How To Work With Freelance Writers Without Barrelling Into Roadblock After Roadblock

Published 16/10/2022
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Wondering how to work with freelancer writers? Chances are you’re already working with some, but you regularly fall into the trap of miscommunication and missed deadlines. Or, you simply want to shake things up for a smoother workflow. Either way, you’ll find this post helpful (*fingers crossed*) as I share how my clients and I communicate clearly and set expectations from start till the end so we’ve next to zero missed deadlines and misunderstandings. 🤓 I’ve divided the entire process into five stages and given tips for each: 1. Before hiring 2. During the hiring process 3. Once you start working together 4. During the editing stage 5. After you’ve completed your first project Ready to work smoothly with freelance writers and get your peace back? Let’s get on with it.
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1. Before hiring

Whether you plan to hire a freelance writer via a referral or use social media to pool applicants for your open project, it helps to follow these steps:

  • Check out a freelancer’s social profile to get a sense of how they are

Just as you’d check a product’s reviews online, search through a freelance writer’s social profiles. Them being ultra-active is no way to judge their work since several good freelancers prefer to keep mum. But, their presence on social alone is enough indication that they’re a trustworthy person to work with.

The reason: someone who has a social presence is likely going to meet deadlines since they don’t want to taint their reputation for not doing so.

Remember, this isn’t a must-do step, but I suggest you do so to crush that uneasy feeling of mistrust in your gut.

  • Read the work on their website

Now here’s a must-do: go through a writer’s website and portfolio to get an idea of their work. They don’t have their portfolio on their site? Email them asking for it. Or, Google their name to find out where they’ve been published.

Alternatively, go through their blog if they have one. Several of my clients look at what writers publish on their blog or on Medium publications to get a sense of how their unedited work is.

2. During the hiring process

Any missteps here and you’ll find yourself hitting unnecessary obstacles. So here’s what you need to do:

  • Write a clear intro email

Sure, you don’t want to share a load full of details in your first email. A writer could reply they aren’t open to work right now and all the time typing that perfect email will go down the drain.

So here’s what you’ve got to do in your first email:

👉 Introduce yourself. Share what your position is

👉 Briefly explain your requirements

👉 Ask them if they’re open to work and if they’d be interested in learning more details

Tip: if you’re hiring for your blog or site, share it right away so the writer can gauge the type of work that’s needed.

You can either share all the details in your email or discuss them on a call. For the latter, share your calendar in the intro email so that the freelance can pick a time for the call according to what suits your calendar and theirs.

Here’s an intro email template you can copy:

Hi [writer’s name],

We’re looking to add more freelance content writers to our team to create regular content for our blog [insert link]. We’re a [explain your blog’s focus and readership] and our editorial calendar is chiefly planned by SEO, so we’re looking for SEO-optimized posts.

Let me know if you’re interested and what your rates look like so I can share more details. Or, we can hop on a call if you prefer.

If you’re looking to onboard a freelance writer on a retainer, add the following to your email:

Initially, I’d be looking to start with a one-off post. If all works well for both sides, then we’d be looking to work with you on [explain number of posts + word count]. We’d simply assign you a brief for the agreed up number of posts at the start of each month.

Are you currently open to projects like this?

Always work with the freelancer on one project first to see how things roll, then you can have the writer on retainer if needed.

  • Specific exactly what you’re looking for next

Once you get an interested-in-working together signal from the freelance writer, go ahead and share the details. But be specific so that everything’s clear right off the bat.

Here are things you need to be clear about: the deliverable, expected deadlines, your work process, and payment.

✔ The deliverable: what the freelance writer will be responsible for

Tell the writer exactly what work you expect. Do you want them to optimize the content for SEO? Do you want them to conduct keyword research? Do they need to provide images and if so what type – screens, graphics, or suggestions for graphics?

Whatever it is, tell them so you’re both on the same page and the freelance writer understands the type of work that’s needed so they can price accordingly.

✔ Work process including sharing who’ll be the writer’s point of contact

Lay out your entire work process from the expected deadlines to sharing the brief to how you’ll be giving feedback and invoicing.

The goal? To answer questions that a freelancer may have. For instance, what happens after they submit work? How many days you’d take to get back to them with the feedback? How the payment process will work?

