How to stay organized when working with freelance writers


My textbooks fall onto the floor. I’m the least organized kid in my third grade class, and once a week, my jam-packed desk gives up, takes a breath, and spits up my mess. Crumpled papers, chewed erasers, and reading comprehension books are strewn across the floor.

I’ve come a long way since I was nine. These days, I have a few pens strewn across my desk, but for the most part, I keep things together. In order to make deadlines, keep meetings, and be successful as a consultant, I have to stay organized.

And if you’re going to work with me or any other consultant, you should be organized, too. An organized process doesn’t just make consultants want to work with you. Organization makes you more efficient, and you’ll be able to get a lot more out of relationships with contractors.

Here’s how to stay organized:

Focus on what needs to be done

I have a lot of onboarding phone calls with new clients, and a lot of times, they tell me things I don’t need to know. These clients usually hire me for specific editorial and marketing tasks. Often, however, these calls spiral out until I learn all the marketing tactics the company is considering. It’s exhausting, and it doesn’t help me do my job.

I’m a consultant, not an investor, and I want you to explain what you need me to do, not spend two hours explaining all the ins and outs of the business. This information often confuses me, and it leaves me unsure of where you want me to help. When I get irrelevant information from clients, it’s usually a sign that they’re not that organized.

Before you start a new relationship with a consultant, ask yourself:

  • What are the top tasks I need this person to do?
  • How can I explain my company’s needs succinctly? (Write down bullet points before the call to help you stay on topic!)
  • Why have I contacted this person? Am I truly ready to hire them and start a relationship? (If you’re not ready to start a relationship, wait until you are. It’s a waste of your time, and the contractor’s time).

Provide an editorial style guide


People waste a lot of time on phone calls explaining their brand guidelines, when they could streamline the process by sending out a branded style guide to any new partner. These style guides will help you onboard freelancers, but they’ll also help you solidify your brand personality, which will help internal writers and leaders, as well.

A style guide should include:

  • Explanation of your brand
  • High level overview of your products and services
  • Information about your audience. Who are they? What do they like to read? What are their pain points?
  • Information about brand voice (For example: We write in a casual, friendly style and like to mention meatballs whenever we can or We write in an authoritative tone that will resonate with VPs and executives).
  • Grammatical preferences (Use of oxford comma, whether you use periods after bullets, etc.)
  • Examples from your blog or website that showcase your ideal style

You don’t need more than 2 or 3 pages to see success. I’ve actually helped clients come up with editorial style guides that they can then send to other freelancers they work with.

Get the right tools and use them

Tools can’t solve all your organization problems, but they can certainly help. They force you to stay organized, and eliminate the need to go back and forth via email.

  • Trello & Asana – Trello and Asana are project management tools that allow you to keep your team in the loop. I like them both equally, though I use Trello for my own personal organization. These tools make it easy to establish due dates and keep all project details in one place.
  • CoSchedule – CoSchedule is an editorial calendar built for content marketers. It works as a plug-in to WordPress. It’s a little clunky at times (so many pop up windows), but I really like it. Freelancers can set up notifications, and it’s easy to get people onboarded.
  • Google Docs – I’ve yet to find a better word processing system than Google Docs, which makes it easy to leave comments, suggest revisions, and collaborate. I like using Google Docs much more than any other word processor, though it can be slow to load with super long docs, which is why I wrote my novel in Word.

The tools aren’t magic. In order for them to work, you need to invest time in setting them up, and figuring out the best way to use them.

Refine the editorial process and manage expectations

I include edits and revisions with all my fees, but sometimes I don’t know what my clients expect.

It’s best if you provide deadlines, and set expectations, particularly around edits. That way, writers can build time for edits and revisions into their schedule, so that you’ll be happy with results.

If you leave comments in a Google Doc suggesting changes, send an email or put a note in a project management tool that you’d like to see edits by a certain dates. Due dates help freelancers a lot, even if they’re relatively arbitrary on your end.

Organization from the beginning

Consultants can provide a lot of value to your organization, but you need to step up your organization (HAHA, GET IT?!).

Being organized from the beginning will save you time, and it will make freelancers want to work with you.