Now ask for a bid

Organized clients are extremely rare (and richly rewarded). If you show a freelance writer that you’ve taken steps one through four above, you’ll get a far lower price than someone who calls completely unprepared asking “so how much would you charge to write a website?”

Step 6. Review the writing and request any edits

Edits and changes to the copywriter’s first draft are a normal part of the creative process, and you should feel no shame in requesting them. However, if your changes are based on information and ideas not passed along during the steps above, you can expect some extra charges to be added to your bill.

In return for these extra efforts, a good freelance writer will provide you with an all-new way to communicate what’s best about your company (at a fraction of the price you’d pay an advertising agency).