Usually, freelancers have their processes in place. They’d ask you to pay in advance or pay half the amount in advance. If your company has a different process, be sure to be upfront about it so as to prevent issues later on in the process.

Additionally, be sure to mention how you expect them to share work with you (Google docs, for instance) and who’ll be managing them. For example:

‘I’ll be assigning the brief to you, answering any questions that you’ll have, giving feedback, and communicating with the accounting department on your behalf.’

✔ Resources you’ll provide

A lot of writers want to know how detailed your brief tends to be. They might even ask you to fill in their brief. Either way, start off by explaining what you’ll be providing.

Essential documents you’d want to share with a freelance writer include:

  • A style guide that tells them how to format content based on your brand’s style
  • Buyer’s persona or audience profile so they know who they’re writing for
  • Resources to understand your business or software
  • Brief answering essential details around the project

Not sure how to create a brief? Here’s a guide on how to write a brief for freelance writers. In short, know that this 1-2 page document should include your goal from your piece, keywords (primary + secondary keywords), rough content length, target audience or link to the persona, competitive analysis (or resources on the same topic), CTA, and internal resources to refer to and links to add.

✔ Payment or budget

While it might be awkward to talk about payment in the first email (although you always can), it’s essential you talk about it in the second email.

Tip: Discuss payment immediately after giving all the details. This way, if you don’t agree on the budget or anything related to it, you won’t be wasting your time or the freelancers.

If you’ve a set budget per piece, go on and share it right away. Or, ask for the writer’s rates:

There’s a third way to approach this too – the middle way where you ask for rates, but tell them that you have a budget to keep within too.

  • Get the paperwork done

Done with discussing essential details and both you and the writer are set to proceed? Congratulations. 🎉

Now’s the time you bring in the paperwork. Some freelancers have a contract that they’d want you to sign. Others might be okay with email exchanges.

On your end, see if you need to get a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) or an agreement on ghostwriting signed

3. Once you start working together

When you’ve shared all the resources and mutually agreed on the deadline, let the freelancer take it from there. Other tips to follow here:

  • Keep in touch

Tell them you’ll check in once or twice or ask them to keep you updated.

You can also add four dates to your brief to make sure the freelance writer doesn’t miss the deadline:

  1. Date assigned
  2. Check-in or outline date
  3. Submission date
  4. Publishing date

Tip: Work with outlines. These make sure you and the writer know the direction the piece will take. Ask the writer to share an outline with you or give them one. Here’s how to write an outline.

Remember to give the freelance writer room to work. If you’ve carefully vetted them when hiring, you’ll know they’re professionals who have solid work processes in place. That said, keep in touch so you know the progress made on the draft. For example, drop the following note:

Can you update me on the draft’s progress? Also, feel free to let me know if you need my help with anything or if there are any questions you’d like me to answer for you.’

  • Be Responsive

Be sure to get back to any questions a freelancer asks you at your earliest. It’s not just about respecting their time, but their expertise. Besides, they can only stick with their schedule if you’re responsive to any queries that they may have.

Tip: For the first project, it’s best to stay in touch via email. Once you’ve decided to onboard the writer as a retainer, you can add them to your Trello, Asana, or Notion board – whatever project manager you use.

4. During the editing stage

Once you’ve received the draft, inform the writer that you’ve got it and you’ll be back with the feedback in X days.

As you share feedback, be sure to be specific about what edits you need, explain your reasoning behind the edits you request, and wherever possible, give examples of what you mean. Here’s a full guide on providing feedback on content that you’ll find handy.

Done with the edits? Email back informing edits are ready. If you’re looking for quick edits: specify. In fact, always specify everything, never assume.

5. After you’ve completed your first project

If you had a wonderful experience, be sure to tell the writer. And if you’d like to work with them on a regular basis, talk about it. Alternatively, you can always tell them you’ll be working with them in the future.

See? That wasn’t so hard. If you follow through with each of these steps, you’ll be able to push back issues that’ll unnecessarily crop up if you don’t communicate clearly. Here’s hoping your next freelance hire is a great one. 🎉

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About The Author

Freelance content marketer for SaaS | Avid Reader | Rookie bullet journalist.

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