Friday, September 11, 2009

GUEST POST: Want to Work With Me? Here Are My Rules!

Brilliant aspiring novelist Ginny Stone is a long-time writing collaborator and partner of mine. We've both just finished novels, and are blogging about the editing process (and that whole getting-published thing) over at our new blog, Not So Solitary, along with fellow collaborista Angela Dawn. By day, Ginny is a marketing genius for a well-known publishing house, managing book-release and promotion campaigns for fantasy/sci-fi/paranormal titles-- and she's often in charge of hiring freelancers. So I thought she'd be perfect to bring you a valuable client-side perspective on the hiring process.

GUEST POST: Want to Work With Me? Here Are My Rules!
By Ginny Stone

I work for a major British publishing company in the Marketing Department. I frequently hire freelance graphic designers, web consultants, and copywriters. Recently, I was talking to Jennifer about what I look for when I hire a freelancer. I'm pretty laid back and I tend to like to work with people who are also laid back but deadline/goal orientated. Generally I have an established list of freelancers and don't take on new freelancers by query letter alone. A query letter and a trusted recommendation is my preferred method of finding new talent. I get about a hundred query letters a year-- but without a reference I usually have to pass these up. But, assuming you queried me and/or had a reference (or portfolio of projects) I trusted here are my rules for working on a project.

Ask Questions Early

If I hire a freelancer and (s)he doesn't understand the brief I've given them, then I expect her/him to take the initiative and ask questions early on in the project. There is nothing worse than a freelancer sending in work that does not meet the brief I have given them-- because this puts me in the awkward position of having to ask them to redo it. A few questions asked early on might have salvaged the project and meant that we were able to make our deadlines with less stress and fuss. Don't be afraid to ask questions-- it lets me see how your mind works (and I am more likely to give you a more comprehensive or tailored brief next time). Part of what keeps companies returning to the same freelancers is that we mesh and are able to communicate our wants and needs quickly and efficiently. This only happens if both parties are able to trust each other and ask as many questions as it takes to get the job done.

Be Reliable

If I like working with you then I will work with your schedule. Good (and reliable) freelancers are hard to find. This is why most companies have a list of people/companies they regularly work with. Because, here's the secret-- we want to work with people who understand tight deadlines, good communication and produce results. If you want to score a repeat job with a company like mine you have to be reliable and produce consistent results under the deadlines we give you. Its simple. If you don't have time to take the job, don't. We'd rather you pass on a job because you can't meet the deadline and produce your usual results than have you take the job and produce something not up to your standards. I promise, if we like working with you we will respect that you are in demand and next time send you our work request earlier.

Check and Answer Your Messages Frequently

I can't stress this enough. I had one company I worked with that didn't get back to me for three business days. I had to chase them for a reply (just to let me know they had gotten my work request). This is frankly unacceptable. If work is being outsourced to you it's generally because of time constraints. Meaning there is a deadline looming that needs to be met and we are hiring you to produce work and meet this deadline. If you are happy to work on a project then reply early (when the request comes in) and let me know your schedule. If you will be working on my project from Tuesday than fair enough-- I'll look for an email/copy/design from you on Wednesday. Don't make me chase you to get a timeline from you. We are both busy and I don't need to spend my time fretting when you have a project in hand. I don't want to be that annoying client. You are a professional, if I am hiring you to work for me than the least you can do is let me know when I can expect a draft, when I will be able to give you corrections etc. This way I can pass this information along to my bosses who will anxiously be awaiting an update on this project. Remember, we all have deadlines and bosses to answer to.

Meet Your Deadlines

If you say you will deliver a draft/design on Tuesday then you'd better deliver it (and not at 6pm). Don't make promises you can't keep. I'd much rather you say, 'I'll be might able to show you a draft late Tuesday but more realistically Wednesday afternoon' then promise me a date and time that you can't meet. If I know you wont really be able to give me anything until Wednesday than I wont look for something until then. But if I am waiting for something on Tuesday and nothing comes until Wednesday 5pm I am not going to be confident with your skills-- regardless of how good whatever you've produced happens to be.

Remember We Write Copy Too

Marketeers write copy. We are the creative brains behind national marketing campaigns, tv/radio commercials, and press adverts. If we are hiring you to write copy we trust your copy writing skills implicitly. However, should we send your copy back with (loads of) changes then please note this doesn't mean we don't like the work you've produced. A lot of creative work is done by committee and sometimes we need to look at several different approaches. It doesn't mean what you've produced isn't brilliant (it probably is) but part of marketing/sales copy has to do with positioning the product in the right manner. So, if was ask that you take a different approach, believe me its because we think you've produced something good-- but we need to see it in a different way as well. This way we can find the right creative approach. Good marketing takes time and creativity. Don't be afraid to take chances and give us two ideas. Just follow your brief.


Lori said...

Amen, amen, AMEN. I think freelancers could greatly improve their careers by simply paying attention to their approach.

I agree that a reference is in order - when I tried hiring writers to help with a project, I got the most gawd-awful queries that fulfilled none of the requirements I'd listed. I love when they ask questions (not tons, mind you, but well-thought-out questions are always welcome), and I adore someone who never misses a deadline.

In one case, I hired a writer friend to put together an article for my newsletter. It wasn't until two weeks AFTER her deadline that I finally tracked her down and she said, rather nonchalantly, "Yea, no. That subject was too difficult for me." Then TELL me so. Don't make me search for you, and don't wait until it's too late for me to get another writer on it.

Kimberly Ben said...

I love this! I've been burned sooo badly when I tried hiring freelancers for a big client once before. The client gave me some friendly hiring advice that included asking for references. I haven't had the nerve to do it again yet, but I'll take down your advice for future reference.

@Lori, wow; some friend!