There are numerous resources available on how to be a better freelance writer to clients, how to get more gigs, and how to make more money. What if we reversed roles and shared tips on how to be a good partner to freelancers? Just as you hold standards for your freelance workforce, hold yourself to the same.
As a brand marketer, you have the power to create strong relationships with freelancers that bring out their best work — content that is on deadline, high quality, and just what you are looking for. Here are some dos and don’ts of working with freelancers.
1 – Don’t demand quick turnaround times: A deadline is a deadline. Try to stick to reasonable deadlines at least 48 hours in advance. Try to avoid quick turnaround items, as rushing causes errors. With a rushed assignment, often what you get is a rushed job full of mistakes and requiring rework. A great client understands that quality work takes time and plans accordingly.
2 – Don’t try to over-negotiate price and underpay: Many brands try to lowball freelancers. Some clients even request that work is done for nothing in return. This is unacceptable and inefficient for brands. Penny-pinching when it comes to freelancers doesn’t work. In fact, ClearVoice conducted two studies on freelancer rates in the travel and technology industries, both validating the correlation of writer pay and quality. Both studies confirmed that higher wages attract more capable, reliable and high-quality freelance writers — those who are highly editable, followed editorial direction well, demonstrated a natural knowledge of the subject matter, had few grammatical or spelling errors, and adequately attributed sources. (Here is what you should pay freelance writers.)
3 – Don’t ask for things outside of scope: Unlike full-time workers who rely on a steady, bi-weekly paycheck no matter how many hours they work, freelancers operate through billable hours. So, after a project is complete and paid for, and you ask for additional edits, SEO optimizations, or supporting copy or even graphics, you’re essentially asking them to work for free.
4 – Don’t micromanage: If you’ve hired the right freelancer, they have the talent to create a high-quality, on-target piece of content. Don’t second-guess your freelancer’s abilities and contact them multiple times before they even submit the content. Give them the space to do a good job, and then once the content is submitted, organize and send helpful critiques. To avoid micromanagement, take the time to select the right freelancer by researching past work, looking at referrals, and scoping out their social media profiles.
5 – Don’t ask for special treatment: Clients who ask for special treatment at the onset of a relationship are red flags for freelancers. Don’t ask for special payment terms, reduced fees, or special treatment of any kind. Help freelancers by setting specific conditions for payments, pricing and timelines in advance.
6 – Don’t expect the freelancers to be at your beck and call: Your freelancers are hired for particular tasks — and they have many clients. If you’re the client who has a quick request at after 6 p.m. and before 8 a.m., stop it now. Or if you request extra add-ons like attending team meetings, luncheons or parties without being paid, don’t do that either.
(Freelancers: If you’ve found yourself with a client like this, create an availability policy. Outline specific working hours, ways you prefer to be contacted, and the hours you’re willing to work for your clients.)
1 – DO pay them for their work, including add-ons: Standard rates don’t always apply to content. Educate yourself on scenarios where a premium should be paid. Here are a few examples:
- You change directions or scope.
- You have a quick turnaround.
- You require primary sources.
- You expect a supporting study or poll.
- You want the writer to promote the published content.
- You need the content SEO-optimized.
- You want the writer to attend an event or conference.
2 – DO give them repeated work: “The best clients understand the value of an ongoing relationship,” notes FreelanceFolder writer Laura Spencer. Once you have a good writer, hang onto them. It’s less grunt work for both sides. You avoid hours of breaking in a new writer, and they eliminate the time it takes to research a new client’s editorial guidelines, voice and previously written content.
3 – DO be available: “The worst is the client who goes dark on you and disappears for days or weeks then pops up out of nowhere wanting something ASAP,” remarks Hancock. Be available to your freelancers. Open communication breeds good work. While most freelancers will work independently and without too many questions, there’s nothing more aggravating to a freelancer than client unavailability — especially when they have an essential question about the assignment. Good clients serve as a helpful resource to freelancers — not overstepping boundaries but offering just the right amount of information.
4 – DO use a tool to organize all content elements: Freelance writers don’t want to waste their time with endless client emails and mulling through disjointed resources. Beyond that, they like a one-stop shop for pitching, finding assignments, writing, editing and getting client feedback. (This is where a tool like ClearVoice can come into play.)
5 – DO plan and set clear expectations: Poor communicators, including those who are wishy-washy about their goals, are among the most challenging clients. “Poor communication is the number one reason for me wanting to flip my desk over,” notes freelancer Nikki Hancock. “Clients who either don’t know what they want or won’t vocalize it drive me absolutely nuts.” To avoid scope creep or uncontrolled additions in a project’s breadth, plan all content elements in advance — like fleshing out a concept, planning an editorial calendar, and creating a solid contributor guidelines document.
6 – DO treat them with respect: The marketing community is small, and your name could be tarnished with a bad situation. Beyond that, you should always follow the golden rule in any aspect of life.
7 – DO pay them: We’re saving the worst for last. When I asked a fellow creative why he chose not to pursue independent work he said, “Because the clients never paid me.” While New York City passed the Freelance Ain’t Free Act (giving freelancers the right to a timely and full payment, protection from retaliation), there are no nationally recognized laws that protect freelancers from nonpayment.