If you’ve never hired a freelance editor or writer, it can be hard to feel confident that you’ve found the right person for your project. There are technical variables, of course, but then there’s the gut feeling of trust, and that can be harder to nail down.
Most of the people who hire me have never worked with a freelancer before. Many have never worked with a professional writer or editor. Even with reviews and work samples, it can be hard to trust a stranger with your project and its potential outcomes. Are your future goals riding on this essay? Do you have a tight deadline for your manuscript? Emotional investment can make this more difficult.
When it comes down to it, you need to give your writer or editor the ability to do their job without excess interference or micromanaging, as this will be frustrating for both of you. It will also yield a less ideal end result and can result in your freelancer quitting partway through the job.
There are several ways you can establish rapport and build trust.
- Short phone call to discuss project
- Pay attention to the questions they ask
- Ask questions
- Trial run
Short Phone Call to Discuss Project
Some freelancers will do initial phone calls for free, others count these as billable work time, so make sure expectations are clear at the outset. This is an opportunity for you to find out the freelancer’s process and see if it sounds comfortable to you. Roughly half of my clients prefer to start a project with a phone call, because it may be more efficient than a series of emails or texts.
If you finish the call and feel you have no more information about the freelancer or what to expect from the process than you did before, that’s a red flag.
Pay Attention to Their Questions
A good freelancer will ask questions that help them ensure you’re getting exactly what you need. This may be done on a phone call or by email. Take note of what they want to know. They will usually try to nail down things like your audience, the tone or voice you’re aiming for, key topics to cover, essential details that need to be included, scope of the project, and your deadline. They may try to get a little bit of a feel for who you are as a person, but this isn’t essential to completing your project.
No apparent interest in the details or your deadline are definite red flags.
Ask Your Own Questions
You should be able to ask your own questions, either by email or in a phone call, and expect direct answers. Good questions to consider, if the freelancer hasn’t already addressed these, include:
- Is there an opportunity for back and forth discussion or is it a one-time bit of work that is hopefully right on the first try?
- What do they do to ensure you’re satisfied with the end results?
- How will they communicate questions and concerns, and what are their expectations for your response time?
Vague answers, non-answers, or unwillingness to answer your questions are all red flags.
Doing a test run of a portion of the project can be instrumental in establishing trust and determining a good fit. This doesn’t make as much sense for smaller things like personal statements. For most of my big projects, I actually suggest a one hour trial run. This gives me a chance to see the material to decide if I can work with it, and the client gets a chance to go through my process in a low-stakes fashion. If we don’t mesh (either due to the work or personalities), they’re only paying for that one hour of work and can continue their search for someone who fits the project better.
In the end, only you can decide if someone meets your threshold for comfort and trust. If you hire someone, you need trust them to do their job; if you don’t trust someone, don’t hire them.