8 Actionable Tips to Manage Your Freelance Writers With Ease

8 Actionable Tips to Manage Your Freelance Writers With Ease

Missed deadlines, sloppy content, and playing constant catch-up with freelance writers are signs that your project management is non-existent. As a result, your team’s efficiency and content production take a hit.

As a content manager, juggling multiple freelancers can be a tiresome task. There are many ways in which you can streamline this process—from using project management tools to giving writers access to internal marketing collateral.

In this article, we’ll explore eight tips from those who’ve been where you are so that you can meet deadlines, maintain content quality, and keep your content production on track.

1. Establish clear goals and expectations at the start of the project

You need to set clear expectations and goals from the outset so that everyone knows their responsibilities and tasks aren’t getting lost in the process. It provides writers a framework to understand what’s expected of them.

Let’s say you’ve hired a writer to write eBooks and want to use them as lead magnets. By communicating this goal up front, the writer knows that the language needs to be persuasive, have information that makes it worth “the gate,” and there need to be subtle product/service tie-ins to move the reader along the buyer’s journey.

Establishing well-defined goals like generating leads, driving sales, increasing brand awareness, or establishing thought leadership helps both parties stay on the same page. It also saves time by reducing back-and-forth emails, clarifying instructions, or double-checking that deadlines are being met. By documenting them in a content brief, you can ensure that your writer can always access them.

Things may get complicated down the line, depending on their work processes or if they’re in a different time zone (we’ve all been there!). Starting on the right foot will give you an excellent foundation to build upon and make managing external writers a much smoother experience.

2. Invest in project management software

If you have ten different assets in production, with at least two assets handled by one writer, your workflow can quickly get out of hand. Soon, you’ll scramble to find briefs, edited drafts, and graphics because you don’t have an organized system. That’s why you need a dedicated project management tool for your writing/content team.

Project management tools help you track all essential tasks in real-time, maintaining clarity and keeping everyone on track. It makes managing external writers seamless by streamlining your content creation process and providing much-needed visibility. An added advantage of these systems is that they can integrate with automation tools to simplify your workflow.

Alex Goldberg, Founder of Fin vs. Fin, uses Trello as his project management tool. He assigns content briefs directly to the platform and then uses Zapier to automatically push Google drafts into their board once completed by the writing team. This system helps him keep everything organized and transparent for his team while ensuring he’s not always in the system.

Here’s another example of a kanban board for content teams:



By onboarding your team onto a project management tool, you provide them with a centralized platform to communicate and collaborate with various internal and external sources.

With these tools, you can easily budget time and resources to plan the best workflow for you and your external writers. You can view real-time progress updates, ensuring nothing gets lost in the shuffle.

3. Develop a content strategy and create robust workflows

A solid content strategy is essential to understand what assets you’ll create and when you’ll publish them. It allows you to create a specific workflow based on how many writers and other team members are involved.

For instance, if you need multiple rounds of review, your workflow will be much longer, and you need to bake in enough time for each review. This is particularly true for technical pieces where you have several stakeholders involved, like:

  • Content strategist
  • Writer
  • Editor
  • Technical reviewer
  • Managing editor

With a well-thought-out strategy, you can carefully plan your workflow and clearly define everyone’s roles and responsibilities in advance. This will ensure each task is completed on time and all bottlenecks are removed from the process.

4. Manage expectations on both ends

When collaborating with external writers, you must set realistic expectations for both parties. This includes accounting for potential differences in work processes that could arise from different viewpoints, time zones, or external situations affecting timelines.

Michaela Mendes, Head of Content and Strategy at SetSail, agrees. She says that some blogs take longer than others, and you must be able to give a little leeway on deadlines if the research requires it or if a subject matter expert interview doesn’t get booked in time.

In such cases, effective communication is crucial. It ensures everyone understands their roles, timelines, updates or changes, and other relevant information. By establishing reliable communication protocols and setting up milestones, you can easily track the progress of projects and maintain mutual understanding.

5. Use a shared calendar and communication channel

As a manager of remote external writers, setting up a timeline can lead to you pulling out your hair just to account for the time differences for multiple assets. So, create a shared deadline tracking and communication channel so everybody’s on the same page.

