It happens. Sometimes you’re hired for a project that is simply too big to do on your own. Then, you become a freelancer in need of freelancers.
Although you found a client willing to work with you based on your credentials, the moment you become the intermediary, everything changes. Now, it’s up to you to find someone you think is qualified not only to work for you, but to work on this specific project.
How do you set yourself up as a freelancer managing freelancers when the client is only going to deal directly with you?
First, hiring. As a freelancer, you may be better-suited to evaluate resumes of other freelancers. You know what to really look for, and oftentimes it’s a combination of specific experience as well as the length of time they’ve been working.
As a freelancer writer myself, I definitely want to hire people who sends me great writing samples, and have done the work before. However, I also want someone with at least a few years under their belt. I want them to have had the time to do more than social media writing, to have developed a few additional skills like keyword writing and long-form content prep. This isn’t as easy to find as you’d think, and many clients don’t even know this is what they need to truly optimize their online content.
Honestly, to find someone who writes up to my standards, they need to do a few specific things in their writing, beyond being a good writer. They must:
- Understand how to properly cite a source, even if it’s just by adding in a hyperlink correctly.
- Have a conclusion in any writing sample they send me. Nothing should end abruptly.
- Take and use feedback. If I’m telling a freelancer not to use the Oxford comma, and they keep delivering drafts where I have to edit it out, they won’t last long.
Basically, I’m looking for a slightly greener version of myself. Not always so easy to find since I was educated before social media and online marketing were really even things. I’ve adapted, but still hold on to certain more traditional writing styles and values.
GETTING THE TIMELINE RIGHT AND BECOMING A FIRST-PASS EDITOR
After you’ve found a freelancer or two you’re comfortable calling on, the next thing you must do is shift gears and become a manager, or in my case, an editor. You definitely don’t want to deliver someone else’s work to your client without having looked it over yourself. Even if you use freelancers to help you, which is totally fine, the bottom line is that their work is a reflection on you. The client hired you. You must pad deadlines with your freelancers so you have time to edit their work.
I’ve worked with great freelancers whose work I review and hardly make any changes. I’ve also worked with freelancers whose work I heavily edit in order to make their writing similar to the content I’m producing for the client. Everyone has their own style, but if I’m writing in shorter sentences with smaller paragraphs and I happen to get a freelancer who loves commas more than periods, I’m going to edit the shit out of their work. Then, I’ll go back and show them the edited piece, saying stylistically, this is more of what I want. Sometimes they get it, and sometimes I stop hiring them as my freelancers.
Regardless, there’s a learning curve to bringing new workers onto a project you’ve most likely been working on for a while. As your freelancers catch up, you need time to tweak their work and still deliver everything to your client on time. Give yourself at least two extra days. One day for your freelancer to miss their deadline — which has happened to me more times than I’d like to admit, and one day for you to do the actual editing.
ROLLING UP COSTS
In addition to becoming an editor when you employ your own freelancers, you’ve also got to become the CFO. You’ve got to pay these people to work for you, but the money needs to come out of your client’s pocket not yours. They don’t necessarily need to know that you’re paying for this extra help, but you need to make sure you’ve priced the work appropriately to cover their time and yours.
This can get complicated if you don’t anticipate needing a freelancer before you submit an estimate, or you’re out of the loop as to what you really should be making and undercharge. I’ll admit, I did this for a long time, undercharged for my work out of fear that nobody would want to hire me. I’ve slowly gotten over this, raising my prices to where I feel comfortable, although some friends still tell me I’m charging too little.
The best way to combat this issue is to break out charges in your head. Say you charge $100 for writing a 950 word blog. This fee includes a single editing pass. Now, you’ve got to write six of these blogs in two weeks, so you know you need to hire a freelancer to do at least two of them. You want to pay them the same rate you’re getting, but need to make money as the editor. By raising your blog price to $120 per piece, you’re able to pay them, and recoup compensation for your time in working with them (and editing their content) over the course of your project.
You almost need to create two rate sheets to have in your back pocket. One, includes prices if you’re operating solo, the other factors in your need to hire freelancers. The price difference isn’t so big it will knock you out of the running for most jobs, but it will ensure everyone makes an appropriate amount for their work.
SHARING THE WORKLOAD IS ACCEPTABLE
While it may feel odd to hire a freelancer when you’re doing the same job yourself, it’s perfectly acceptable. Sometimes the work you think you have time for ends up being too much. Rather than not completing the work and impacting a client relationship you’ve already established, it’s better to ask (and pay) for help.
If you manage your schedule well, this won’t happen often, but it will probably happen once, or twice, so it’s better to prepare.
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio.