How to Work with a Freelance Writer

Some managers and business owners tell me that while they like the idea of hiring freelance writers, they are often intimidated by the thought of managing them. Some believe that freelance writers are more difficult to manage as they are free agents and not employees of the company, while others get into unpleasant situations, such as miscommunication and disputes, with them.

The truth is, working with freelancers does not have to be such a complicated affair and it is often easier than you think. In fact, most professional freelancers do provide high quality of work and strive to maintain a good relationship with their clients. After all, repeated business is always good business, and a lot of us freelancers do get new clients through recommendations from existing ones.

So, before you say, “No” or “I’m done working with freelance writers!”, do take a few minutes to consider the few tips below.

Developing the Relationship

If you develop a professional, amicable relationship with your freelance writers, they are likely to produce better work for you. I mean, why not? Think of it this way – if you like your boss, chances are you’ll work harder for him, isn’t it? Well, it’s the same for us. Of course, that doesn’t mean we will produce lousy work for nasty clients (heaven forbids!). It’s just simple psychology: If you are in a happy relationship, you will feel trusted and will create better results.

Therefore, it is imperative that when you choose a freelancer, consider not just his fee, but also whether you are able to work with the person on a long-term basis. Observe also if the freelancer is able to fit in to your company’s culture and values. Although the person is not going to be a staff, he should be comfortable with what the company represents and with the various people he would be working with in your organisation.

Once a friendly relationship is established, I would say half the battle is won.

Discussing the Terms

Unless you have been working with the freelance writer for a long time, you should ensure that all contractual issues, such as the scope of the project, fees, payment terms, deliverables and deadlines are agreed upon before the project begins. Most professional freelance writers do provide you with a quotation clearly stating his terms and conditions. If the freelance writer you’re planning to engage doesn’t, you should lay these terms out clearly in writing.

While it seems trivial or even silly at this point, such contractual issues are, in fact, the primary causes of contention between freelancers and their clients. In their eagerness to get the job, some freelancers choose not to bring up these issues for fear of aggravating the client. You can avoid a lot of unnecessary disputes by initiating such discussions.

Giving the Brief

Give as clear a brief as possible. The freelance writer needs to know what the piece is for, who will be reading it, what’s essential, what’s not, what to emphasize, how much to write, what’s your preferred style, etc. In order for him to do so, he must be given as much background information about the project as possible. Leave nothing to guesswork, and do your homework before giving the brief.

Of course, giving a clear and detailed brief does not mean dictating the way the freelance writer works and writes. That would only smother his creativity and destroy the good relationship you’d carefully established. You should always give him creative space, but the more material you provide, the more he’ll have to work on.

Giving a Deadline

You should always discuss the deadline and get the freelance writer to agree to it before work commences. Instead of saying, “Show me something sometime next week”, state a specific date and the expected delivery, like “I’d like to see the first draft latest by 15 June” or “The final draft with all amendments done by next Wednesday before noon”. Ambiguity breeds procrastination and a whole lot of varying interpretations. While you meant to get the first draft on Tuesday when you said “sometime next week”, the writer might have interpreted that as Friday.

You also want to give sufficient time for the freelance writer to produce a good piece of work for you. Rush work is always never perfect. It is also unfair to judge the quality of the writer’s work if inadequate time is given.

“It shouldn’t take too long for a writer to come up with 1,500 words. How difficult is that?” you may say. The fact is, you should consider also the time it takes for the writer to do research, make several drafts and edit. What many people do not understand is that it is essential for writers to take time away from their copy before returning to edit it from a fresh perspective. Some things just cannot be done in a rush.

Making Changes

This is another huge possible point of dispute. As a client, you have the right to make amendments to the work. Of course! And there are many reasons to do so; wrong facts, inaccuracy, your boss not satisfied with the work, the “feel” is not right, etc. But these amendments must be fair and must be within the agreed scope of work. If, for example, your boss suddenly decided to add 1,000 more words to the new brochure, I think it is reasonable for the freelance writer to ask for additional fees to complete the job.

While most writers accept that changes are necessary, they do appreciate their clients explaining to them what the changes are and why they are needed so that these mistakes can be avoided in the future. Most professional writers are willing to make changes to their work if they are reasonable. If the writer appears too defensive or offended when asked to make even minor changes, the best way to deal with him is to politely explain why these amendments are fair and highlight that they are by no means a bad reflection of his work.

