Freelance writing isn’t a song and dance. With evolving print media models, dwindling magazine staffs, and downsized newsrooms becoming common headlines, freelancers keep toes tapping at media companies and publication schedules in rhythm with advertising demands.
Over the years, I’ve held staff positions in both daily and weekly newsrooms. But since I left my last newspaper job, in 2009, I’ve worked as a contributing writer, freelance photojournalist, special features reporter, ghost blogger, and guest writer.
In a nutshell, I’m a freelancer. I make a full-time living from these gigs.
If your media organization is planning to collaborate with a writer on a contract basis, remember that it needs to be a harmonious relationship. We need each other to inform the masses and please advertisers. Keep your freelance writers whistling a happy tune.
1. R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Find Out What It Means to Me
Although I may not hold a position on the company flowchart, I’m still a professional. I have a college education backing my work, dozens of clients under my literary belt, writing awards on the wall, and new ideas to inject into your day-to-day operations.
First and foremost, give all contract workers a little r-e-s-p-e-c-t. As Aretha Franklin says, “What you want, baby, I got it. What you need? You know I got it. All I’m askin’ is for a little respect.” Treat me as a colleague, and respect will flow both ways.
2. We Can Work It Out
OK, so you trust me with your project, share the details of the assignment, and even set up an interview with the key contact. Fabulous. Now, as I move forward with this assignment, please be accessible.
If I have questions about the tone of the article or a possible new angle, or the contact’s phone number has been disconnected, we need to talk. Working with a freelance writer is a collaboration, a work in progress. Take a tip from the Beatles: “We Can Work It Out.”
3. Money, Money, Money
The Abba classic “Money, Money, Money” hits the nail on the head for the majority of freelance writers. “I work all night, I work all day, to pay the bills I have to pay.”
Freelancing is a career choice for many former print media specialists; so, to keep a freelance writer on your roster of go-to writers, send payments in a timely manner. Processing freelancer payrolls monthly is fine, quarterly is annoying, and bi-annually is a good way to turn away your hardest working writer. We have bills to pay, just like you.
4. Call Me, Maybe?
Working with a freelance writer is like dating. If either party calls too much, they seem needy. If I hear from you only once a year, I feel like I’m on the back burner. If you like my work, simply stay in touch.
As Carly Rae Jepsen says, “Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy, but here’s my number, so call me, maybe?” An email, call, or shout out on Twitter once in a while keeps everyone happy. After all, we’re in the communications industry, right? Keep in touch!
5. Here I Go Again
The attractive part of freelancing (and working with freelance writers) is picking and choosing when and who you work with. Remember, you need me as much as I need you. But, nobody dives back into a project that paid late, was unorganized, and felt demeaning. Writers will walk away.
By retaining a core group of happy freelance writers, you save money on posting job ads, interviewing candidates, and getting writers up to speed on your publication’s tone and style. Writer retention is essential for editorial continuity and financial responsibility. Whitesnake said it best in “Here I Go Again”: “No, I don’t know where I’m going, but I sure know where I’ve been: hanging on the promises, in songs of yesterday. And I’ve made up my mind: I ain’t wasting no more time. Here I go again.”
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