Webinar about Boundaries and Expectations Yields Invaluable Tips

Clear communication and mutual respect are the keys to improving the relationships between two important partners in creating hassle-free material for business publications, according to a July 2023 ASPBE webinar about “Setting Boundaries and Expectations between Freelancers and Editors.”

Co-presenters Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, freelance writer/editor and chair of the ASBPE Freelance Committee, and Stephanie Ricca, editorial director at Hotel News Now and secretary of ASBPE’s national board of directors, answered the question “Why set boundaries and expectations?” by pointing out that “Neither editors nor freelancers are mind-readers … clear communications rather than assumptions make the freelancer/editor relationship work to everyone’s advantage.”

The benefits of establishing boundaries and expectations include avoiding misunderstandings, headaches, and hassles; saving time; building lasting relationships; and ensuring quality work. Examples of boundaries and expectations to set include the following:

  • When and how to contact each other,
  • What an assignment involves,
  • Whom to interview or avoid,
  • Expectations for the assignment,
  • Full assignment details from topic to fees to deadlines, and more.

The session provided Thaler-Carter’s somewhat tongue-in-cheek perspectives on “what editors want from freelancers” and “what freelancers want from editors.” Ricca offered elements of a personal audit to guide interactions and identify the right fit between freelancer and type of assignment. 

One of the best ways to set boundaries and expectations, the presenters agreed, is creating contracts that spell out every aspect of a freelance assignment. Contracts protect both parties, and do not have to be lengthy or packed with dense legalese; a simple checklist based on journalism’s classic “who, what, when, why, where and how” formula could be the template for an effective contract that can be tailored to every new assignment or freelancer. 

Since problems between editors and freelancers are often the result of unclear communications, Ricca and Thaler-Carter urged colleagues to “never assume” and to be easily accessible to each other.

Examples of “nightmare” experiences provided a light note, as well as useful insights about what can go wrong and what not to do when assigning or accepting freelance work.

“Clear communications about expectations and boundaries will result in success for editors and freelancers, and the publications they produce,” the presenters concluded. “Look at any past headaches and think about how to prevent recurrences by making sure both sides of the equation know what to expect from each other.”

The webinar was recorded and is free for ASBPE members. View the recording and the accompanying handout in ASBPE’s members-only webinar archive.

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter has written profiles and features for the Washington (DC), Baltimore, Rochester (NY) and St. Louis Business Journals and covers commercial real estate in the St. Louis region for MetroWire Media. She has written for a variety of outlets about business topics such as participatory management, succession planning, diversity, human resources, and finding and working with freelancers. Thaler-Carter is chair of ASBPE’s freelance committee and a long-time member of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), currently serving as the St. Louis chapter’s vice president of communications and having written for international IABC publications and edited international conference newsletters.

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