How to Handle Freelancer Absences Without Interrupting Your Content Creation Process
Storytelling Communications

How to Handle Freelancer Absences Without Interrupting Your Content Creation Process

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It happens on a Monday morning after a long and frustrating staff meeting. You open your email to a new message from one of your favorite freelancers. She’s announcing her pregnancy and informing you that she’ll be taking a brief maternity leave. She’s offering to front-load the assignments she’d miss in her time away and wants to know if you’ll be able to accommodate her requests.

Well, can you?

There are many nuances to managing content creators in comparison to traditional employees. Leave requests, for example, are one of the biggest differences. Your full-time employees may be covered under federal or state protections for family and medical leaves of absence, and the regulations will be clearly defined for you. Do those same protections extend to your contractors?

Also, it’s your responsibility to ensure that your strategic marketing plans are being executed. You’ve spent so much time and effort aligning your brand’s goals with the type of content your audience wants you to create, and as much as you enjoy working with freelancers, the risk of creator churn and fluctuating schedules can derail your content strategy if you don’t take the time to put the right protections in place.

working with freelancers

Image attribution: Kaleidico

For large organizations producing content at a high, consistent volume, making sure all of your content creators are delivering enough work to meet your brand’s publishing needs requires diligent communication and preparation. When leave requests do arise, the responsibility is on you as a marketing leader to find solutions that benefit both your organization and your relationship with the freelancer. Here are a few things to consider if any of your content creators request to take a leave of absence.

Legal Requirements

Let’s start with the basics. As previously mentioned, traditional employees are covered by federal and state protections when it comes to family and medical leave requests. Approval is determined by their employment status, and the regulations clearly dictate which of your staff have job protections while out on leave.

Even though independent workers are on target to become the largest workforce demographic in the next decade—with over 56.7 million Americans freelancing just this year—there are no protections requiring businesses to offer their contractors any type of job-protected leave benefits.

This means you can sever the working relationship with any freelance content creators who request time away from their regular assignments if you simply can’t manage your marketing efforts in their absence.

But is that the best solution? Or are there other ways you can prepare to fill these upcoming gaps in your content calendar while still maintaining a valuable relationship with the creator?

The Importance of Personal Creator/Brand Relationships

If the content creator has been working with you for a while, their familiarity with your brand is something that can’t be easily replaced. Someone who is accustomed to writing in your brand voice and requires light editing is a content creator to cherish. Plus, your willingness to work with them will breed loyalty. While they’ve always been respectful and dedicated contractors, they’ll remember your flexibility and put even more effort into their assignments upon returning.

You invest in your content creators, and they’ll invest right back in your brand.

So when an individual creator does come to you with the need to take some time off from work, rather than permanently dismiss them from contributing future content, your marketing team should have an established system in place for managing your remaining content creators. In addition to searching for other creative voices to take the helm, why not source content from your internal team as well?

By upholding a company culture that encourages employees to serve as content creators and brand advocates, you can uncover valuable perspectives within your own walls and turn real life experiences into quality SME content, interviews, and how-to materials.

The Details: Planning a Leave of Absence So Everyone Wins

If you decide to allow your independent workers to step away from content creation temporarily, it’s vital to create a plan that outlines all the details of the leave so as not to leave gaps in your content production schedule. Will your contractor be responsible for covering their normal workload for the time they’re not working? If so, will you allow them to front-load the work, or will they catch up upon returning? These questions need answers before any leave starts.

editorial calendar planning

Image attribution: Emma Matthews

Both of you want to make the revision process as simple as possible, and discussing the timeline and direction for assignments together ahead of time will help ensure you get the final product you expect.

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Create a document that outlines every detail that’s been discussed and agreed upon. It should be signed by both parties and clearly state which day the leave will begin and also when the contractor will return. The amount of work the content creator is responsible for—and when it will be completed—should also be laid out. Make sure to include payment terms and dates, especially if they differ from their normal payment schedule.

Creating an internal plan for your marketing operations is equally important. Having a clear and visible content calendar is essential to making sure your brand’s creation and publication processes run smoothly during any creator leave. Using a content marketing software with a comprehensive editorial calendar will allow your marketing teams to immediately identify upcoming roadblocks or deadline issues well beforehand and reprioritize the creation of other assets to meet these demands.

Managing content creators doesn’t need to be difficult. With the right structure in place driving your organization’s content schedule, you can both deliver the content your audiences want and maintain strong relationships with your creative talent.

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Featured image attribution: Piotr Krzyżanowski

Erin Ollila graduated from Fairfield University with an M.F.A. in Creative Writing. After a 12+ year career in human resources – specializing in employee health and dental benefits, as well as wellness programs– she's jumped headfirst into digital strategy and content creation. Erin believes in the power of words and how a message can inform – and even transform – its intended audience. Her writing can be found all over the internet and in print, and includes interviews, ghostwriting, blog posts, and creative nonfiction. Erin is a geek for SEO and all things social media. She lives in Southeastern Massachusetts, neighboring Providence, Rhode Island, one of her favorite small cities. Learn more about her at www.erinollila.com.

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