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Six Ways to Maintain Your Brand's Voice While Using Freelancers

by Amanda Maksymiw  |  
January 11, 2011

In this article, you'll learn...

  • How to preserve your company's brand when using freelancers
  • Six steps to finding and training the right outside help

Marketers often face the task of "doing more with less": Get more leads, create more content, build up subscriber lists, write more blog posts, and so on. Using freelancers can be an excellent way to achieve those goals in any company. Freelancers can help get more work done quickly for smaller marketing teams.

But can you imagine giving up control of your messaging and your brand to someone outside of your organization? You may be terrified by the thought. Among the common concerns of B2B and B2C marketers alike is this: "How do I maintain my brand's voice when using freelancers?"

But marketers should not be afraid to outsource content creation. You can work the following six steps into your strategy of finding and training freelancers to ensure that they have connected with your company's brand and can communicate that message consistently.

1. Create your statement of work (SOW) or job-specifications document

This seems like a given, but it is necessary to document everything you can about the freelancer job prior to looking for talent. A solid SOW or job-spec document should include the following:

  • The type of work (e.g., writing, editing, social media)
  • Explanation of specific tasks and expectations
  • Information on timing, including deadlines and the workload
  • The focus of the freelancer
  • Work flow
  •  Amount of money you are willing to pay

2. Source talent

Finding a freelancer (or group of freelancers) you can trust is incredibly important. After all, you are going to be handing over the reins of your brand. Here are important steps to finding new talent:

  • Consider using traditional job boards, including craigslist.
  • Use vendor-matching services like Junta42.
  • Post your job specification to freelancer-specific sites, such as Elance or Guru.
  • Consider using virtual-assistant services, such as 123Employee or XceedIT.

3. Interview standouts

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Amanda Maksymiw helps implement content-marketing strategies for OpenView Venture Partners, an expansion stage venture capital fund based in Boston, with a focus on high-growth software, Internet, and technology-enabled companies. Contact her via her blog, The Open Marketer, and @amandamaks on Twitter.

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  • by Heather Lloyd-Martin Tue Jan 11, 2011 via web

    This is a great article! One thing that I do respectfully disagree with is asking the prospective freelancer for an "unpaid homework assignment (otherwise known as a free spec piece.) After all, this is the writer's profession - and you wouldn't ask your doctor to "treat you for free" or your attorney to "provide legal advice for free" - even if it was considered "homework."

    If clips and references aren't enough, save some budget so you can pay writing finalists their going rate and evaluate their work from there. It's a much more fair way of going about it.


  • by Sharon Long Tue Jan 11, 2011 via web

    Although as a freelancer I appreciate this article, especially the SOW advice which makes my job easier, I must take issue with assigning the candidates unpaid homework assignments. At my own freelance agency (, we don't work for free to try and get jobs. We don't have the time. Any freelancer who does is suspect in my eyes. If they have time to work for free, are they the topnotch freelancer you want working for your company and representing your brand? Or are they someone just starting out, meaning they have the time and the willingness to work without being compensated? We have potential clients pay us to do trial work. It's a nominal fee, but we know then that 1) we aren't wasting precious time, 2) they are serious, and 3) they respect us and our time enough not to ask us to work for nothing. I also question this idea of assigning unpaid homework because qualified, experienced freelancers should have plenty of samples to show, eliminating the need for such an assignment.

  • by Stephanie Tilton Tue Jan 11, 2011 via web

    I'm sure many marketers will appreciate your article - thanks for sharing! I have to agree with Heather about asking for an unpaid assignment. As Heather points out, portfolio samples and references can help assess a freelancer's fit with your organization. Similarly, marketers should tap into their LinkedIn connections for recommendations as they're sourcing talent.

    As far as making sure the freelancer maintains your brand voice, I suggest creating Style, Branding, and Editorial Guidelines (perhaps more comprehensive than the checklist you recommend). Such guidelines vastly simplify the process on on-boarding for both marketers and freelancers by providing a single source of all the rules. They also help employees carry the banner consistently.


  • by Amanda Maksymiw Tue Jan 11, 2011 via web

    Stephanie, Heather, and Sharon -

    Thank you for your comments. You all have offered great suggestions to ensure that freelancers are being treated fairly.

    I'd like to clarify that homework assignments can be a brief part of the true SOW assignment. Many of the freelancers I have worked with have been okay with doing a small portion to determine if everything is really a good fit.

    Of course I would recommend negotiating a fair price for the test assignment if the freelancer typically does not work for free, so to speak.


  • by Michelle Gouldsberry Tue Jan 11, 2011 via web

    Good guidelines Amanda.

    I've been a freelance writer for 15+ years. I've also hired other writers to work with me on large projects. To stay on track, on brand and on message, the most important items the client can share with me are:

    1) Great samples of client voice and brand messaging--When we go a client's website, there are typically varying degrees of quality in the content, depending upon who wrote it. Give us the relevant killer samples or examples, whether they're related to writing, social media, or PR, etc. Tell us what you like and why it worked, as well as where it fell short, if the latter applies.
    2) A solid creative brief--If you don't have one, the freelancer can create one based on client input.
    3) If the project is large, give me access to a variety of employees who can provide a comprehensive picture. The product marketing manager may have a different view than the salesperson, who may have a different view than corporate marketing.

    My other suggestions for client/freelancer interaction:

    1) Communicate, communicate, communicate. On large projects, I provide my clients with an outline. If I've missed something or am going in the wrong direction, better to readjust and refocus at this stage than when we're in first or second draft.

    In this same vein, if you as the client don't like what you're seeing, be detailed in your critique. Vagueness is the enemy. Be willing to listen to the freelancer's reasoning. You may find you agree with their perspective, or at least you'll have better insight into why their did what they did. Maybe you didn't communicate a point clearly.

    2) Bring in the stakeholders in a project at the beginning, or at least have their buy-in on the project strategy, tactics and messaging. While too many fingers in the pie usually makes of it, bringing in people to comment on a project on the backend can derail it. Differences of opinion and the occasional politicking can't be easily or cost-efficiently fixed.

    I would also caution against the use of certain job boards. In my opinion, r sites that focus on pricing tend to attract people who are willing to work at very low rates and who may not have much experience. The client may get a great price, but I'm not convinced the quality will be there. I believe it's far better to seek recommendations from colleagues you trust and to use vendor-matching services from companies with good reputations who actually know their contractors (i.e., They've spoken with them extensively about their experiences on the phone or in-person, have thoroughly vetted them and have used them successfully on projects.)

  • by Dave Matli Tue Jan 11, 2011 via web

    Michelle -

    "...use vendor-matching services from companies with good reputations who actually know their contractors..."

    Do you have any recommendations?

    Great article Amanda - Thanks.

  • by Michelle Gouldsberry Tue Jan 11, 2011 via web

    Hi Dave,

    Depends where you are. I think the most beneficial are local, and I'm in Silicon Valley. Check out what's around you or the nearest metro area. A good provider will actually know your skills well enough to pitch you a client if they feel you're a good match.

    I'm listed with a number of the national job matching agencies (names you've heard) as well, but I've never found any of them useful quite honestly. They're resume collectors and post or send openings if there's a keyword match. Yep, me and 300 other writers are competing for the same project. Not a good use of my time.



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