When working with a freelance writer online, it’s easy to sometimes feel like you’re dealing with a robot. Sure, you have a profile picture to look at and the ability to send messages, but forging a strong working relationship with someone who could be miles and miles of Ethernet cable away can be difficult. And, truth be told, freelance writers sometimes feel the same way about their clients. When clients and freelancers do not know each other as humans, communications barriers grow, writer motivation lags and marketing campaigns suffer.
Although you can’t shake hands, make eye contact or share a warm hug, you can humanize interactions. A few adjustments have the power to cultivate expert-level communication, highly motivated writers and content marketing that hits your target market in the bull’s-eye.
Step 1: Do It Like Dale
If content marketing were a soccer game, I’d tell you to Bend It Like Beckham. But working with freelancers isn’t a game; it’s business. So, it’s probably best to take a page out of Dale Carnegie’s book and remember that, “Names are the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” In other words, do not forget to introduce yourself to your freelance writer. When clients have names, their presence on the other side of the internet gains an identity and they become individuals. Even if the name is simply a placeholder, having a first name available for addressing or thanking a client can go a long way with a writer, in terms of humanizing the relationship with an online client.
Step 2: Don’t Take This Thought Leader’s Advice
In an interview with Bill Moyers, Peter F. Drucker (thought leader, management consultant, writer and educator) gave this piece of advice: “The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.”
Of course, it’s good advice and a great skill to be able to read between the lines. When it comes to describing your marketing goals, depicting your business persona and providing instructions, don’t leave too many blanks for writers to fill in. A strong marketing strategy takes lots of time and a considerable amount of thought. (If yours didn’t, check out this advice from The Content Marketing Institute.) Since you put so much effort into your strategy, you shouldn’t let your content read like a Mad Libs game.
Be available to answer questions and communicate clearly with your writer, explaining exactly what you want and which points you are comfortable leaving to the writer’s whim and expertise. If you are not exactly sure what you want from the content you receive, make your writer aware of this, too. Then you will be better able to work together to find your brand’s voice and style.
That being said, clear communication does not necessarily equal copious amounts of instructions. Bear in mind the volume of content you will be ordering, if you feel compelled to provide instructions that are considerably higher in word count than your order.
Step 3: Make Writers Feel Like Part of Your Team
This step is largely rooted in motivation and proper incentivization. Yes, incentive involves monetary compensation. While you should absolutely pay writers fairly for the work they do, there are additional strategies you can use to motivate and sweeten the deal for your favorite freelancers. Firstly, be sure you voice your appreciation and let writers know when they’ve written something you particularly liked. Positive feedback often means the world to writers – especially freelancers working from home offices who do not regularly receive feedback. You can also give your writers some ownership in the content by offering bylines or simply allowing writers to add their own personal twist. However you do it, make your writer feel good about writing for you.
When in Doubt, Remember There’s an Actual Human Writing for You (and Actual Humans Reading the Content)
That’s right, artificial intelligence hasn’t grown quite smart enough to write readable content (yet). When you are in doubt about how to talk with your freelance writer, develop a mutually beneficial relationship with your writer or how to handle any situation with your freelancer, remember that your writer is a person, too. So, try to deal with them like you would any other person you encounter in the real world – with honesty, respect, gentle criticism (if necessary) and lots of appreciation. When you take the time to forge a person-to-person connection with a writer, your content will speak volumes to your target market.
Jennifer G is a full-time freelance writer and editor with a B.A. in creative writing from the University of Montana. She enjoys researching and writing creative content to engage readers and developing professional voices for clients across all industries. She specializes in medical, health, veterinary, and financial writing. Having worked nearly thirteen years in finance, Jennifer applies her experience in the banking industry (marketing, social media management, consumer and commercial lending, customer service, accounts, and bookkeeping) to her writing work within the industry.