Ok, let’s start with the basics shall we?
Whether you are a small business owner, or someone working at a Fortune 500 company, working with a professional freelance writer can be a very useful way to generate content for your projects. However, it is important to know how to work with a freelancer.
First, it is important to understand that although we are professionals with experience in demanding and skilled fields, we do not work for your business. We don’t know the internal politics, the corporate mission, the philosophy of your organization or department, and we especially don’t know the people we are writing for. While we don’t need to know every detail, it is important that we have a feel for these things so that we can deliver a final product that works for you. What works for one company may be terrible for another. So, sit down and get an idea of what you are looking for and where it will be going. I find it has been helpful for many clients to imagine how you would give a similar project to a spouse or significant other. For example, if your spouse were writing up a twenty page summary of a large research project and needed to speak with the engineer that wrote the research, what advice would you give them? Would you say, “Bob is a great guy, and really smart, but sometimes he can seem a little cold especially on the phone.” This same advice would help your freelancer.
In addition, the following checklist should help you determine the kind of information your freelancer will need.
- Will any interaction be necessary with other people besides yourself? If so, how should that be established? Call directly, call you first, or let you setup the dialog?
- Should any outside knowledge or research be brought into the project or should the project be done without any such additions? In other words, do you consider the information you give us complete? If so, we won’t look anything else up.
- Who will be reading the final project? What do they like and not like in such reading? Do they like formal or informal? Long or short? Detailed or just the conclusions? Are they a numbers person, or do they just get confused by lots of numbers? We can write any of those and the success of the project depends on us writing the right one.
- How does the final product need to feel? Should it be light or heavy? Serious? Dire?
- What language style should be used? Formal or informal? Like a reporter writing a story or like a friend writing a letter about something they feel strongly towards? Slang or no slang? Contractions or no contractions? Technically formal writing has no contractions, but it can sound mechanical.
- Should the final project sound like outsiders wrote it or not? Sometimes it is an added authority when something sounds like it came from outside, sometimes it just sounds like outsiders (and sometimes you don’t want other people knowing you went outside.)
Another very important aspect of working with freelancers is knowing what you want and communicating it. Asking for a summary of Shakesphere’s works could be just a list, a list with a short explaination of each title, a few paragraphs on each style (comedy, tragedy, etc.). Should there be an exhaustive list (all works listed) or a representative list (just the highlights). Make sure you put in writing as many details as possible. If you are working with successful freelancers, your project won’t be the only one they are working on. That means they’ll need to be able to start your project and then come back to it later. Reading the project specification will be how they remember all the details of what you need.
Know Who You Are Working With
Some freelancers are full-time freelance writers. Others are part-time freelancers either with another writing job, or another non-writing job. Some freelancers are English majors (still in school or not) looking to just do a few things on the side. There are even people who have no professional writing experience at all dabbling in freelance writing. None of these freelancers is necessarily better or worse, but it can be helpful for you to understand who you are working with so you know what to expect. Someone freelancing on the side might not be able to return calls as quickly. Someone who is still in school might not be able to produce the same volume or quality of work during finals.
Get an idea of how they handle their business. For example, we work with many clients, sometimes on-site, sometimes not. Like most writers we don’t do our best work when frequently interrupted, so when working on a project we turn the ringer off on the phone. It doesn’t make sense for us to pay someone just to answer the phone, so chances are high that your call will go to voicemail. However, our voicemail system pages us for every new message, so we check as soon as we can, and we return your call quickly. Others might only commit to a 24 hour call back. Others might not even commit to that. Make sure your style matches what the freelancer can provide. If you have to speak to a live person right away, we might not be the right choice for you, for example.
Rewrites, Re-work, Scope Creep
A professional freelancer may discuss with you the provisions for adjusting their work once you have a chance to read it. It is common to include a certain number of rewrites. Two rewrites is common except for longer or more technical projects. This allows you to flag things you need changed. When you do, be specific. “Make this longer,” isn’t very helpful. Do you want examples? More details? Fluff?
If you need a freelancer to do the project again because it has changed, that is not a rewrite. The easiest way to tell the difference is whether or not you have to give the freelancer any more information in order to get what you need. For example, if you have to give more sales information, then you are asking for re-work. If you ask to have the sales information you gave at the beginning included, that is a rewrite.
Scope creep is fine when you are paying an hourly rate. After all, the time is yours to use however you would like. It may be wasteful to constantly change the project, but you are paying for the changes, so that it something you have to be O.K. with. When you are paying a project rate, however, scope creep can lead to tension between you and your freelancer. The rate you are quoted is based on the project you start with. Like in the movie The Transporter anything after that is a new deal. We understand when little things come up or a small detail is accidentally left out, but we can’t allow for major changes to the project without new pricing.
Sometimes scope creep can be obvious. If you ask for four pages to be used in a newsletter, and then find out later that your newsletter actually needs to be four pages double-sided which is actually eight pages, you obviously shouldn’t expect four more pages for the same price. Sometimes, though, scope creep can be a harder to spot. If you ask for a complete update of your website content, but then decide it would be better to combine three pages into one, it may seem like the same project, but it isn’t. Refreshing or updating a page is much easier than combining two pages. The latter requires adjusting the flow of each page to match the other page, determining where and how to splice in the data, and may require a complete rewrite. Don’t be surprised if your freelancer wants extra compensation to handle the change. Remember, the deal is the deal. Anything else is a new deal. But also remember, we aren’t looking to rip you off. If a change doesn’t require any more work, we won’t charge you more.
Get It In Writing
You don’t necessarily need a full contract everytime you work with a freelance writer or freelance copy editor, although we recommend it any time you start talking about bigger amounts of money. You do need to get a written understanding between you and the freelancer as to what you expect to be delivered and what your freelancer expects to deliver. If you are expecting five pages make sure you have five pages in writing, whether a formal document, or an email or letter. Also clearly spell out the rate you will be paying, when the payment will be made, and the procedure for going over the rate. Also spell out how and when the project can be terminated by either side.
Hopefully this article gives you a foundation for working with a professional freelance writer or professional freelance copy writer. If you have other questions you would like answered, feel free to email us. Also, I would highly recommend you get our feed so that you keep up to date with all the content coming for the site.
Looking for a professional writer or professional copy editor? Look no further than ArcticLlama, LLC. Our writers and editors not only have experience in writing and editing, they also have years of experience in some of the most demading fields in business.