If you’re a marketing coordinator or an in-house writing department member, chances are you’ve worked with a freelance writer before. You’ve likely run into a situation where you needed some writing assistance for overflow work, a fresh set of ideas or a contractor to solve a particular writing challenge for you. What about those individuals though who’ve never looked to on an outside writing resource and aren’t sure how to go about it or what to expect? Just for them I’ve created this handy little guide about working with a freelance writing professional.
- Identify the Need. You have a great product or service but it doesn’t seem to be selling. You have an event coming up but aren’t sure how to promote it. You’re swamped with your own job priorities and don’t have the time to whip out marketing materials. Your promotional pieces are created in Microsoft PowerPoint. These are are signs you may need some help when it comes to writing. Before contacting a professional it’s wise to identify exactly what it is you need help with. If it’s one project or multiple tasks, know exactly what your project goals and objectives are. Also know your timeline and budget. Without these clearly defined before-hand, you may be signing yourself up for a headache. How can a writer understand your project without all the major pieces in place?
- Find a writer. Now that you know exactly what your project entails it’s time to find a writing professional to help. Sure you could jump online and run a search, but first it may be smart to ask friends or colleagues. Do they have anyone they’ve had a positive experience with? Can they recommend someone to you? I always look for a testimonial when hiring a professional for a service; it gives them credibility and I can get an idea as to their work ethic. If these aren’t options for you, check out Google Maps to search for a website or writer by location or take a look at a local networking group. Also, know your preference when it comes to working long-distance or close to home. Don’t bother contacting a Writer 200 miles away if you want them to only meet with you in person… airfare is expensive.
Another key point to take into consideration is the Writer’s portfolio. ALWAYS look at the Writer’s sample work before contacting them. Graphic and website Writers are artists at the core and each come with their own writing style. Sure our job is to adapt our skill-set to meet the needs of the project but you’re hiring us for the way we think, our creativity and how we visually execute those solutions. If you don’t like the work a Writer has in their portfolio, move onto the next.
What about rates? Many Writers don’t list pricing on their websites. Instead, know your own budget and keep this is mind when a Writer creates an estimate for you. Don’t try to negotiate with a Writer; to be frank, you wouldn’t want a customer haggling with your business about your product or service pricing structure. Treat Writers with the same courtesy.
- Initiate Contact. With your project objectives, budget and timeline in place and your Writer prospects in-hand, it’s time to make contact. A phone call is great and can give you a clear sense of the person’s communication style and their personality. If you’re busy, though, or prefer email, a good example of how to contact a graphic Writer for a project is below:
I’m a (insert job title) looking for some help with a project. We are looking to create (insert project here) and saw similar examples in your portfolio. Would you be willing to discuss this in greater detail over the phone or in person? I’d be happy to discuss our project objectives, timeline and budget at that time. You can contact me directly at (insert direct phone number) or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.
Sure you could just divulge all of your project information here in the email, but chances are a good Writer will have some questions for you and will want to truly understand the logistics of your project before putting together an estimate. The more accurately the Writer understands the assignment, the more precise the estimate can be.
- Paperwork. Say you’ve gone through the estimation process and have found a good match for a Writer. You like their work style, ethic and the numbers are a good fit. They can commit to completing your project by your desired timeline and you’re
ready to move forward. Get everything in writing. Time and time again, clients have come to me with, “I worked with another Writer before you on this and they… (fill in the blank here with something bad about their pricing commitment, timeline, communication style, etc.). Have both parties sign and date not only the estimate but a contract as well (usually the Writer will have a contract in place to provide you with). Keep a copy for yourself and be sure the Writer has one on file as well.
- Provide the Assets. When work is ready to begin provide your Writer with the items they need up front to be successful when it comes to your project. This could be written content, images, etc. If a Writer is waiting on you for those materials, it’s not the Writer who’s holding up the show. It’s very difficult to create a writing layout for you without those items if we don’t know how much room to leave for text or how large an image might be. Try to have those materials ready and in-place for the Writer’s use at the beginning of a project to keep things on course and moving as efficiently as possible.
“Ideally, you’ll find someone who is a great fit for you and for your business; they’ll be someone who you can turn to time and time again and someone who you can truly develop a relationship with.”
- Communicate. Your Writer should be providing you with several proofs throughout the creative process. Be responsive. Don’t wait weeks to repsond to your Writer’s request for approval on a proof. Don’t say you like something and approve it if you really don’t. A graphic and website Writer are certainly instigators of the creative solution but we need your help when it comes to meeting your needs.
- Trust Your Writer. This is a very hard step for most clients and this is why it’s essential to hire a professional whose work you like. Don’t hire a graphic Writer and micro-manage the entire process. Not only is it frustrating for both parties but it actually takes more time on your end (needing to free up time is probably one of the reasons why you hired someone to do this for you in the first place, right?). Know that your Writer is professionally trained and that they’re experienced. You hired them for a reason–let them do their job. If they’re missing a mark when it comes to the creative solutions they’re offering, are you communicating effectively? Did you clearly define your project expectations and objectives in the beginning?
- Pay Your Invoice. Writers love to work with clients who pay their invoices… especially those who pay their invoices on time. It’s sort of like creative karma; if you treat your Writer well they’ll be sure to take care of you in return. Now no professional Writer should put off their clients’ work or project request because of a few tardy payments. But if you want them to prioritize you, be sure to show the same courtesy.
Hopefully this little guide helped you to understand what it’s like working with a Writer on your freelance project. Ideally, you’ll find someone who is a great fit for you and for your business; they’ll be someone who you can turn to time and time again and someone who you can truly develop a relationship with.