Freelance Writers & Content Managers: What Each Wish The Other Knew

Content managers and freelance writers work together all the time, but do they always see eye to eye?


Sometimes freelance writers expect better guidelines from content managers. Other times, content managers expect freelance writers to have a stronger grasp of their brand.

But something magic happens when freelance writers and content managers develop an understanding. Suddenly, high quality work is produced in less time. Suddenly, you have a partner on your content marketing journey.

That’s why we hosted a chat to discuss how freelance writers and content managers can work in harmony, and have used those insights (and viewers’) questions to create this resource that can help anyone effectively work with a freelancer or a client.

Freelancers want…

Guidelines and pre-assignment documents

A getting started deck that outlines all of the must-know information. It includes:

  • Info about marketing personas and audience
  • Style guide/background on voice and tone
  • List of competitors (not to reference)
  • Any majors dos/don'ts

Communication & transparency

  • Freelancers would always prefer to talk things out to get a greater understanding of your product and company, rather than run on assumptions about what you want. Don't be afraid to pick up the phone to have a conversation.
  • Communication in general. Freelancers know content managers are busy but sometimes the lack of communication can make them feel adrift, and it's hard to be motivated when they don't develop a relationship with you.
  • Positive editing (freelancers hate editors who are negative and not constructive with comments). Sometimes, editors change really minor things, and send it back for reviews, and the process takes forever. It’s always better to pick up the phone, or just fix these things yourself.
  • Freelancers want to feel valued and respected. When they try to negotiate a new rate, don’t balk, even if it’s too high. Make it a negotiation instead.

Existing company resources to be referenced in articles

Freelancers are not computers; you have to point them to your existing research/stats since they don't always know what has been published in the past. Share things like:

  • Company published research or stats
  • Case studies
  • Quotes from leadership
  • Infographics

Deadlines with leeway

Last-minute assignments = low quality, rushed work. Instead, use things like:

  • A content calendar, which helps create an overall content strategy
  • Gives freelancers leeway with planning
  •  Allows time for proper edits and revisions from various team members
  •  Not in a constant cycle of catch-up

Content managers want..

Freelancers to really understand the brand

  • They worry that freelancers won’t be able to understand the company/brand, especially if it’s in a niche industry or is B2B; would require a high level of writer expertise.
  • Freelancers can help calm content manager worries by providing them with samples that are in their industry, or offering to write a trial piece to make sure they nail it.

The extras!

  • SEO (long tail keyword)
  • Thorough research (adds validity and ethos to the piece)
  • Expertise on the subject matter--makes the writing process more smooth and efficient bc you’re pulling from existing knowledge, not learning for the first time
  • Few edits--know how they like content so the edits are minimal

Nuts and Bolts

  • An interesting, compelling subject line
  • Ideas for social sharing
  • Possible images
  • Upload into CMS

Importance of working within the content manager’s framework

Freelancers need to be able to use the tools the content manager uses, they need to be flexible, and they need to invoice in a way that makes sense for the manager. Sometimes, they even need to accept payment for what the publication can afford. A lot of content managers hate the process of haggling for rates. You can negotiate once, but that’s it.

Content managers want freelancers who pay attention to detail, such as formatting it in the way that the client does it (how do they format their headlines? how do they link to sources? do it THE SAME WAY), but to also intuitively understand how they do business. I know that’s sort of lovey-dovey and tough to quantify, but content managers want to feel like they have someone who delivers and is easy to work with, not an experience where they know every time they receive an article they’re going to have to do tons of back and forth edits.

Some content managers don’t know that these tools exist to make it easy for them--freelancers can offer suggestions on tools, or even onboard clients into a process if there isn’t one already.

What both parties want

The main things to remember about what both parties want:

  • Tools that make it easy to work together are always appreciated
  • Keep a steady flow of communication
  • Maintain transparency and honesty around pricing

If you can focus on these things, you can create a beautiful working relationship.

Who wrote this?

We’ve hired countless freelance writers and have built successful freelance businesses, so we know what it’s like to find a freelance writer or content manager you can’t live without.

Emma Siemasko, Founder of Stories by Emma

Emma Siemasko, Founder of Stories by Emma

Emma Siemasko is a content marketing strategist and freelance writer at Stories by Emma, her own consultancy. Emma writes words that are cuter than puppies and more delicious than chicken wings, and has worked as both a content marketing specialist at a top tier tech company and as a creative writer at an agency.

Kaleigh Moore, Founder of Lumen

Kaleigh Moore, Founder of Lumen

Kaleigh Moore is a social media consultant and copywriter who helps individuals and companies craft intelligent content with a charming human element. She is also a regular contributor for Entrepreneur and Inc. Magazine, and has a background in PR & Communications.