The Dos and Don’ts of Working with Freelancers
Happy Hump Day. As promised, I spoke to Sarah Caron, a “real live” freelance writer to get some thoughts on how best to work with freelancers. Sarah divvies up her writing time between Parenting/Children, Cooking/Food and Technology. You can check out her blog for more of her insights.
But after chatting (typing) with Sarah, I noticed that there’s a pretty common thread coming from reporters, whether they are freelance writers or staff reporters. Always remember that writers are people. Always respect the writer’s time. Never practice spam-pitching (pitching off topic, sending releases blindly). Media relations are all about the relations! So develop relationships with your media contacts, this includes freelance writers.
Sarah Caron’s Dos and Don’ts
Do Take Time to Read the Writer’s Former Work
As with any writing professional, PR people really need to take the time to understand a writer’s role at publications and who they are writing for. This can easily be done with a little research or even just asking the writer.
Don’t Pitch Off Topic
Freelancers can be an excellent resource for PR professionals, especially if they write for multiple publications online and in print. However, it’s important that the PR pros take note about what the freelancer writes about and only sends along pitches that really fit their topics of interest. Trying to twist a subject to fit the writer’s interest seldom works if it’s not a natural fit. One important thing to realize though is that there are different types of freelancing: there is contract work, where you write on a regular schedule for a publication. There is also one-off work, which is most often garnered through pitching. And pitches take time.
DON’T Auto-Add a Freelancer to Your Media List
Paying attention to Twitter, HARO and other sources can lead you to writers. However, specifically for HARO, you should never ever add a freelancer to your email list unless you ask them if it’s okay first.
DON’T Forget the Note!
As a journalist, I expect to receive impersonal press releases. But as a freelancer, most often press releases sent without any note go directly to the slush pile. It doesn’t take a lot of time to type a greeting and tell me why I might be interested in this release. Further, if you think it’s a fit for a specific site, say so.
DON’T Follow Up Too Soon
Also, follow-up is great, but don’t follow up the next day or even a few days later. A freelancer is not a staffer who is working every single day at set hours so it can take a few days to get to an email.
But…DO Follow Up Eventually
If you don’t hear back within a week or two, then it’s okay to follow up.