Ingredients for a favourable freelancer

I’ve worked with freelancers across the world and through various timezones. Some have been friends I’ve been trying to help out while others have become friends. Some have been great at their jobs while others have been awful.

So what makes a good freelancer? Someone who makes my job easy. I have deadlines. I need work produced. If you can help me with this goal then I’m going to keep giving you work.

I reckon there are four main things that help to make a top quality freelancer.

Has a high standard of writing
Goes without saying, really. The less I have to edit to make your articles up to standard, the better. As you’ll see below, this isn’t the be all and end all for me.

Follows instructions
When I send out work I want it written in a certain way, in a certain style. The quicker you can pick this up, the better. If I’m constantly having to change your formatting, your insistence on using American spellings or adding/removing words, I’m not going to be too pleased with you.

I also like to provide feedback to my writers. If you’re doing something wrong — whether there’s something up with the way you write things, lay things out or if it just seems like something that I personally don’t like — then take that on board. If you ignore what I’ve asked of you — even if it’s something simple that you don’t agree with, such as using Comic Sans (which I’d never do, but I could understand you not wanting to do that) — and you carry on in your own way, perhaps using Helvetica because you think it’s a nicer font, then you’re going to lose marks.

Communicates well
There are two main parts to this. Firstly, I want to know well in advance if you have any problems with the work I’ve sent you. If you can’t meet a deadline, tell me as soon as you know, not the day it’s due. Sometimes deadlines can be moved to help you, other times I’ll need to find someone else to write something. Either way, I’d like to make a decision on this early. Likewise, if you’re going to be unavailable for a stretch of time, perhaps you’re going on holiday, let me know a before you leave for the airport.

The second part is that you should remember I’m a person and sometimes I get bored at work too. Send me a fun, friendly e-mail every now and then (not a fwd: of a cat picture) and get to know me. I have some good contacts in my freelancer list and I have some good friends. In a toss up, the friend gets the extra work.

If you’re being friendly, and I do encourage it, make sure not to go too far. E-mails can be casual but work must always stay professional. Don’t drop writing standards in your messages either. I won’t be marking you down on your e-mails, but I will raise an eyebrow if you use phrases like ‘lolzhard’ or you start throwing in too many exclamation marks.

Beats deadlines
Not meets deadlines. Beats them. This is the most important aspect of the four, especially if you’re asking me for more work.

If you’re a full time freelancer I expect this. If you’re doing it in your spare time and you get it into me at the deadline, more often than not I’m going to assume you did it the night before. Like you did at university. Like you did at school.

I did that too. It’s fine to do that. If you want to get extra work from me, though, the easiest way is to impress me by getting things back to me early. This shows me that you’re keen and you can handle the work.

If I was offered a choice between an article on time with one minor mistake or an article two days early but with three minor mistakes, I’d take the second every time. I have to read and edit everything that comes in and so long as your basic article is sound, I don’t mind you having an extra typo in there to get in my inbox a bit early. I’m not encouraging you rush things, but if you leave articles overnight so you can look at them with a fresh eye and you generally find only one or two small things to change, it’s not worth the wait. No article’s ever perfect, I don’t expect that.

Mix the four together and you’ve become a pretty amazing asset to me. Thank you.

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