As a freelance editor working in London for the past ten years, I’ve experienced my fair share of post houses, ad agencies and corporate clients. I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly.
I shared what I know about being a successful freelance creative in my ebook How To Be A Freelance Creative, which aims to help freelancers deliver a professional and profitable service.
Here I want to share five things that freelancers would like to say to their employers. These tips will help employers get the best out of the freelance creatives who are delivering successful work for your clients.
1. Brief well
As freelancers, we might be coming in completely cold to your project and your client. You, however, know both the project and the client inside out. You know what needs to happen and when, and what the client’s likes, dislikes and expectations are.
Share that information with us as clearly as you can. Show us previous examples of work for the same client so we know where we’re headed.
We need to know what you want us to do, and especially, by when. A clear brief and a clear deadline will make for a productive day.
It’s especially helpful to set at least one pre-deadline review, because you’re likely to want to make changes before the client sees it, and we’ll need time to make those changes too.
Also, make the chain of command obvious. This is especially true in ad agencies where there seems to be a lot of people with a say in any given creative project. Who is ultimately in charge and who needs to sign off on the final project? This helps freelancers navigate your internal politics.
2. Help us get set up
Sometimes as a freelancer we’re being brought in as an extra set of hands, or to take up some extra slack. Which means we might not have a specific place to work nor specific equipment to work with.
Help us get up and running quickly and preferably have everything set up before we arrive! In post houses with permanent suites this is relatively easy – we just need to know where the media and project assets are.
But for some clients things can be a little more ad-hoc and freelancers often find themselves working on the edge of someone else’s desk. Planning ahead saves a lot of time, and that time can be ploughed into the project.
This is especially true when freelancers are working in corporate environments where a central IT department hold the keys to the kingdom. Maybe arrange to have one of these chaps around at the beginning of the day to help install Wacom drivers, plugins and other essentials.
3. Connect us up
If you’re using a clever digital communications system or collaboration platform (like Wipster) as part of a wider team, then take five minutes to walk us around (or virtually connect us) with the rest of the team, so we know who everyone else is and what role they’re playing.
Being able to put a name to a face makes life a lot easier and communication a lot clearer throughout the project.
This is especially true when you (as the freelancer’s point person) are away in a meeting, on a call, AWOL and we have an urgent question. If the freelancer knows who else they can ask, they won’t get stuck twiddling their thumbs.
4. Be clear about money
One of the things I aim to send to every new client, before I work for them, is a set of Terms and Conditions, that clearly spell out what they can expect from me – in terms of day rates, hours, expenses etc – and what I expect from them in return.
From our perspective it’s really helpful if you can serve us well by making it easy for us to get paid. Will we need a Purchase Order Number? Email one over at the start of the project. Who needs to receive our invoice? Send us their contact details. Do you have unusual payment terms? Let us know, so we know when we’ll get paid.
Clients who have been freelancers in the past tend to be much better at this kind of thing, as they know what it’s like to be left hanging when invoices haven’t been paid on time. While for the permanently employed, pay cheques just arrive every month, on time, this isn’t the case for freelancers.
A good freelancer will provide you with a prompt and professional service; it’s only fair to expect the same from you.
5. Final details matter
Ending a project well with a freelancer will lay a good foundation for working with them again.
Spell out the details of the final deliverables, how you’d like the project mastered and archived, who might be taking it over in the future and where the backup needs to go.
The freelancer’s neat organisational skills will hopefully make it easy for anyone to intuitively take over from their work, but this process can be refined by ensuring naming conventions, file locations and hand-over notes are completed to your specification.
The details don’t matter until some future date when they matter very much, so giving them a little attention now will make life easier later.
These five thoughts aren’t particularly ground-breaking, but having been around the block a few times, it’s amazing how often the same problems come up. That said, a freelancer’s job is to roll up their sleeves and get stuck in as best they can, and the good ones will make that happen no matter what.
Jonny Elwyn is a freelance film editor and writer who lives and works in London, UK. As a freelance film editor he handles everything from on-set rushes and offline editorial through to the final sound mix and colour grade. He’s also a freelance blogger who regularly contributes to PremiumBeat.com and RedsharkNews.