I’m a full-time author and part-time freelance writer, and I’ve written website content for a wide variety of clients. Some of those projects went a lot smoother than others thanks to clients who were straightforward with their needs, easy to work with, and professional. Others… not so much.
In this article, I’m sharing eight tips to help you maintain a great relationship with the freelance writer you hire to create your content. This list is based on my own positive experiences and pet peeves I’ve encountered while working as a freelancer.
- 1. Provide a Brand Story
- 2. Give Your Freelance Writer All the Information They’ll Need
- 3. Don’t Overwhelm With Too Much Information
- 4. Set Clear Goals and Deadlines
- 5. Refrain from Nitpick Editing (Especially If You Can Do It Yourself)
- 6. Give Clear, Consistent Feedback
- 7. Send Notes & Requests in Batches, Not One at a Time
- 8. Promote Open Communication
1. Provide a Brand Story
The best thing you can do right off the bat is provide your writer with a brand story before they start working on your project.
A brand story is a narrative of your business, including its purpose, core values, services, history, and mission, ultimately painting a picture of how your company is presented to potential customers, clients, shareholders, investors, etc.
An important part of your brand story that’s particularly relevant to a freelance writer is the voice. This will help a writer understand the tone of your brand so they can emulate that in website copy, blog posts, ads, or whatever else they’ll be writing for you. They can also pick up on your vernacular and use that as a guide to echo the voice of your brand.
Does your narrative use simple, concise wording? Or is it more free-flowing and casual? Do you use technical jargon to appeal to a specialized demographic? Is your brand known for using humor? Empathy? Satire?
Understanding how you want to represent your business using tone and voice is immensely helpful for your writer to create on-brand content for you with minimal rounds of editing to get it right.
2. Give Your Freelance Writer All the Information They’ll Need
This seems like a no-brainer, but I can’t tell you how many times a client has provided minimal context for me and expected me to come up with something out of practically nothing. It’s incredibly frustrating when I can’t get specific details and I have to make educated guesses, only to have the client come back and say, “My business doesn’t offer that.”
I don’t know your business, and I’m not a psychic. Nobody knows your business as well as you do. If you want a writer to create your content, you need to provide them with plenty of details so they have all the tools they need.
For example, if there’s a specific process for customers to register for a service, spell those steps out for your writer so they can create clear instructions for the potential customers who will be visiting your website.
3. Don’t Overwhelm With Too Much Information
As a cautionary contrast to #2, don’t overcompensate by sending your writer so much information that they have to spend hours combing through dozens of long, tedious documents to find what they need.
Many freelance writers get paid based on word count or a project quote, not per hour. Of course we want to be thorough, but we also want to be efficient with our time, especially if we’re juggling multiple projects for multiple clients. There’s an ideal balance between not enough and too much information. Try to keep everything simple yet detailed.
4. Set Clear Goals and Deadlines
Freelance writers often work on multiple projects at once, which means they need to prioritize their time based on deadlines. It’s best to be upfront about your expectations and when you need your deliverables so your writer can work it into their schedule.
If you need copy written right away, make sure they’re aware of the quick turnaround time. Remember that if your deadline changes, that can potentially disrupt your writer’s entire schedule. They’ll usually try to accommodate as best as they can, but they aren’t always able to drop everything and move your project to the top of their list if you need it completed sooner than agreed upon.
In my case, freelance writing isn’t my full-time job. I run my own business, which means I’m setting up a vendor booth almost every weekend for markets, conventions, festivals, book signings, and other events. If a client reaches out on Friday afternoon and says they need website copy by Monday morning, it’s not going to happen, even if I’m willing to work outside of my normal hours. I can’t afford to sacrifice the wellbeing of my business to put somebody else’s first. Writers need sufficient time and reasonable deadlines even if they don’t operate on a regular Monday-Friday 9-5 schedule.
5. Refrain from Nitpick Editing (Especially If You Can Do It Yourself)
This one stems from a major pet peeve I’ve encountered surprisingly frequently as a freelance writer. When I was working for an agency, I was surprised (and annoyed) by clients who would send assignments back for tiny edits that were a complete waste of my time and theirs.
Here’s the thing — the contract was complete when the written content was delivered to the client. The writing agency did not have access to the back end of a client’s website. It didn’t publish the article directly to their blog. Once the client received the document, they could then do whatever they wanted with it.
So I was continuously dumbfounded when a client would send the document back for inconsequential edits that they were perfectly capable of doing themselves. In the time it took for a client to type, “Can you change the word ‘large’ to ‘gigantic’ instead?” and then send that to the project manager, who then sent it back to me, who then made the change and sent it to the editor, who then approved it and sent it back to the client, that article could have been tweaked and posted online already.
There was absolutely no reason why the client couldn’t make that change in their own document. It would have been a LOT faster, and it wouldn’t have wasted my time (along with the project manager’s and editor’s), which by that point had been allocated to other assignments.
