140212_Lori_PolemankosWe worked with Lori Polemenakos for more than a decade when she was the senior editor at Match.com. Working as an occasional freelance writer helps her maintain realistic expectations as a professional editor – both online and in other media. These tips, which she shared for Freelance Appreciation Week, also apply for working with agencies and other suppliers. 

5 tips for building great relationships with freelancers

I’ve worked with a variety of experts, publications and writers in the pursuit of consistent, high-quality content. Spammers and site-scraping software devalued the market for original online content the past few years, but now, the tides are turning — and original, well-written articles are staging a comeback online. Here are five things that helped me build loyal relationships with freelancers in my role as senior editor at Match.com:

  1. Set realistic expectations early, and put it all in writing. Not all freelancers are journalists, but if someone’s writing style appeals to me and sources aren’t a problem, I’ll assign a “test” article. Once we’ve ironed out the details via email, a contract listing word count, pay rate, due date, etc. is sent and signed by the writer. When the piece comes in, it’s my job to give feedback and guidelines that may be helpful in crafting future submissions.
  2. Make assignments on a freelancer’s strengths, not pitches. If two writers pitch the same idea, one’s usually more qualified to write it. Making assignments that aren’t always based on pitches helps build mutual trust and triggers new ideas for contributors. If a pitch needs to be tweaked, explain the changes you’d prefer and get the writer’s buy-in before creating the contract.
  3. Good feedback now leads to better pitches and fewer edits in the future. If the timing’s off for ideas, let writers pitch them elsewhere. Not covering a topic anymore? Tell your writers! Try to think in terms of ROI: giving good feedback early on leads to better pitches and fewer rejections in the future – and you’ll less time spent editing as writers learn to consistently hit the mark. Invest in the person, not the ideas — you’ll make everyone happier.
  4. Be willing to offer more than just a paycheck. If you can’t afford someone’s usual rate, what other incentives can you offer? Some cost only your time —screen shots, readership statistics/comments, links to buy his/her previous works, letters of recommendation for publishers, guaranteed future assignments, and social media promotion are just a few tools to keep in your arsenal.
  5. A good editor doesn’t flatten a writer’s voice, but does pay kill fees. Years ago, a writer was hurt by the edits I’d made; she felt they put a negative spin on the positive message she intended to convey. If a submission’s unacceptable to publish as-is, an editor’s job is to ask for a rewrite or pay the kill fee — especially on a deadline. But don’t waste time rewriting it yourself! Just pull it, explain why and then move on.