Working with Freelancers: I Wish All My Clients Were as Organized and Understanding!
The Care and Feeding of your Creative
Creatives are fascinating creatures. We are the writers, the artists, the designers, who breathe life into your brand and enthrall your customers with our cleverness.
You are the face and we are the cogs in the wheel, the silent partners whose primary objective is to make you look as good as possible.
There was a time when creatives and clients sat down together, face to face, to discuss marketing strategy and branding needs. The emergence of technology has taken that meeting room from the brick-and-mortar coffee shop to a virtual one.
Now, often miles apart, client and creative discuss needs, goals, and plans via email, Skype, and the occasional phone call.
And I’m just going to come out and say it. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that the person on the other end of the text or email is actually a human being, an individual who chews on her lip when she’s thinking or drums on the table with his pen when he knows he’s on a roll. No, it’s just a little bit harder to remember that you are dealing with someone who has feelings, needs, A LIFE.
Then there’s the whole continuous partial attention thing, but that’s another post for another day.
So, what can you do to make sure you and your creative enjoy smooth sailing?
It’s simple, really. Here are a few ideas.
Provide a strong project brief.
A strong project brief has everything your writer will need to complete, or at least begin, your project. Try to remember that the writer can’t see inside your head and often doesn’t even know what your website looks like, so a project brief that reads “Write about the benefits of reading” may be met with more than a few questions.
Who is the audience? Children? Parents? College students? Adults? Teachers? How does your business tie into this? What is the URL? Do you want a call to action? If so, where do you want it to point? What tone do you want? Professional and formal or more conversational and friendly? Try to think about every possible question your writer may have and then answer it.
People get busy, that’s just part of life. But chances are, your writer is pretty busy too. At any given time, they may have four, eight, ten, or more projects that they are working on. You will do yourself a favor by making the process as easy as possible. Communication is key. If they have a question about your project and it takes you three days to answer, that’s three days that you have lost in terms of getting your content out there. Now this doesn’t mean that you need to sit with bated breath next to your computer, waiting for an email to come through. But checking you mail once or twice a day and quickly attending to the issues do help greatly.
Real world “stuff” happens to us too.
Creatives are real people; we just typically spend a lot of time in a virtual world – well for work anyway. We often work from home and may not have a set schedule. However, we do have all the issues that all people have. Illness, internet outages, sick kids, family trips, migraines, and all the messy, wacky, wonderful stuff of life happens to us just like it does everyone else.
Recently, I was working with a client on a project. She communicated well, was friendly and efficient, the project brief was perfect, and things were moving right along. Then my internet went out. It was a pretty widespread outage; even cell service was spotty. Everyone in the neighborhood was walking around, cell phone in the air, trying to get a signal.
It would be funny if I wasn’t trying to work.
I explained to my client what was going on and she was extremely understanding and supportive. You see, she had scheduled out the work for several weeks so there was a nice buffer in case of emergencies. Your takeaway from this: If at all possible, don’t wait until the last minute. Try to schedule out as far as you can because you never know when life’s little emergencies will arise.
Check before sending a project.
If you want to send your creative a project, it is always a good idea to shoot them an email first, especially if you are working with a new writer. Don’t assume that they don’t have anything going on, because they could have a mega 10,000 word project or 16 small projects they need to get through before getting to yours. By shooting them an email, you open the floor for discussion about timeframes and allow them to coordinate their current project queue and work yours in. If there will be a delay, it gives them the chance to let you know so that you can make the necessary decisions.
Just a quick “Are you available?” is a great way to start a project. You’ll get a lot more out of your creative by just extending that simple courtesy.
Watch your time.
This is a tricky one and many people don’t realize it. I’m talking about time zones. I used to live in the Eastern time zone. When I have clients in another time zone it can cause confusion and frustration. For instance, at 8 pm I am winding down, but a client in Los Angeles is still going strong because it’s only 5 pm.
It’s just good to keep in mind the differences in time zones to save yourself frustration. If you send a message and your creative is three time zones away, you could be waiting for a while to get a reply.
Time is also crucial on this platform. When your order has been paused and you release it, check the time on it. I’ve had orders released at night after I went to bed, so I had no idea the clock was ticking on them. Then I wake up, check my mail and see that I only have an hour or two to complete them. A mad scramble ensues as I race the clock to complete the order on time.
Tacking on a couple of extra hours will almost certainly earn you some substantial brownie points – it would in my book anyway. We creatives do need to sleep now and then. We work much better when we’re rested – and you want our very best, don’t you?
Communicate. Did I already say that? Well, I’m saying it again.
I have to revisit this briefly because it is so very important. Your creative is writing for you. They are bringing your concepts to life. Feedback and direction are an important part of that process. Most of the time, they don’t know you, don’t know your brand, so take some time to educate them. If you have an outline you would like to use, include it. If you like the style of a certain blog post, include the URL and ask them to model your post in that way. Don’t be afraid to speak up and communicate what you want, because the only way we can deliver copy that thrills you right down to your toes is if you tell us.
When you need outstanding content, we have the writers who will deliver. They come in all shapes and sized: moms, lawyers, authors, and everything in between. And the handy dandy search tools allow you find exactly what you need and put the most relevant writer profiles right in front of you. Running a business is hard work; getting great content doesn’t have to be.
Stephanie M is a writer living in East Central, Alabama, but she didn’t always lead such a peaceful, carefree life. A few years ago she made a daring escape from the “cube farm” at a Federal Agency in Washington, D.C. (after eight very long years) where she worked. as an analyst focusing on disaster response, technical writing, program management, and FOIA.