Freelancer writers offer invaluable benefits for many organizations. A good writer can turn your cloud of ideas into structured content, boost performance on your web pages, and help you sell more services and products. Whether you’re dealing with a business writer or a marketing guru, however, freelancers come with their own list of quirks and foibles. Understanding common freelancer characteristics can help you plan for better content creation success.
Freelancers Aren’t Always Local to You
Most expert content marketers realize the freelance workforce is global, but it can be easy to forget that freelancers—even those in the same country—might not be familiar with regional verbiage or concepts. Avoid issues of misunderstanding by explaining such items in instructions or letting writers know upfront if you’re looking for someone who can create content with regional phrasing or knowledge.
Keep timelines and zones in mind as you work with freelancers. If you’re an east-coast client asking for feedback by lunch, your west-coast writer might not respond until you’re eating dinner. For clarity’s sake, use hard times and always tack on the time zone. Ask for a response by noon EST or 5:00 PST.
“Work from Home” Is a Flexible Phrase
Many freelancers work from home, which is to say they work from a home office, living room, patio, poolside or a tree house in the backyard. It also means they might work from the waiting room at the pediatrician’s office, the local library, the holiday line at the post office, or a nearby coffee shop. Quality freelancers squeeze work in wherever they can to meet client needs and deadlines, but home Internet and on-the-go WiFi isn’t always as reliable as Ethernet connections in a business office. That is to say: freelancers do experience crises of connection, of family, and of life in general.
While most freelancers will do everything they can to meet your deadlines, crisis can derail the most professional of writers. People are injured or fall ill, Internet outages occur due to weather or maintenance, and laptops crash in the middle of 1,500-word articles. As a client, plan for crisis when possible. When working with other freelancers, I always set deadlines several days before I actually need content for this reason.
Many Writers Prefer Keyboard over Conference Call
Depending on your project, a conference call or web meeting might be the best way to communicate a great deal of information at one time. While conference calls are tools of the trade, they should be used only when necessary if you want to keep your freelancer pool as open as possible. Many writers prefer emails and messaging systems over conference calls, and some writers won’t even take on work that requires a conference call. This is especially true if the writer feels the conference call is unnecessary.
If you’re planning a book and want to discuss 100,000 words of content with a writer, a conference call makes sense. If you’re developing an entire website and want to brainstorm with a writer, a conference call might be helpful. If you want 10 product descriptions for fashion items, an experienced marketing writer can usually provide exactly what you need without a call.
When a call feels necessary, always offer to pay for the writer’s time. Freelancers don’t get paid unless they are writing, so spending an hour on the phone means giving up writing work that pays the bills.
Writers Agonize Over the Little Things
Writers are known for over-analyzing everything. They will agonize over your instructions, reread a message to you several times before sending, and wonder if they should refer to you by your first name or call you Mr. Client. While this anxiety is usually good for your project (the writer who agonizes over your instructions will likely follow them, after all), it doesn’t always make the creative process enjoyable. Set the tone for a good client-writer relationship by providing clear instructions and communicating with writers how you would like to be communicated with. Writers are great at taking cues, and when they follow your lead, you’re more likely to see positive results and a long-term working relationship.
BIO: Sarah S works from a crooked mountain and sometimes from a library or car-rider line. She over-analyzes everything, but she doesn’t mind a conference call on occasion.