Freelancer Nation: 5 tips for freelancers and editors

By Taryn Oesch

Freelancing was a topic I hadn’t thought much about until I attended #GenerationB2B, the ASBPE 2019 National Conference in St. Petersburg, Florida. The opening session, “Freelancer Nation,” was presented by Christine Parizo, a freelance B2B technology writer; Amy Fischbach, a field editor for T&D World; and Dom Yanchunas, a reporter at Fastmarkets standing in for freelance writer and editor Eamon McCarthy Earls. Each of them offered tips for editors and for attendees who freelance or want to freelance.

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash
Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Tips for working with freelancers

Working with freelancers can be like herding cats, Parizo said. “I shed all over” the publications she writes for “but in a good way.” Parizo offered a few tips for editors working with freelancers.

  1. Search them out.

Don’t wait for freelancers to come to you; go find the good ones. Monitor your competitors’ sites and reach out to their good contributors to find out if they would be comfortable and willing to write for you, too. Use social media and put in your profile that you work with freelancers. Stalk the press room at industry conferences; “freelancers are generally the chatty people drinking a lot of coffee,” Parizo said.

  1. Learn from Van Halen.

To make sure the freelancer reads the contract he or she signs, Parizo recommended Van Halen’s brown M&M trick. She said that Van Halen’s contract specified that the band wanted brown M&Ms at each concert venue to ensure that the venue read the contract. If the band didn’t see brown M&Ms, Parizo said, it walked. Put something in your contract, such as “a passionate defense of the Oxford comma,” and then mention it when you’re on the phone to see if the freelancer picked up on it.

  1. Make the freelancer part of your team.

Freelancers may not technically be employees, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make them part of your team. “Yes, we are fiercely independent,” Parizo said, “but we also want to know what’s going on.” Let them know about personnel changes, organizational restructuring and editorial initiatives you have coming up. Make them feel important to you, Parizo said, because you’re important to them.

Tips for being a freelancer

Fischbach and Yanchunas provided insights for writers and editors who want to go freelance—Fischbach in the form of steps for breaking into the market and Yanchunas in the form of legal and financial considerations. Here are their highlights.

  1. Set yourself up as a business.

In addition to investing in a good laptop, smartphone and high-end headphones, Fischbach said to decide on a good place and time to work—and then protect them. “You don’t have a set 40-hour week, so you really have to guard the time that you have to work,” she said. Yanchunas recommended setting yourself up as an LLC (limited liability corporation) to protect yourself and your personal assets and to give your work some professional credibility.

  1. Explore new opportunities.

“Be open to different kinds of work,” Fischbach said, and branch out into new formats. There are so many types of projects in B2B publishing—webinars and live events; white papers, e-books and e-newsletters; social media, marketing and press releases; supplements and special sections for magazines; videos; and even editorial supervision and management. Diversify your work and your skill set to build your portfolio—and your bank account.

Whether you’re an editor who works with freelancers or a freelancer wanting to build up your business, #GenerationB2B offered strategies that can help. Check out the ASBPE National Conference in 2020 to learn even more.

Taryn Oesch is managing editor of digital content at Training Industry where she co-hosts “The Business of Learning” podcast. Oesch received one of ASBPE’s Young Leader Scholarships in 2019.

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