What I’m Like To Work With (As A Freelance Writer)
What’s The Point In Hiding Who We Are?
So you’re interested in working with a freelance writer.
The first thing you should know is that most of us are temperamental creatures. That includes me.
I don’t like to trot out the “unless I’ve had my morning coffee” cliché. So please instead try to gauge the level of my mood before calling me. I kid (mostly).
An interesting facet of life as a freelance writer is that you get to work with a lot of different companies throughout the course of your career. Many more than you would in-house (unless you liked to change jobs once a quarter).
Upon checking my accounting system (and at the time of writing), I’m surprised to see that I’ve worked with more than 40 clients over the past 5 years. That’s a lot!
While most of my professional relationships have been positive (and some have been great!), who am I kidding to pretend that there have not been some bumps along the way?
In some of these cases, an amicable parting of the ways came about because clients and I were what could be best described as ‘bad fits’. I sat down to write this post for that reason.
One lesson I’ve learned in earnest from this experience is that it’s better to be clear from the outset — or better before it — about what your expectations are when going into a freelance relationship. Or a job for that matter. Both are two way streets and nobody wins by misrepresenting their true self to the other (more often, in fact, both sides lose out).
In the interest of transparency and explaining who I am (professionally) and what my preferred work style looks like, here are some ‘Good Fit Guidelines.’
If these are up your street — well that’s wonderful! If not, then better that we figured this out now before wasting time.
I Like To Schedule My Workweek In Advance
I’m big into planning. I like to schedule projects the week in advance so that I know what’s coming up on my radar and can plan time away from the dear “coal face” if that’s a possibility.
My average lead time is three to six days per project (for articles). The longer and more complicated the project, the more time it takes to produce.
In particular, I have a “hard time” ( I’m trying but failing not to fall back on euphemisms) with clients that need everything done tomorrow.
At the same time, I try to be practical. Life being life, I realize that plans periodically fall apart and urgent requirements do arise. I’m happy to facilitate those when they crop up.
On the plus side (at the time of writing) I’ve never charged my clients a rush fee even if it meant I had to work weekends to make a deadline. If you need something done tomorrow, I’ll try to do my best. I just don’t work well with clients for whom “we needed this yesterday” is a default mode of doing business. If that’s you, you probably know that about yourself. And, in all likelihood, we wouldn’t work well together.
I have no particular aversion to phone calls or video conferences, by the way. In fact, I think they’re effective. I just like them to be scheduled.
I Like Good Briefs
… and good dark chocolate and good coffee. (I’m not sure why I had to add that but I did).
Good briefs are really important for creating good writing projects. In fact, clients and agencies can waste a lot of time and money by authoring poor ones.
They align expectations, create a written record of objectives, and streamline — or better avoid — subsequent revisions.
If you’re not sure how to write one, then Google is awash with answers.
If you’d prefer to follow my guidelines then here’s a form, here’s a guide, and here’s a podcast episode.
There’s no Certificate of Completion, unfortunately. But if you feel the information was valuable, please share the resources with your professional contacts.
Ghosting Makes Me Sad
Everybody unintentionally ghosts from time to time.
I’ve done it myself on plenty of occasions. Things get busy. Courtesy gets forgotten. Most of us can agree it’s a problem — but still do it. Although avoiding it is nicer.
Even a quick “thanks, got the draft” email helps me know that my work has been received and I can stop worrying about whether my message got caught in some spam filter.
I Have Firm Terms And Conditions — For A Reason
Alright, time for the brass tacks then.
Over the years, I’ve rolled some standard terms and conditions into my contract. I realize that my rates aren’t at the bottom of the market and that some of the T&Cs might even seem mercenary to some. Please know that they’ve all been added by necessity rather than choice. And that they’re there, essentially, to protect my hourly rate rather than to gobble up your budget.
Firstly, clients should remember that freelancers are exchanging their time for payment. If you’re hiring me as a freelance writer, I’m not getting benefits — and you shouldn’t expect me to act as your employee. I can’t attend hour long feedback meetings or watch three hour webinars to “get a feel for what we do” unless that’s been built into the quote (also: it’s always awkward to have to point this out…).
I allow one revision per project. Again, this is simply so that I can quote competitively and control scope. If you need more, we can arrange that. I’m always happy to negotiate. If something’s truly a problem, then we can try to work around that. But in general, that’s why my term sheet looks the way it does.
I Love To Be Asked For My Opinion
Nobody likes the feeling of being a cog in the wheel — including freelancers.
Prior to founding this freelance writing business, I worked in-house as a marketing manger. I find marketing, communications, and PR fascinating and I know how to do a lot more than arrange words in a document.
If you can, please try to think of me as more than just the guy that writes your blog or article or as a cog in your content producing machine. I might have insights and experience that could be useful to your project but if I’m not asked I might be reticent to share them. Unless and until I integrate these as aspects of my service offering, I’m generally happy to just chip in with my thoughts as part of the writing fee. More value for your budget!
No Micromanagement Necessary
If I tell you that I will do something for a deadline, I will be entering it into my project management system. I will get alerted about the deadline well in advance.
If I need help, I’ll ask for it. If there are any problems, I’ll notify you at the soonest opportunity. It’s highly unlikely that that will be too late for you to find a replacement resource if, for some reason, I’m not up to the job.
Otherwise you can assume that the project is on track. Repeated “friendly check ins,” are really annoying and unnecessary. They communicate a lack of trust.
In Spite Of My Hang-Ups, I Think I’m Pretty Decent At What I Do
I may have a few specific hang-ups and eccentricities, but I try to do the best work that I can for my clients.
I’ve been writing in various professional guises for more than 10 years and have good organizational, project management, and writing skills.
I love learning from my clients about technology and new industries. Growing professionally, and acquiring knowledge, is really what keeps me inner fire burning — and I see tackling bigger and better projects as a key path to growth.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you for taking the time out to read this.
If the above doesn’t have you rolling your eyes or clicking for the exit button, then I think we might have a future working together.