If asked out of the blue, most folks faced with how to manage a difficult freelance content writer would likely say just terminate the contract and hire another writer. Problem solved. In theory, this expedient approach often makes sense but, in reality, things are frequently far messier, especially when a project deadline is looming and anyone hired to do the work has to have a high level of talent or the work requires a lengthy process to produce. In short, replacing the writer is not a viable option.
Most times, cranky or difficult writer syndrome is due to a communication problem. It could be the writer, the employer, or both. Whatever the case, blame needs to be put aside for a moment if the project is to go forward. The communication difficulty needs to be isolated quickly, the problem identified, and a mutual solution agreed to. Where the issue is just a communication blockage, a difficult writer can often become quite amenable right after, especially if the agreement acknowledges his point of what’s needed to continue.
Personality conflicts are often far more difficult to resolve. This type of scenario usually involves two or more parties involved in the project who, for some reason, just don’t get along with each other at all. It could be that one is being condescending when communicating, another comes across too aggressive or a know-it-all, or a third doesn’t want to work as a team on anything. The reasons can vary and be many. Initially, if there is a way to shift the writer’s contact to another person on the project to work with, that may be the easiest and fastest way to become productive again. If an assignment shift is not possible, then a higher level third party should step in and break up the conflict, putting both sides in their corner and reminding them of their team roles. While folks might think an assignment shift or higher level intermediary is catering to the difficult writer, remember that getting the project performed is the higher priority in this situation.
Sometimes getting half a loaf may be better than nothing. In some cases, the problem writer may just be too far gone to reel back in for any kind of project recovery. In this instance, the goal should be to get as much of the performed content and material as possible to salvage the project with. It may require having to bring in a second party afterwards to repair or finish the work, but a project will go nowhere if the writer keeps everything produced. By at least obtaining half of the materials, a company can remove the writer and build on what remains, not having to repeat the existing work all over again.
A cranky or difficult writer doesn’t mean a project is doomed; a bit of creativity and managing the writer better can usually get a project back on track quickly. It’s rare that a nuclear option as to be taken, even though that’s what most outsiders think should occur.
Tom L has been writing for 20 plus years and has been on both sides of the issue as a hiring party and as a content provider. Not every project works out perfect every time, but most situations are recoverable or can be salvaged.