Is Your Favorite Freelance Writer A Soldier Or A Scout?

Broadly speaking, freelance writers come in two basic flavors:  Soldiers and Scouts.  It’s usually almost impossible to tell one from the other at first glance, but if you pay attention and communicate well with the writers you’re working with, soon enough you’ll gain an understanding of which writers fall into what category.

You probably don’t consciously realize it, but you have a preference about which type you prefer to work with, but for long term success, you need a few of both types at your disposal.  Here are the key differences and identifying traits to keep an eye out for.

The Soldier

Soldiers prefer structure.  Clearly defined parameters.  Succinct instructions.  Here’s a good example of how you might structure an order for content for a freelancer who falls into this camp:

“I need an article titled “Three Health Benefits Of Performing Yoga.”  The article should be 300-500 words in length and contain at least two references.  It should contain the phrase “benefits of yoga” at least twice in the body.”

This provides the writer in question with clear marching orders.  He knows what you want, and he knows how to structure the piece to your satisfaction.

That’s all well and good, and in practice, most of the assignments we see on are structured similarly to this.  Sometimes, however, you don’t really know what you want in specific terms.  You want fun, engaging, informative content for your blog, but beyond that, you don’t have a clearly defined idea.  That’s where the Scout comes in.

The Scouts

Scouts are trailblazers.  They go where soldiers are reluctant to.  As such, Scouts tend to prefer much more open-ended instructions and will chafe under the constraints of a job that’s too tightly defined.  Not to say that they can’t write under tight constraints, but they do tend to prefer more flexibility and autonomy.  Here then, is a good job description for a Scout:

“I need a new article for my Yoga website.  Most of the articles are 300-500 words in length.  You pick the topic but be sure to back it up with linked references.  Show me what you’ve got!”

Instructions like these would paralyze a Soldier.  The topic (Yoga) is extremely broad, and he’ll struggle to come up with a topic.  He’ll deliver some content, but it will take longer, and the quality might be suffer because the Solider will approach the piece tentatively.

The Scout, on the other hand, will absolutely love the freedom you’ve given him and will happily dive in and come up with some interesting, innovative content you may not have thought of on your own.

The reason the distinction matters is this:  Writers won’t tell you, but they have their favorites too.  Some writers just prefer to work with some clients more than others.  A big part of the reason comes down to the kinds of assignments those clients hand out and how they’re structured.

If you can’t pay top dollar for writing, but you can figure out whether your favorite writer is a Soldier or a Scout, you can become one of that writer’s favorite clients even if you can’t pay as well for the work, simply by catering to their natural style.  That’s powerful.