Depending on the type of project you need, most circumstances wouldn’t require you to keep your freelance writer’s prose verbatim. In many cases, the freelancer is operating as a ghost writer, which means they won’t be credited as the author. You paid for the work, and now it’s yours to do with as you please. Therefore, you don’t need to waste the freelancer’s time with nitpick editing requests because it’s much, MUCH faster for you to go in and change a few words yourself when you’re ready to post the content rather than ask your writer to do it and then sit around waiting for them to send it back to you hours or even days later.
6. Give Clear, Consistent Feedback
Another pet peeve — vague feedback. I’ve had clients send back comments such as “This needs rewritten” or “This isn’t accurate” without providing any more context.
Okay… what exactly is wrong with it? Is the information not correct? Is the tone off? I can’t fix something if I don’t have any guidance. You need to tell your writer what’s wrong so they know how to correct it.
I can speak from experience when I say that constantly changing your mind and giving inconsistent feedback is a quick way to make a freelance writer want to pull their hair out in frustration. I once had a client who fixated on a “weak word” on the home page and wanted it to be changed to something “stronger.” I thought the noun was actually a very strong word that fit perfectly, but I’m not going to argue with a client; I pulled up the trusty thesaurus and found a replacement that was, in my humble opinion, a poorer choice. Imagine my surprise when I noticed the “weak word” was actually in the brand’s mission statement. And by the end of the project, that word had been used all over the website after many rounds of edits because the client apparently changed their mind.
I’ve also run into circumstances where a client provided a list of keywords, but then wanted to change every instance where a keyword phrase was used so it didn’t match the original… which completely defeats the purpose of providing said list of keywords in the first place.
It’s okay to change your mind during a project. That’s normal as the pieces of a website or article start coming together. But if you’re not providing clear, consistent feedback, your freelance writer is going to be very frustrated and might not be open to working with you again if they feel like you’re just spinning them in circles and making them constantly have to rewrite sections every time you do another one-eighty.
7. Send Notes & Requests in Batches, Not One at a Time
Remember that many freelance writers don’t work a typical 9-5 shift, especially if the job is a part-time side gig. For me, I’m usually busy during the day, so most of my work happens at night.
Because I’m working when clients are asleep, it’s inefficient for a client to send me one request at a time (especially if it’s a series of nitpick requests like the example in #5). I know I won’t get a real-time response, which means I have to wait until the next day to hear back. Addressing only one issue per day due to our opposite schedules is not ideal for either the client or the freelancer.
If you’re afraid of annoying your writer by sending a bunch of edits, comments, questions, requests, etc. all at once, don’t be. We would prefer that you compile all of those notes together in a list instead of stretching it out to communicate only one point at a time. It’s a lot more efficient for a writer to go through your list when they have time blocked off to focus on your project. Too much back-and-forth with little progress in between is extremely taxing for us, especially if we’re trying to balance other deadlines.
Give your feedback and requests to us all at once or in batches so we can check everything off the list in one sitting if possible.
8. Promote Open Communication
Ideally, you’re able to provide everything the freelance writer needs upfront so they have all of the information on hand when they start working on your project. But even in a perfect situation, your writer might have some follow-up questions for you as they progress.
Make sure you’re open to two-way communication so your writer feels comfortable reaching out for clarification. This is the absolute best way to ensure a healthy working relationship and the greatest chance of you being pleased with the copy that your writer provides, not to mention potential future projects if you and your writer are both on good terms by the end of the contract.
A freelance writer can be a great investment for your business, especially if you’ve reached a stage where you aren’t ready to hire full-time employees but still need to delegate tasks so you can focus on high-level projects such as planning your content calendar.
Maintaining a strong professional relationship with your writer not only helps to ensure that your current project is done well, but it also opens the door to a long-term partnership, which is particularly valuable if you find a writer who understands your brand story and vision.
I'm an award-winning fantasy author, artist, and photographer from La Porte, Indiana. My poetry, short fiction, and memoir works have been featured in various anthologies and journals since 2005, and several of my poems are available in the Indiana Poetry Archives. The first three novels in my Chronicles of Avilésor: War of the Realms series have received awards from Literary Titan.
After some time working as a freelance writer, I was shocked by how many website articles are actually written by paid "ghost writers" but published under the byline of a different author. It was a jolt seeing my articles presented as if they were written by a high-profile CEO or an industry expert with decades of experience. I'll be honest; it felt slimy and dishonest. I had none of the credentials readers assumed the author of the article actually had. Ghost writing is a perfectly legal, astonishingly common practice, and now, AI has entered the playing field to further muddy the waters. It's hard to trust who (or what) actually wrote the content you'll read online these days.
That's not the case here at On The Cobblestone Road. I do not and never will pay a ghost writer, then slap my name on their work as if I'd written it. This website is 100% authentic. No outsourcing. No ghost writing. No AI-generated content. It's just me... as it should be.
If you would like to support my work, check out the Support The Creator page for more information. Thank you for finding my website! 🖤