Working with talented writers but struggling to get the results you expect? As a current freelance writer and former agency account manager, I’ve seen both sides of this struggle. Agency managers need fresh, valuable and relevant content, and great freelance writers want to deliver this. But without clear direction or an intimate knowledge of a client’s product and services, writers can flounder to produce the perfect piece. Using a creative brief, working off a detailed outline, providing iterative feedback, and enforcing deadlines can help. If your freelance team’s content is missing the mark, here’s how to get everyone back on the same page.
Use a creative brief. What is your agency trying to achieve on your client’s behalf? Maybe you’re trying to increase website traffic, boost lead generation, or establish your client as an industry thought leader. Chances are you’ve got a concrete content strategy in place. Don’t keep your writers in the dark about this: let them know what you’re trying to accomplish so they can help you get there. A solid creative brief should summarize the client’s values, voice, branding, products/services, and existing marketing. If you’re working with a freelance team, don’t keep writers in the dark about what others are doing; freelancers would prefer to know how their piece fits in with other pieces in the program. You don’t have to go into great detail, but let writers know in the creative brief where their work falls.
Work off a detailed outline. Avoid surprises by working off a detailed outline. Short on time? Have the writer pitch you a few different topics that fit within your content plan and then have the writer submit a detailed outline for each piece you green light. Be sure the outline is on track for what you need before approving the assignment. Check in as the piece develops: is your writer able to find the appropriate research or sources? Does the piece need to adjust based on initial research? A detailed outline will help everyone stay on the same page moving forward.
Provide iterative feedback. Be an active manager. Even though your writer won’t be an official company employee, you’ll still need to keep tabs on work as it progresses, especially in the beginning. If your writer misses the mark a few times, ask to see a draft of the piece and provide feedback to help shape the piece in the right direction. Freelancers don’t mind making edits or revising content, but they’d rather minimize edits by getting the job done right the first time.
Enforce specific deadlines. Being vague about deadlines is a recipe for disaster. When setting deadlines, allow sufficient time for reviewing the material, providing feedback, and receiving the necessary edits. Effective writers adhere to deadlines regardless of how tight the turnaround is or whatever pops up in their personal lives; if a writer consistently can’t get their work finished on time, consider whether it’s worth keeping them on your team.
Erin M can be found hiking with her chocolate lab, exploring the nearest aquarium or art museum, or perfecting her secret cheesecake recipe.