10 tips from best marketing and editorial teams to manage freelance writers with ease
When you’re in charge of managing a team of freelance writers, you quickly learn how different it is from leading an in-house team of employees. Yes, there may be common pitfalls that lead to a slew of headaches, but you can establish key standards in your workflow to help you and your team stay on track. Here are 10 best practices to follow before, during, and after each assignment with your freelance writing team.
1. Establish a clear plan
Before any work begins, it’s essential to set out a clear plan for the project. Figure out a timeline and lay out all milestones and deadlines. Make sure you know who will be responsible for every piece of the final product, and prepare this information to be easily shared with the entire team.
2. Create a freelance contract
Having a written contract between you and your freelancer can prevent a lot of problems down the line. Define expectations, payment terms, exclusivity, and ownership of the work. Details like these can vary from client to client, so be specific about your terms up front to avoid surprises later.
3. Have a kickoff meeting and provide a brief
When it’s time to get started, hop on the phone with your freelancers for a kickoff meeting. Provide a detailed brief to identify the goals, audience, and tone for the project. Include an outline of ideas you already have in mind, with specific examples. The more clear you are about what you expect, the more equipped your freelancers will be to knock it out of the park on the first try.
4. Share your company’s style guide
Any freelance writer worth their rate will know best practices for writing a well-researched, grammatically polished piece. However, does your company have a style guide with your particular preferences and exceptions? If so, make sure everyone has a copy, and if you don’t, now’s the time to make one. For a little inspiration, the CIA has a surprisingly great style guide you can check out.
5. Communicate regularly and often
Now that you’ve set up a plan and gotten everyone in sync, ensure that you all stay unified along the way. Select a method and frequency for communication and updates, and stick to it. Whether it’s a weekly phone call, a daily Slack chat, or a monthly Skype meeting, you need to keep the lines of communication humming to avoid derailments.
6. Listen to ideas from your freelancers
Keeping in touch isn’t just about updating deadlines and checking progress. Your freelance writers are experts at what they do, and you can learn a lot from them. Neil Patel suggests, “As freelancers research and dive into topics, they will come up with things about which you may never have thought.” See what ideas they provide that you can put into action.
7. Centralize your project management
One of the challenges of working with a dispersed team is keeping everyone connected. Freelancers often work at unusual hours, or may be in different time zones. Use a freelance project management platform like Bonsai as your central hub to track hours, share information and documents, comment on updates, and mark off milestones.
8. Have your bookkeeping in order
Speaking of payments, make sure you have a solid bookkeeping system in place, and keep it up to date. No one wants to waste time chasing old invoices or tracking down missing payments. A Freelance Management System like Bonsai can help save both you and your team a lot of hours, which means you can all get back to creating amazing content.
9. Give and request feedback
After a job is completed, give your writers feedback on what they did well and where they can improve. Hubspot recommends writing them a LinkedIn review, which is invaluable to their progress, and incentivizes loyalty. Also, it goes both ways: ask for feedback on how you can improve as well, which will help you continuously improve your management going forward. When you develop this ongoing relationship, you build trust and can grow together as a powerhouse team.
10. Clarify what comes next
Once everything is settled, let your team know what to expect next. Is more work on the way? Will there be a break until the next assignment? Freelancers juggle multiple clients and have to plan ahead as they decide whether to take on more work. The more information you can give them about the future, the more available they can make themselves to you when you need them most.
Managing a freelance team of writers requires planning, consistency, and communication. Without a set of standards in place, you’ll be mired in dropped balls and crossed wires—and the work will suffer. Following these guidelines, however, goes a long way to nurture a working relationship that’s satisfying, productive, and well-equipped for the long haul.