How to work with freelancers: 8 tips for publishers

Sara Donaldson - Freelancers

Whether you are working as a freelance or in-house, the publishing world relies on great communication, specialist skills and not a small amount of stress. If you are already in the industry, you know just how hectic life can become as publication day rolls near. Having great connections is part of the game, and failure or success can hinge on getting the right person for the job.

With that in mind you have to see the process from both sides. Publishers need freelances who can step up to the mark, and freelances need publishers who understand their needs – despite what the popular press think, freelancing isn’t an easy option for everyone.

The following tips are for publishers working with freelancers. My tips for freelancers working with publishers will follow soon.

1) Keep your freelance in the loop, communicate with us!

If there is something that needs to be done in a certain way, tell us. If the project has suddenly had a set-back or been brought forward, let us know in plenty of time. As freelancers, we rely on a steady stream of work … if a project has had a setback, telling us sooner rather than later can help us try to fill the gap. Better still, if you can, offer us a small project to tide us over. That’s one way to really cement a happy working relationship.

2) Be approachable

There is nothing worse than receiving a piece of work and then being subjected to a huge silence. Okay, usually your editor won’t need to communicate much, but it’s good to know there is someone there willing to answer queries. Even just a friendly ‘I’m here if you need me’ can mean the difference between a good working relationship and a bad one. If your editor feels uncomfortable asking questions, if there are any that need answered, it could mean that they perhaps don’t ask and end up wondering if they are doing the right thing.

3) Remember to give your freelancer all the information they need to quote and carry out the work

Supply us with a style sheet, let us know how you would like queries dealt with (do they go to the project editor or directly to the author?), let us know exactly what you want doing with the text. The more information you can give us, the easier it will be for everyone involved.

4) Get to know the differences between copy-editing and proofreading

Don’t be embarrassed if you don’t know the difference, pop along to the SfEP FAQ pages where you’ll find an explanation. Both areas take skill and training – your proofreader may not be trained in copy-editing and may have to decline a project if the manuscript isn’t ready. Likewise, your copy-editor may not take on proofreading work.

5) Understand that copy-editing and proofreading takes time

Be clear about your budget and the timescale from the outset. If your budget, or time, is limited you may have to accept a less comprehensive edit. Remember, your freelancer isn’t just sitting down in their conservatory reading your book, they are in their office dissecting it, making sure it is ready for publication and the intended audience. This all takes time. As an example you can look at an editing time of perhaps 2,000–3,000 words per hour (this is just a very loose example based on an average text in good condition).

6) We may not be in the office, but while we are working with you we really are part of the team, try to remember that and treat us accordingly

Be honest about when work needs to be returned. Don’t give us unreasonable deadlines … we like a weekend break too! Understand that your freelancer is an expert in their field. Trust us to do our job, but don’t be afraid to ask us questions. Just treat us like one of you!

7) Pay us on time

Yes, we all hate talking about money, but freelancers depend on being paid promptly. Make sure we know who to send the invoice to and if there is a pay cycle please let us know. There is nothing more frustrating than sending in an invoice to find we missed the monthly cycle by a day – this can mean the invoice being delayed by a month, and paid even later. An employee would not take kindly to waiting three months for their wages, freelancers feel the same.

8) Finally, give us feedback and testimonials

There is nothing worse than working on a project, handing it back, then hearing nothing. It really is disheartening. Did we do well or were there areas that could have been improved? Honest feedback is valuable to a freelancer, no feedback can eventually erode a freelancer’s confidence. We’re not being needy, just practical. It doesn’t have to take much time either, a simple ‘Thanks, you did a great job’ or ‘That was fine, but next time we need to talk about the way we handle author queries’ added onto the end of an email is all that is needed. Let us know how we did, it really is appreciated and useful.

Sara Donaldson is a freelance editor with an eye for a mystery. When not editing a range of projects (mostly non-fiction) she can be found with her Sherlock hat on as a professional genealogist. You can find her on Twitter.

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