We’ve all done it; taken on work from a colleague or a peer “just to help out.” For the majority of us, the relationship works out well and we’ve built a next level relationship with a fellow writer.
For others though, the experience burned the relationship altogether.
I’ve talked about my own experiences before but what brings me back to it again today is the fact that many new and budding writers, desperate to get whatever clips they can under them, don’t consider what may happen if the project goes sour. The same holds true for the person hiring out the work. In many cases, because the two are colleagues important details are overlooked.
The risk for success lies on both shoulders. If the writer doesn’t deliver, the hiring colleague is left holding a deadline and no work to show for it. If the hiring colleague drops the ball or doesn’t pay, the writer won’t be inclined to help again. In either case, both parties run the risk of ruining their names and reputations in the business.
Success for both parties really is in the details. I’ve outlined some advice from myself and other professionals who both hire and work for peers on a daily basis.
Get it in Writing
This is by far the most agreed upon detail that you must complete before hiring out or working for someone else. Jenn Fowler from the site Frugal Upstate, who works as a consultant with both brands and bloggers said, “Getting it in writing isn’t about keeping from getting screwed. It’s also to make sure both parties really DO understand what is expected. That makes it better for both folks.”
Lisa Martin of My Thoughts, Ideas and Ramblings agrees that it’s good to be nice but a contract is more important. Jenn also adds that if no contract is available, email back with a summary with the details of what’s being done. This way, if there is a misunderstanding, you have something to pull from.
Ask for Referrals
There is nothing wrong with asking your colleague with a list of people that they can contact. Many writers assume that this is only for the editors or people doing the hiring but in my experience, it’s to your benefit to ask for names of people who have worked with your colleague in the past. You don’t have to come right out and ask, “Do they pay” or “Can they meet deadlines” but you can email and politely request how the work relationship was for someone else. LinkedIn has taken care of a lot of that legwork for us but if you’re ever curious reach out and ask someone who has first-hand knowledge of their work ethic and habits.
Bring your Thick Skin
It’s never easy to have someone critique your work. We’d all like to think that everyone is our mom and loves what we have to say unconditionally, but the truth is: We all need editing. When you’re writing for another writer, be prepared to take their edits gracefully. Don’t get in a huff and swear that they don’t know good writing when they see it. Be willing to edit if that’s what’s required.
On the other hand, if you’re the one hiring and you don’t ask for re-writes or let the writer know that what they delivered isn’t correct and you choose not pay them but take their work anyway – think again. If you agreed to pay the writer for their work you need to do it. Vet your writers by asking for referrals and samples before hiring and request a re-write if needed. Otherwise, pay up as agreed and file that writer away as someone to skip in your rolodex the next time you need help. Your bad judgment shouldn’t cost that writer pay for work they thought was up to snuff.
Keep the lines of Communication Open
As I already mentioned, if the work isn’t on par with what’s required for the project, you don’t understand the scope of work, or the project changes, communicate it and do it in writing. Skype chats and IMs don’t count as proper business communication. Even if you discuss things on the phone or over a Google+ Hangout, follow up with an email. I like to quote second grade teachers from around the world, “There are no stupid questions.” If you have a question or need to clarify something, just do it and the project will be stronger for it.
Make the Relationship an A+B Relationship
I liken this to when someone butts into a conversation; “This is an A, B conversation so “C” your way out.” Additional editors and eyes on the project aren’t required unless it’s outlined from the beginning. Writers this goes for you too. Do the work and submit it. Avoid subjecting it to another writer for edits (they aren’t paying you) or your mom or BFF (they always love what you’re writing). Of course I say this but when you’re hoping for future writing opportunities with this colleague and you insist on getting second opinions; I’d cast a wide net if you do choose to let someone else look over your work before submitting. You never know who’s connected to who. Likewise, unless you’re reporting to a higher up on this project – avoid bringing in one more person for the writer to answer to. It confuses things and makes it hard to deliver what’s agreed upon.
Hopefully with these suggestions you can avoid some of the writer beware drama that myself and others have had. When a project goes right though, it feels wonderful and I feel it really deepens the professional relationships you’re building.
What tips would you add?
image via omar franc