How to Get the Most Bang From Your Freelance Bucks

By Jennie L. Phipps
Editor and Publisher of Freelance Success

As media businesses tighten down, one of the first things many publishers look at is expense for freelancers. Here are five ways to get more production out of the money you are spending on outside help.

1. Make freelancers feel like part of the team. No editor would treat a staffer the way many editors treat freelancers. Investing just a little time in orientation, regular updates and sharing the publication’s news and goals can result in freelancers who understand the larger objectives and can pay off in better-targeted stories and more polished production.

2. Think twice about e-mail. E-mail is great for specifics like word counts and due dates. It’s not so terrific for hammering out an approach or communicating a problem. Taking 15 minutes to discuss with a freelancer where they are going with a story before they begin writing and telling them where they’ve gone wrong – as opposed to fixing the problem and grumbling or sending a snide note – will yield much better results.

3. Figure out fair compensation for non-narrative approaches. Bulleted lists, charts, graphs all work well on paper and translate to the web better than long, wordy stories. Podcasts of interviews are easy to do. Paying a freelancer for thinking in these terms and producing these kinds of pieces can result in a much more flexible output. But don’t expect it as a free add-on. Coming up with these approaches takes time and freelancers won’t devote time to the tasks if they aren’t compensated.

4. Re-evaluate what you farm out. Almost any kind of routine work can be assigned to someone who isn’t in the building, including administrative and editing tasks. That frees up staffers to do the more creative work that improves the product and keeps the staff more satisfied with their jobs.

5. Pay promptly. A publication that has a reputation for paying within 30 days will have much less trouble attracting reliable and talented freelancers than one whose payment process is prolonged and unpredictable – even at rates that are on the low side.

Jennie L. Phipps is the editor and publisher of Freelance Success, a subscription newsletter and online community for independent nonfiction writers. She can be reached at

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