This guest post, “7 Things Your Freelance Writer Wishes You Knew,” is from Patti Podnar, a writer, content strategist, and member of the nDash Content Community.
In the reality show Married at First Sight, couples meet at the altar – really meet, for the first time ever. It’s a world where “I do’s” come before introductions, and two complete strangers are left to entertain wedding guests, navigate the honeymoon, and figure out each other’s likes, dislikes, quirks, etc. – and, all along, they have to maintain business as usual in the other aspects of their lives.
It’s not that different from what happens when businesses outsource their content development.
The freelance writer has to figure out and then meet the expectations of someone we’ve never met while trying to shove aside the worry that we’re not going to get paid. Similarly, you’re fervently hoping the freelancer you just hired isn’t a con artist who’s somehow going to reach out through the computer screen and ruin your life or worrying that you’re going to end up having to pay for content your kindergartener could have written. (And your kindergartener would have met the deadline). It’s a relationship where open communication is critical, but both parties are often feeling a little vulnerable and are trying hard not to step on toes (or look foolish). So I’m going to let you in on a few things your freelance writer is probably thinking but will never, ever say.
What a Freelancer Writer Wishes You Knew
You really do get what you pay for.
Yes, you could get someone else to write the same article for pennies per word. In fact, you’d probably have a hundred entry-level writers clamoring for the opportunity. And if those entry-level writers can deliver the quality you need, there’s no reason for you to pay more. But if you’re not getting what you want from content mills and bidding sites, you’re going to have to kick it up a notch.
There’s more than one right way to write an article, and you get to choose.
Let’s say you ask me to bake you a batch of cookies. The possible combinations are practically endless: butter or margarine, nuts or no nuts, chocolate (milk, white, or dark?) or no chocolate, etc. So if you don’t like the combination I come up with, it doesn’t mean I’m a bad baker. It just means I didn’t bake the precise cookies you wanted. The same is true for writing. So go ahead and ask us to change the intro, subheads, examples, etc. Don’t think of it as telling us we got it wrong; you’re just telling us that we didn’t achieve your right.
We wish we could see your resume.
We have an expression here in the South: “You’re preachin’ to the choir.” That translates into, “You’re telling me stuff I already know, so please shut up.” And it applies here. See, we don’t want to bore or offend you, but neither do we want to assume you know more than you do. I would talk to someone who’s worked in marketing for 20 years very differently than I would a client who’s spent that same amount of time on the operational side of things, for example. It would be a lot easier if we knew whether you’re a ninja or a babe in the woods when it comes to content marketing.
Changing the project parameters doesn’t fall under the umbrella of “revisions.”
Some writers limit how many rounds of revisions they’ll do. I don’t do that because I want it to be right. So I’ll revise it as many times as necessary to get it where you want it. But don’t change your mind and call it a revision. In a nutshell, if the writer doesn’t deliver what you asked for, it should be on the writer. If you decide you’d rather have something different than what you asked for, it’s on you.
We’ve got our fingers crossed that you’re not turning us into liars.
Confession time: I walked away from a project very near the finish line because the client’s claims were total BS. That one was easy, even though I knew I’d never get paid for the work I had already completed. Sometimes it’s fuzzier because there’s a difference between “fact” and “truth.” For example, did you know that there’s a 99% correlation between the divorce rate in Maine and the per-capita consumption of margarine? Yep, it’s a fact, but it’s also correlation without causation.
So, while an article exploring the link between divorce and margarine consumption might be factually accurate, it wouldn’t really convey the truth. Bottom line: If you’re going to stretch the truth in your content, at least be upfront about it. The freelance writer might be fine with that – others won’t. But no writer wants to be tricked into deceiving their readers. So when you tell us that your gadget will fly to the moon, take a sample, return to Earth, and conduct an analysis to determine what kind of cheese it is, we’re probably feeling a little skeptical.
We’ll do a better job if you tell us the whole story.
Sadly, it’s fairly common for people to leave half of their freelancer’s talent lying on the table with yesterday’s dirty dishes. Let’s say two clients request articles on ethical sourcing – but the second adds that they’re trying to soften the blow from recent price increases. The first client might actually have the same objective, but what they’re going to get is a high-level overview of what ethical sourcing is. The clearer you make your target, the better chance we have of hitting it.
This isn’t a hobby.
Yes, it is a big deal if you keep expanding the scope of the project without renegotiating the fee or if you’re late sending payment. Sure, I love to write. I think I have the best job in the world. But this is a business. If I were doing it purely for the love of writing, I could just post dog stories on my own blog every day instead of working with clients. But the reality is that this writing gig helps support my family. So please don’t treat it like a hobby.
Architect Jeff Daly, known for his work in museum design, once said, “Two monologues do not make a dialogue.” And that’s never more true than when those monologues are only taking place inside our own heads. Want a long-term working relationship with a freelance writer and lots of kick-butt content? Power through the awkwardness and say what’s on your mind. You can do it – and now you have a cheat sheet.