10 tips for working productively with freelancers

Note: This post is one of a series of articles from the ASBPE Ethics Committee.

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash
Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

So you need to hire a freelancer. How much should you pay? By the hour, word, project? What’s a reasonable deadline? Do you need a contract? All important questions, sure, but from this freelancer’s perspective, there are even more essential considerations before you send your first assignment letter. In more than 25 years (!) of writing and editing for B2B, I’ve experienced good, bad and ugly editors — professionally speaking, of course.

Here are five tips to get freelancers lined up to work with you, and five to ensure they don’t avoid you like a 300-page white paper on the intricacies of wastewater management.

  1. Be clear with expectations. If you want a well-researched, multiple-sourced article with graphic-worthy information, spell this out in the assignment letter. On the flip side, if you want a quick hit article of 500 breezy words, say so.
  2. Establish pay rate, word count, deadlines, etc. up front. Need help? Ask colleagues or the Google machine. Then develop a customized template that’s easily read and understood, so potential contractors can quickly decide whether your opportunity is for them.
  3. If your publication has already covered the assigned topic, share those articles so the writer doesn’t repeat information or return to the same sources — unless, of course, you want that.
  4. Request invoicing upon submission of work. The standard Net30 is plenty of time to ensure the work satisfies the contract and is ready for publication before payment is sent. Never underestimate the goodwill from prompt payment. Freelancers often have difficulty managing income flow; having to badger you for payment is degrading and so unnecessary.
  5. Offer to write a recommendation (such as on LinkedIn) after you’ve worked with the freelancer enough to do so meaningfully. This will help them secure additional clients, and they will never forget your kindness.

Also from the Ethics Committee: Four tips to elevate coverage of your publication’s conferences

Now, five ways to stay in our good graces — and yes, we talk:

  1. Don’t change the scope of the article after work starts, or make a habit of asking for “just one more thing.” And definitely not after it’s been written. If this is unavoidable, revise compensation accordingly.
  2. Don’t ask for a quick turnaround that requires your freelancer to move mountains, only to delay publication because — in the words of Marcia Brady — “Something suddenly came up.” If we can’t trust your word, or feel we’re being played, we are less likely to work with you again.
  3. Don’t tell us you could go elsewhere for less money. We know.
  4. Don’t suggest a freelancer work exclusively for you. The IRS frowns upon this. Plus it’s just not cool.
  5. Don’t be unreasonable when your freelancer needs more guidance or is struggling with an assignment. It’s normal for some back and forth, and we have to nail it every time so we get rehired. Staffers don’t typically have that pressure.

Freelancers reward good clients with loyalty and even discounted rates. We will change schedules, work crazy hours and sacrifice personal time for them. We (well, I) also will penalize difficult clients with an aggravation tax. Be the good client. You’ll get the best freelancers and see your publications improve. You’re welcome 🙂

Regina Whitmer is a freelance writer in New Jersey.


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