How do you cultivate a relationship with your freelance writers that will result in great content? Columnist Megan Krause discusses five things to avoid if you want to stay on a freelancer’s good side.
Freelance writers like working with me.
Seriously, they do.
Here’s why: I’ve been where they’re at. I manage dozens of freelancer relationships in my current role as an editor, but I used to be that harried freelance writer trying to keep up with shifting project guidelines, moving deadlines and zero communication from the client, mostly for mediocre pay. And because of that experience, I avoid doing things that make life harder for my freelancers.
As a result, they accept my assignments — prioritize them, even — turn in great work, make revisions happily and go the extra mile when I’m in a pinch. I make their lives easier, and they make my life easier. No hard feelings, no early morning vodka. It just works.
To build great relationships with your freelance writers and get back stellar content, stop doing these five things:
1. You don’t pay promptly… and you don’t pay well
Please don’t nickel-and-dime freelancers, and don’t make them wait too long for payment. The most anyone should have to wait to get paid is 30 days, but even that is pushing it.
If you’re still requiring your freelancers to invoice you, then routing that invoice to finance, then waiting for the paperwork to get processed, and then mailing them a paper check… stop. Besides being a major annoyance to your writer, this is an antiquated process.
You don’t have to live like that anymore. I have three words for you: PayPal, PayPal and PayPal. Today’s freelancers expect prompt payment via electronic means. PayPal is that answer.
Now about writer pay. This is where most articles say, “There are no clear guidelines or standards on freelance pay,” but as someone who’s been on both the payer and the payee side in digital marketing for years, I call rubbish. Yes, there are.
- Good to great pay for a 750-word blog post: $200-$450
- OK pay for a 750-word blog post: $100-$200
- Lousy pay for a 750-word blog post: < $100
What should you pay freelance writers? I don’t know. Does your content require a subject matter expert? Will the writer need to conduct an interview? Are you paying for influence? Are you asking them to share it on their social channels? What level of technical expertise are you seeking? These factors will drive up rates.
But if you’re willing to pay a plumber $100 an hour but you don’t want to cough up more than $50 for a professional writer to create a piece of content that could live on your site and generate leads for years to come… well, you will get what you pay for, gentle reader.
Here’s the thing: When you pay your writers well, they want to keep you as a client. Freelance writers will put up with a degree of client shenanigans (see numbers 2-5 on this list) for a well-paying client.
Conversely, they’ll accept some low- to mid-range paying jobs for quickie assignments that are no trouble to bang out — clear instructions, easy subject matter, prompt payment. But you can’t be both low-paying and high-shenanigans. Pick.
2. You don’t provide clear guidelines
Know what you want, ask them for it, and then give them the information they need to write it.
Don’t change tacks midway through the assignment. Minor tweaks are fine and to be expected, but don’t make major changes to an assignment once your writer is already working on it.
Similarly, don’t make major revision requests that essentially turn the assignment into a whole new article. If you ask for one thing and then decide you actually want something else, you need to pay for another post. That’s fair.
To help your writers learn your brand and create content that hits the target first time around, provide them with:
- contributor guidelines (learn how to create solid contributor guidelines).
- company style guide (read what components your style guide should have).
- audience info/buyer personas (here’s how to build personas).
- where the post will be published.
I’m not saying you have to accept an article that misses the mark. If you provided clear instructions and the writer simply didn’t do a good job, by all means, send it back — with a detailed revision request.
3. You don’t communicate
I mean a few different things by “communicate”:
- Don’t disappear. Answer their questions promptly, and give thoughtful, thorough replies — especially if they’re trying to get further guidance on an assignment.
- Provide them with feedback on their content. What worked well? What did you change or kill, and why? Writers want to improve, and the more feedback you give them — especially early on in a relationship — the quicker they’ll nail assignments the first time around.
- Build rapport. Be human. Say “thank you.” As freelance writer Nicki Escudero told me, “Even though we’re not working side-by-side in a physical office, building a rapport through humor or small but meaningful efforts to get to know one another strengthens the working relationship, which in turn enhances the quality of work.”
Freelancer Danielle Antosz agreed. “Yes, I work from home in stretch pants, but I still want to feel connected to the people I work with,” she said.
4. You don’t help their career
Freedom and flexibility are the top reasons people choose the freelance life, according to the Freelancing in America: 2016 report from Freelancers Union and Upwork. But with that freedom comes a degree of instability. Freelancers don’t know how much work they’ll have a month from now, and they live on referrals.
If you value your freelancer:
- Refer them to others.
- Recommend them on LinkedIn.
- Give them a testimonial to use on their website.
- Help them plan by letting them know how much future work you have them in mind for.
These things provide them with stability, and they will love you for it.
5. You take away their voice
Fine, I’ve done this. Mea culpa. Most editors have. We edit the words so they’re in our voice, not the writer’s voice. Of course, this applies to bylined pieces only, where freelancers want their unique voice to shine through because their name is attached.
“While a writer should be receptive to the editor’s decisions to tone it down when needed, an editor shouldn’t totally cut out personality and remove the human voice behind the words,” explained Britt Skrabanek of Superneat Marketing. “It’s like the relationship I have with my hairstylist. I show her a Pinterest image of the look I’m going for — but I let her have the freedom to do what’s right for my hair type, while expressing herself as an artist. The best editor/freelancer relationships I’ve experienced strike a balance with trust in the creative process.”
Go forth & create great content
Freelance writers make our lives easier, and good ones are worth their weight in Grey Goose. Become a digital marketer whom writers love to work with, and they will turn around great content and help you meet your goals.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.