With a shared content calendar, you hit two birds with one stone. While it clearly outlines everyone’s tasks and deadlines, it also serves as a reference point for your team members to check in with each other. Plus, you have one centralized repository with all project information to check progress and adjust if needed quickly.

You can use conventional calendars like Google Calendar or project management tools like ClickUp, Asana, Monday, Trello, Airtable, Slack, and others to establish your calendar and workflow.

Or you can get the best of both worlds by integrating your project management tool with your calendar and setting up automation to make the process smooth and less time-consuming.

An example of a Google Calendar and Asana integration


6. Create a comprehensive style guide and content brief

A style guide makes the writer familiar with your writing, editing, and formatting standards. It also helps them produce content consistent with your brand’s style, tone, and voice. On the other hand, a content brief helps them understand what’s expected from a particular content piece.

Meryl D’Sa-Wilson, Content Marketing Manager at Global Call Forwarding, advises creating detailed content briefs that provide information about the target audience, keywords and phrases to understand, the stage of the funnel to consider, other resources to review, examples, and so on. It gives writers much-needed context to do a good job.

As time zones and work processes can change with different writers, these comprehensive documents eliminate distractions and keep everyone in the loop. These can also provide a reference point for questions that arise during the project, making collaboration easier. You can also give them access to the product, customer call recordings, and past marketing materials to get them up to speed.

Here’s an example of a style guide and content brief:

Groove’s marketing style guide


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7. Provide your writers with constant support

While the ability to hire writers from a global talent pool is great, managing them is another issue altogether—especially if you run a remote team. Too often, a lack of standard communication processes makes writers feel disconnected.

To ensure everything runs smoothly and tasks don’t slip through the cracks, staying in touch with your extended writing team is crucial. You can schedule regular check-ins to discuss upcoming projects, review assigned tasks, and address queries and concerns.

These check-ins will make your writers feel supported and allow you to understand their work processes and be clear about yours. You can build strong relationships by staying in touch and optimizing for success.

“Writers are inherently a sensitive bunch (rightfully so, as writing for a living is tough!), so practice empathy, compassion, and patience as you build out or get to know a team. Your job is to give your writers all the knowledge and tools they need to succeed, lay the initial bricks of their career paths, and then get out of their way.”

Austin Cosler, Content Production Manager at NP Digital

Taking the time to maintain a friendly relationship and a genuine show of respect can go a long way in fostering successful collaborations.

8. Give prompt and specific feedback

It’s best practice to provide feedback promptly on completed tasks. This ensures your writer understands what you expect and can make the necessary adjustments promptly.

Mendes suggests you spend time giving actionable feedback to your writers. She says, “No writer is going to get it perfect on their first draft and their first assignment. Be overly specific in what you’re looking for, and invest time in reviewing and giving them clear notes (not just on what you want them to change, but what they did right as well).”

By including relevant details and avoiding lengthy explanations in your feedback, you can get straight to the point without overwhelming them or diminishing the impact of your message.

For instance, if you feel the writer needs to add examples to make the point across. Highlight the section and leave feedback on how the article can benefit from examples or case studies to illustrate the point and make it more engaging and relatable to readers. Providing a concrete example of how to do that is even better.

Remember that even though you’re working remotely, positive two-way communication has the same power to build relationships and develop trust as any face-to-face encounter.

Diana Briceno, Head of Content at VEED, says, “Invest more time than you’re comfortable with to train your writers. A great writer is a long-term investment. You need to find someone with a good foundation that you can build on and then give them everything you know. You’ll be glad you did 3 months later.”

Final takeaway

Managing external writers doesn’t have to be tedious. All you have to do is create the right systems and a framework to make it easier. Communicating your expectations and goals, establishing clear deadlines, and providing clear feedback and resources to writers, will help you create a smooth and efficient editorial process.

Regular check-ins with your writers, setting up a timeline that considers everyone’s schedules, and utilizing project management tools are vital to ensure a successful workflow when dealing with remote writers. With all of these tips for success, you’ll be able to manage your external writers well in no time.

If you’re looking for a content management tool to store and distribute your assets internally, start a free trial of Content Camel today.