June 27, 2013

Confessions of a Freelance Writer

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How to work with writers to get great copy every time.

Hi. I’m a freelance writer, and content marketing clients are my favorite. Really. I’m not just saying that because I’m writing this for a content marketing blog. I almost always learn something new when working on a story, even when I’m covering a topic I’ve written about a dozen times before. That’s why I got into writing in the first place — because I’m endlessly fascinated with just about everything (and might I add, this abundance of general knowledge makes me a standout Trivial Pursuit teammate).

Most of the time, the stories I work on for content marketing clients sail smoothly through the process, which benefits everyone involved. Like most things in life, clear communication is the essential ingredient.

For example, if there’s someone you really want me to interview for a particular story, let me know that at the beginning. I’ll make sure the person’s included if at all possible (if you’re looking for a quote from, say, Nicki Minaj about something not related to how much she dislikes Mariah Carey, I make no promises).

I’ve worked with some clients so many times that they’ll now just give me a topic — like the importance of shih tzus* — and have me take it from there. I find the story angle, dig up the sources and put it in the format that I think makes the most sense. Most companies, though, want a little more say in the end result, so give me as much direction as is important to you. Maybe you want a story with a 150-word intro and a list of bullet points. That’s totally fine; just let me know. Maybe you’re set on a certain headline. Maybe you don’t care how I write something as long as it gets the point across that tiny lap dogs make the world go ’round. Whatever the case, communicate your expectations to me and I’ll deliver. (*Note: I have never written a story about shih tzus, but my mom would really like it if I did.)

It’s also helpful if you get me any information I need to complete the story as soon as possible. Sometimes I’ll agree to take on an article that’s due in three weeks, but then the client doesn’t send over names of required sources until three days before the deadline. That puts a huge time crunch on everything, and the story may suffer for it. Because I’m a freelance writer who has to work for multiple outlets to keep my fabulous New York City apartment and Jimmy Choo shoe collection (oh, wait — the only single freelancer in the history of the world to have that was Carrie from Sex and the City), I have other projects going on, and I only say yes to ones I have the bandwidth to complete. So when the time table gets severely shortened, it throws everything off.

Once I’ve turned in the glowing prose (ha — feel free to edit it; my feelings won’t be hurt), if there are multiple people in your office making revision requests and some conflict, decide which ones you want before sending it back to me. Nothing is more confusing than a note to “make this sentence shorter” immediately followed by a note to “make this sentence longer.”

That’s about it. As long as I keep beefing up my trivia knowledge (and paying my bills) and you keep getting quality content for your publication, I think we’re going to get along just fine.

Mario Medina

Mario is the Creative Director of madison/miles media. He has a wife, two kids, a dog, a fish (but it might be dead — hard to tell) and an unhealthy obsession with Batman.