How to make your freelancers fall in love with you
Your freelancer is not a supplier. You are not the paymaster. No one is the underling and no one is the big, bad boss.
The two of you are in this together – they need you and you need them. Get the balance right and you’re in for a smooth and pleasant ride. Get it wrong, you’ll put noses out of joint and receive crappy work in return.
So, following up on my last post (how to make your clients fall in love with you), here’s the flipside.
How to make your freelancers fall in love with you
What does it take to get your freelance collaborators to fall head-over-heels?
1) Nice tight briefs
“Just work your magic”, is not a brief. “Read this 150-page whitepaper and our brand voice guidelines”, is not a brief. Think of your brief like a flat pack instruction leaflet. The clearer it is, the better the results. The more convoluted, the more likely your new wardrobe will have its handles on the inside. Everyone has a slightly different formula for what goes into a creative brief, but here’s mine, if you have a mo – How to write a creative brief.
2) A budget would be handy
If you know how much is in the pot for a project, why not tell your Freelance Copywriter? It would save a lot of time and hassle. “This is the brief, the scope and the deadline. We have £X for copywriting. Is that possible?” Oh, how refreshing that would be. Sure, hold a bit back in reserve, just in case the writer you desperately want, asks for more. But, the fee is an integral part of the whole job, so it’s going to have to be broached sometime or other. Save all that awkward shuffling and get it out of the way upfront.
3) Don’t be a ghostie
You’ve asked if they’re interested and have the time. You’ve had a ‘getting to know you’ chat. A couple of emails have whizzed back and forth, discussing timings and the finer points of the brief. You’ve had a little wrangle over fees. Then. Nothing. You disappear like a puff of spooky smoke. Not only is it unprofessional, it’s plain rude. What would Great Aunt Mary have to say?! If I was her, I’d come back and haunt you.
4) If you change the brief, expect to pay more
For some reason, clients seem to find this a difficult pill to swallow. Just imagine; your interior designer has finished the subterranean cinema room in a deep vermilion, as instructed. Then, your partner decides it’s now going to be a yoga studio with a calming neutral finish. “Sorry, scrap the 70’s Odeon look. Once it’s dry, you’ll have to slap a bit of this Farrow & Ball Elephant’s Breath over it.” New brief, three more days’ work – they’ll want paying extra. So will your freelancer.
5) Respect the time it takes
Copywriting, good copywriting, takes time. “Have you done it yet, have you done it yet”, really doesn’t help. You’ve agreed a deadline. Your freelancer will meet it; they may even deliver early if all the stars align. But, twice daily check-ins will not speed up the process. Things need to flow, and breathe, and find their own way to the surface. Copywriting’s an art just as much as it is a science. Don’t spring a last minute deadline on your freelancer and expect D&AD Gold (see below).
6) Plan ahead
This is a huge bugbear for every freelancer who ever lived and breathed. You’ve had the brief sitting in your ‘to do’ folder for three weeks. Dammit, it was even signed off by them upstairs two weeks ago. Now you’ve got a deadline of four days (including the weekend). Really good Freelance Copywriters can hit the ground running, but let’s be honest, it’s bloody exhausting. And it’s doubly-demoralising when you find out you could have started a fortnight earlier.
7) Keep your promises
“I’ll send you all the background material first thing Monday.” Wonderful. But when you send it on Tuesday afternoon, don’t be surprised if your copy turns up a day and a half late too. Your freelancer prides themselves on delivering tip-top quality work – on time. Thing is, they need your help to make it happen.
8) Pay on time
‘Just do it’ doesn’t only apply to sneakers. Do the right thing, be a decent person. There’s a contract between you and your freelancer. Work = Money. Money = Work. Makes perfect sense. Freelancers regularly have to chase 3, 4, 5 times – over weeks and months. How would you like it? Gah! We’ve got bills to pay and mouths to feed, so be a good egg and pay those invoices on time. Thank you. x
9) Stay in touch
If you’re going on holiday next week and your Freelance Copywriter’s in the middle of writing your new website, it would be really good to know. If the launch date has been put back or forward, it would be really good to know. If the work’s been approved and it’s cool to stick the balance invoice in… yeah, you guessed it. If your freelancer needs to ask questions or run ideas past you, make the time. Don’t be a stranger, but don’t be a nag either.
10) Play nice
There’s a delicate balance at play here. It’s much more than a business relationship. Freelance Copywriters and Designers are baring their souls with every piece of work they do. If you don’t like the results, be constructive (here’s how to tell a Copywriter their work sucks). If they’ve done a good job, let them know. And if they’ve done a really good job, give them a testimonial. Treat your freelancers with a bit of loving kindness and they’ll bend over backwards for you.
11) Get it out of your head
You have a ton of knowledge about your business, customers and competitors. Your Freelance Copywriter knows how to communicate, how to bring ideas to life, make your voice sing and make connections with your audience. But if you don’t hand over all the facts and figures, your writer will be shooting in the dark. And that can be pretty dangerous.
12) Remember, you are not the audience
This is a particularly tricky thing to get over. It’s important that you’re happy with the work, but if it doesn’t directly speak to you, it’s intentional. Know your audience. Know that you aren’t your audience. Make sure the copy paints the right kind of picture and speaks in relevant language. Keep yourself aloof from it all to a certain extent and not only will the process be easier, the work will be much more effective.
13) Get organised
Information sent in dribs and drabs, and projects that start, stop, start are a pain. They waste time and ultimately end up costing you more. Don’t kick things off before you’re ready. Don’t send a half-written brief. Don’t start the ball rolling if the budget isn’t approved and there isn’t a Purchase Order.
14) Don’t treat freelancers the same as other team members
Freelancers aren’t members of staff, they’re independent consultants – the rules are different. You don’t pay them when they’re on holiday, or sick. You don’t pay for their office equipment or magazine subscriptions. So don’t expect them to be excited about joining in on your team Slack chats or Monday morning Zoom catch-ups. They have other clients (ouch, sorry) and commitments. Keep the channels of communication simple and direct.
Finding and keeping really good freelancers isn’t easy.
I was on your side of the fence for many years. When I found someone I knew I could trust to deliver, I wanted to keep hold of them. They’re gold dust. And now, more than ever before, freelancers are the glue that’s holding our creative industries together.
If you treat yours with the respect they deserve, you should be in for a long and sticky, fruitful relationship.
Love, patience and a happy-ever-after to you and your freelance crew.