Using a Freelancer

By January 31, 2010Freelancing

Every type of project

Copywriters and editors work on all kinds of projects, from corporate profiles to CVs, newsletters to websites, textbooks to brochures. Whether you’re a large corporation, a small business, a government department, an NGO or an advertising agency, copywriters and editors can help you enormously.

Finding the right tone

They can cut through the confusion to make your message clean, clear, correct, appealing and appropriate. They can help you to get it right the first time, and within budget. And above all, because your image is so important, they can help you to find the right tone and choose the right words.

‘Cos, believe it or not…

Your closeness to your own writing may blind you to its flaws. As the UK-based Society for Editors and Proofreadersexplains:

You hold the whole text in your mind, and you have developed its ideas in sequence right to its conclusion. You can’t now put yourself in the reader’s place by somehow ‘unknowing’ any of this. A copy-editor, though, will bring fresh eyes to your text, helping you to reveal your concepts in a logical order. You may also be less than confident in spelling and in your use of grammar (and it’s unwise to rely on spelling and grammar checkers). Perhaps you know what you want to say but find it hard to put it into words. A copy-editor will be sufficiently detached from the writing process to spot mistakes and inconsistencies that distract the reader…

It is important that your customers feel that they are getting value for money – publishing poorly edited copy (or copy that has not been edited at all) could reflect extremely badly on you and/or your company/organisation… You may be able to deal with all the editorial functions… But you will lack the fresh eye that a copy-editor will bring to your work, and this could lead to mistakes creeping in. In fact, most copy-editors never agree to edit their own writing for just this reason… No matter how many times you check it, there will invariably be an obvious error that you miss. You see what’s on the page but your brain interprets what it wants or expects to read, not always what is actually there, and it takes a ‘fresh eye’ to break this pattern.

Client, know thyself

Here are some useful questions for those wishing to engage freelance services:

What would you like the freelancer to do? For example, would you like him/her to write the document from scratch, assess an existing document, copy edit it, or proof-read it on hard copy or on-screen? Ideally, draw up a short brief of tasks required.

What’s your preferred style? What style do you think is most appropriate to your audience or your message? Formal or informal register? Chatty or sophisticated language? Colourful descriptions or irreverent touches? Industry jargon or simple explanations? And which spelling style is more appropriate: US, UK?

What’s your aim or objective? What do you hope to achieve with this document (informing, educating, impressing, entertaining, compelling, sharing, involving, bonding, persuading, credibility-building, fund-raising…) – and what is the ideal outcome or reader reaction that you hope to provoke as a result of the material?

What’s your ballpark budget? Copywriters / editors will be able to provide you with an accurate quote once they’ve been briefed and assessed the job in full. They may quote according to hours, pages or words – or suggest a full flat rate in advance. Extras may include admin costs, travel, research and checking corrections or hard copy proofs.

What’s your ideal deadline? It’s important to decide on a schedule for draft submission, changes and delivery of the final copy.

Who in your company is responsible for sign-off? Who needs to approve the first draft and/or make changes? Will the copywriter / editor have a relatively free hand, or is there a third party you’ll appoint as your organisation’s editorial point-person?

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