Organizations play a significant role in the quality of work their freelancers provide. As with other vendors, you need to fine-tune the input to ensure the output lives up to your expectations. You wouldn’t start a construction project without giving the workers the tools and direction they need to succeed, right?
Clear instructions, a creative brief, and constructive feedback are all stepping stones when creating relationships with freelancers. Processes for assigning, drafting, editing, and submitting articles will make your life easier as a manager.
An automated process and clear communication (which we’ll show you how to do in this article) will give every freelancer a higher chance of success.
It’s all about creating a content workflow that everyone can follow. Simple in theory, difficult to execute. Your workflow tool can be in Trello, Airtable, Asana, or even Notion—choose one that makes sense for your team’s budget and technical know-how. We use Airtable since it’s easy to use and flexible. For example, with Airtable you can create a writer availability view and articles in progress view if you’re working with dozens of freelancers.
Superpath acts as the liaison between our Marketplace customers and freelance writers, but if you’re reading this, you may be working directly with freelancers. Either way, you can apply the same workflow with a few tweaks. Alternatively, you can opt to use our done-for-you service and not have to worry about creating your own workflow, retaining freelancers, and paying them.
Let’s dive in.
Some content leads will assign freelancers articles in the project management system and then ask if it’s okay. In other areas of life, I am generally a fan of the “ask for forgiveness, not permission” maxim, but not in this case.
It can be overwhelming for freelancers who don’t have availability to suddenly be assigned to an article, and it can signal a lack of respect (even if that’s not your intention). Plus, if they’re unavailable, you may be scrambling to find someone else.
Here’s how we assign articles:
From here comes the real meat of the project—writing and editing. Here’s how it works:
It’s one thing to have freelancers email you when they finish writing an article—it’s another to deal with payments and ideation for future articles. If you’re a manager who always needs content ideas, encourage freelancers to pitch new ideas after submitting an article.
Here’s the wrap-up process in the Marketplace:
Having a dedicated knowledge base for FAQs and explaining the workflow is part of the reason the Marketplace operates so smoothly. We use Slite but a PDF or Notion document could also work as long as it’s easy to navigate.
“So much can get lost in translation when you’re working with freelancers, so you have to spell everything out,” says Jimmy Daly, Co-founder of Superpath.
He explains that documentation is key— freelancers should know exactly how and when they’ll get paid, who to get in contact with you to ask questions and the best way to reach them. This will reduce friction and keep projects running smoothly.
Communicating every step of the way and constantly reminding freelancers of the processes helps create a good experience. As I mentioned, an email automatically fires off to the freelancer and client every time a card is moved on Airtable. Superpath also sends an email every one to two weeks with process updates.
Plus, every email has a link to the Slite knowledge base that freelancers can use to answer any questions. “It’s just about nurturing the relationship with your freelancers,” Jimmy says.
Superpath also has a separate project dashboard view in Airtable for each freelancer so they can see their current and past projects. This is an easy way for them to keep track of their records. If you go above and beyond for your freelancers, they’ll most likely do the same for you.
Internal documents ensure that work from various freelancers is consistent, which helps establish your brand. Make sure every brief or instruction card on your PMS has a link to your:
Rachel Bicha, a content writer & SEO specialist in our Superpath Slack community also recommends providing links to:
The amount of detail in the brief will depend on the project, but here are two common cases.
Either way, try to give as much guidance as possible. “Our goal is always to front-load context to reduce revisions later on,” Jimmy adds.
As a final tip, create a template for every brief that includes those evergreen documents like a style guide, audience research, or anything else.
We always encourage customers to give the freelancer a subject matter expert’s name and contact information. Freelancers can then schedule 20 minutes to speak with them—it saves them tons of time and provides rich context.
Alternatively you can interview the SME and send the freelancer a video and transcript. This is a thousand times better than freelancers Googling information or finding their own SMEs who might not have the expertise they need.
If a freelancer does a great job on a piece, tell them! Appreciation and compliments have been shown to reduce stress and improve creativity.
For example, freelancers get incremental rate increases for every ten articles they complete for the Marketplace. You can also show freelancers they’re valued in a non-monetary way by shouting them out in the Superpath community, your company Slack group, or on Twitter.
Last but certainly not least, make the payment process crystal clear and pay freelancers quickly.
Superpath has built payments into the editorial calendar so freelancers don’t even need to send an invoice. Once the Airtable card is moved to delivered, a record is created in G-sheet, and those records get uploaded to our payment system, Wingspan. Writers are paid within two to three business days.
Some companies have to run invoices through Accounting departments and cannot pay that quickly. Paying within a week or two is still acceptable, even if you have net 30 terms. If you can provide quick, reliable payments, freelancers will likely stick with you long-term!
When it comes to creating a process around working with freelancers, there’s a lot of heavy lifting involved. Once you start automating all the moving parts, you’ll be able to focus on other areas of the business or content strategy.
When working with freelancers, remember to be flexible and know it will never be perfect. Each individual writer has their own processes, so you might need to compromise on rate structure, payment software, and other components.
If you’re struggling to manage your freelancers or don’t have time to create an automated workflow, consider using the Superpath Marketplace to propel your content engine. We’ve set up a smooth process that keeps our tightly vetted writers consistently delivering excellent content.