Tips for Setting Deadlines for Your Freelance Writers

Posted on June 11, 2015 by Dan S

clocksSetting a reasonable writing assignment deadline is a balancing act to get the best possible content in the least amount of time. The sooner you get quality content back the earlier you can run it through editorial channels and get it online or in print, but if you set a deadline that’s too far in advance it’s possible that the writer may put your content on the back-burner and procrastinate on completing it. If you set too brief of a deadline writers may not complete the assignment on time.

Experienced writers that have mastered time management may pass on content that has too brief of a deadline window because they can’t find a time to fit the content in to their schedule. It’s often better to err on the side of giving a little more time to give quality writers more opportunities to write for you. However, you need to avoid setting too long of deadlines to avoid writer procrastination.

Deadlines should be based on how long the assignment will take as opposed to the word count. For example, grant writers for hire will look at a 750 word blog post that’s based on a press release re-write and figure that content will take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. A writer that’s taking on a 500-word article about resolving a computer issue that requires research citations may take anywhere between one and two hours to complete. Next you need to consider that freelance writers have to find a time block to fit that content in to their day and likely only work between 8 and 10 hours a day. That means each 24 hours you give to an assignment implies about 8 hours of actual potential work time. Freelance writers also have to consider unexpected setbacks in their schedule like having to stop work to pick up a sick child from school or requiring an extra hour of research to really nail a specific talking point.

Freelance writers typically juggle content in a feast or famine situation. Good writers may have to skip your content if the deadline is too brief and they’re currently working on other assignments. The day after your deadline the writer may not have anything to work on which could’ve been spent on your content. Writers may have irregular schedules and may have to avoid content with short deadlines because of timing. You may send out requests at a time that’s against when a writer works. For example, a particularly great writer you’d like to claim your content may work on content from 6am through 2pm on Tuesdays while working from 2pm through 10pm on Wednesdays. If you release the content at 1pm on a Tuesday it is unlikely that writer will be able to finish it that day and won’t have a time window to work on the content the following day.

The solution here is to add a grace-period of 12 hours to your assignments that have deadlines less than three days. Also, take note of weekends when you’re setting a deadline. If you’re not going to check on content released on a Friday until Monday morning, set the deadline to Sunday evening instead of Saturday morning.

Suggested Deadlines:

  • Straight-forward, 30 minutes to complete: 24-36 hours
  • Somewhat-complex, over an hour to complete: 48-60 hours
  • Complex topic, will take several hours to complete: 72 hours
  • Substantial research, editing, and writing: 1 week

However, if you need content returned immediately, setting a shorter deadline with a slightly higher pay-rate can entice better writers to take your assignment over others.

Writer Bio: Dan S is a former news journalist turned web developer and freelance writer. He has a penchant for all things tech and believes the person using the machine is the most important element.


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