Whether you are currently facing problems with your freelancers or are simply afraid of employing one because of the stories you’ve heard, I hope that by reflecting on these simple pointers, they could help you resolve whatever issues on hand and pave the way to a better working relationship with your freelancers.

 

Judy Tham is a freelance copywriter in Singapore. Please visit www.one-elephant.com for the range of services she provides.

Why Hire A Freelance Copywriter?

What would you do if your boss adds a project to your already long list of responsibilities? Say a need for fresh, rich content for your company’s website or a new employee handbook. Who would you hire to do the job? What would you request in the budget for the project?

Most managers would do one of the followings: (a) do the job themselves, (b) delegate it to their staff, or (c) put in a request to employ the service of a company – an advertising agency or a company with copywriting service – to help them and their staff cope with the additional workload. How successful you are in getting your budget approved to outsource the job (that’s what we want, right?) often depends on the amount you ask for and how convincing your case is. After all, your boss wants to put his money in the most productive and effective use. However, hiring a company often sounds expensive to the management, and many a times, it really is. So why not propose a freelance copywriter instead of a company the next time this scenario occurs?

There are many different types of freelance copywriter; we do not just do brochures and write blogs. A copywriter who is a generalist also writes business proposals, manuals on company procedures and guidelines, reports, articles and many other projects that require professional writing skills.

There are many advantages to hiring a freelance copywriter. Let us just explore a few obvious ones.

Cost

Hiring a freelance copywriter is less expensive than engaging a company or employing a new employee to do the job. Companies, for example, an ad agency, charge more because their overheads are high. Their overheads are high because they employ people like account executives, account managers, account directors, creative directors, strategies, junior copywriters, senior copywriters, general managers, finance managers, office managers, IT managers, IT executives, receptionists, secretaries, CFO, CIO, CEO, etc. to run the company. Of course, I don’t mean to say that these positions are redundant. They all have a part to play in operating a successful ad agency and in getting beautiful advertisements out there. But because of the high overheads, you have to pay more.

A freelance copywriter, on the other hand, works for oneself and does not carry the burden of high overheads. In fact, one has to work hard to keep the expenditure as low as possible in order to remain competitive.

Unless the project becomes a permanent job, which technically would qualify as a project, it does not make sense to employ someone full time and long term to do the job. Firstly, the cost of employing someone is more than meets the eyes. Beyond the basic salary, we are looking at insurance, healthcare, dental, bonus, office equipment, office space and many other hidden costs. Not to mention the idea of having an additional headcount to your department, a “dirty word” to the ears of the management nowadays. Even if the project is recurring, for example, a quarterly company newsletter, it is possible to engage a freelancer on a long-term, contractual basis.

Flexibility

You can engage a freelance copywriter as and when you require the person’s service; there is no obligation to keep the person with the company on a long-term basis. And you don’t have to think of reasons to fire a freelancer if you hire the wrong guy; you just stop engaging his service. On the other hand, the relationship becomes permanent once you hire an employee. Even if you have a good reason to let an employee go, you worry about the emotional and psychological damages you could cause to the guy. Freelancers, on the other hand, are tough. They are used to rejections and terminations. They have to; otherwise, they can’t be in this business for long.

Deadline

Some projects just can’t wait. If you are facing a tight deadline, the best solution is often to get a freelancer who is flexible with his time and is willing to meet impossible deadlines. Some freelancers don’t just work during normal business hours and can be very helpful in times of need.

Expertise

Freelance copywriters write for a living; that’s what we do. We are the ones to go to if you want quality and professional writing.
A Fresh Perspective

There’s a Chinese idiom which reads “当局者迷,旁观者清 “, which means the spectator sees more than he who plays. Sometimes, it’s advantageous to have someone from outside to look at your company, products or services from an objective point of view, someone who can offer you a fresh perspective, to look at things differently.

 

For managers or executives who have never engaged a freelancer before, it is a crucial step. Of course, once you decide to take that step, the next thing you have to do is to find the right freelance partner, for not all are suitable for your company or industry. Once you get the right person who knows how to build a strong rapport with you, the person will make your job a lot easier.

 

Judy Tham is a freelance copywriter in Singapore. Please visit www.one-elephant.com for the range of services she provides.