How to hire a good screenwriter

Do you have a great idea for a film, TV series or marketing campaign but lack confidence in your screenwriting skills? Perhaps you’re a fully competent screenwriter experiencing the dreaded writer’s block? In these trying creative times, you might consider hiring some screenwriting help in the form of a professional freelance screenwriter and we think that’s an excellent idea.

A freelance screenwriter is usually experienced at working on a variety of projects that are not their original idea. This experience with a variety of industries, clients, and projects will allow them to bring a fresh and objective perspective to your project. A good freelance screenwriter will not only be able to bring a new outlook to your project, but they will be also able to identify where your script is weak, what areas of your script are strong and how you can better execute your ideas. But before you can reap the rewards of an experienced screenwriter, you’ll need to find the right one first.

Here are our seven steps for hiring a good great screenwriter:

  1. Define and set clear objectives

    To find a screenwriter that will be able to help you to the best of their ability, it’s essential that you first identify some clear goals and objectives. Make sure the objectives you set are S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and anchored within a Time Frame). While this may seem like an overly corporate approach to a highly creative project, breaking down your objectives this way will help you create the perfect brief for your screenwriter.

    Specific: What exactly do you expect from your screenwriter? How many words, which section of the script? Be specific in your brief as to what exactly you need your scriptwriter to write.

    Measurable: How will you be measuring the quality of their work? Creative work can be very subjective so make sure you list some tangible and measurable qualities you are expecting from your screenwriter.

    Achievable, Realistic, and anchored within a Time Frame: Consider your budget, the amount of work you are expecting the screenwriter to do for that amount, and the deadline you have for the completion of your project. Then, make sure that all three are achievable and realistic.

    As well as making sure your brief includes some SMART objectives it’s important to make sure you consider some wider goals and some of the more subjective elements to the brief. Try to be as specific as possible, such as; medium/channel the project will be performed through, audience type, style, tone of voice.

    Creating a brief that includes this type of breakdown will help with both the screenwriter hiring process as well as the project process after you have found your perfect screenwriter.

  2. Be realistic on budget

    Another good reason to spend time creating a thorough and clear brief is that you can start to get a better idea about the budget. The phrase ‘you get what you pay for’ may be a tired old phrase, but it’s one that still holds strong. If you start to realise that you are expecting more from a screenwriter than your budget allows, you may need to find some compromises in areas such as experience.

    A very experienced screenwriter will justly have a far higher rate than someone with little experience. However, do consider that while the more experienced screenwriter’s hourly rate may be significantly higher, their efficiency in understanding your project needs and their ability to deliver high-quality work may mean that your money is better spent.

    However, if the budget is tight, it might be worth considering finding an aspiring screenwriter with more limited experience. With this option however, it can be riskier to find a screenwriter who will meet your needs. In this case, ask to see some examples of their writing, not just scripts, but anything they may have written in the past. This will give you a good sense of their writing style.
    You can also share your brief with them and ask them to price the project whilst also giving you a breakdown of how they would approach it. Pay particular attention to them allowing time for collaboration and feedback, their ability to collaborate with you will be essential.

  3. Look for evidence of experience

    The best freelancer screenwriters for hire will have wide-ranging experience in the film and TV industry, but you will also find some fantastic screenwriters with experience in completely different areas. The one thing that both these groups of screenwriters have in common is experience. Having experience means that your screenwriter will have great insight into how your industry and/or audience will engage with your screenplay.

    As mentioned in the previous step, it’s not necessarily experience in screenwriting that you need to look for, especially if you have opted for a less experienced screenwriter. But where experience in screenwriting is lacking, you must make sure that the freelancer has experience in other areas that complement your specific screenwriting project.

    As well as seeing experience, take a look at past reviews and what their previous clients say about them. Reviews can be a great way to find out what it’s going to be like working with that freelancer as well as picking up on some insights into their creative style.

  4. Consider their style

    The style of your screenwriter is a very important consideration for the success of your project. Although experienced and talented writers can flex and adapt to a range of styles, they will all lean naturally to a certain style which can either work with or against your objectives.

    When looking at the potential screenwriter’s experience and examples of work, take a look for a consistent tone of voice that comes through in their portfolio. Do they like to build tension? Do they write in a highly energetic style? Does their writing create a sense of calm? Make sure that you can see style qualities in their past work that fit with your project.

  5. Communication and collaboration

    During the screenwriting process, you will need to frequently communicate with your screenwriter. You must be able to communicate effectively with each other and allow space to collaborate. This is because the screenwriting process thrives on good communication and collaboration and this quality in your relationship needs to be visible from the start.

    This is often the hardest part to assess before hiring a screenwriter as writers are usually solo creatures in their art. But just because they are writing solo, doesn’t mean you can’t collaborate on style, structure and within feedback sessions.

  6. Get the legalities in order

    Whether you are hiring a screenwriter to help develop your project or looking for a screenwriter to create the project from scratch, you need to make sure you address the sensitive subject of Copywrite. Speak to an Intellectual Property legal expert for expert advice and help draft a solid contract before starting work on your project with your chosen screenwriter.

Ultimately, when you decide to hire a screenwriter, the best person for the job is the one who can see your vision, understand your goals, and have the talent to make your script the best it can be.