5 Things Managing Editors Want You to Know About Working with Brands

By Ellis Kim May 15th, 2019

As a freelancer, you may think that the quality of your work is the main factor clients and editors take into account when assigning projects. Submit great work, get more work. Makes sense, right?

But just like with any full-time job, the quality of your work is only as important as the relationships you build with colleagues. In fact, as a freelancer, the impressions you make on editors and clients can make the difference between a one-off assignment or constant stream of work. Personal relationships with colleagues, on the other hand, can reduce your anxiety and cement a reliable source of income.

Believe me—I would know. I’m a talent associate at Contently, and freelancers are always asking me how they can impress clients at brands and keep editors coming back to them for more writing.

The secret to it all is working well with your managing editor.

Think about it: Managing editors (MEs) are the only point of contact you share with brand marketers who assign the content. They work closely with brands to help them flesh out their content strategy, and they edit first drafts before brand executives ever see them. MEs are also tasked with recruiting and training contributors—that’s you. Whether internal to the assigning company or outsourced, MEs have earned the ear and the trust of the team working at any brand.

At Contently, we work with a large pool of MEs who do all of the above for our customers, plus much, much more. As freelancers themselves, they understand both sides of the job. Plus, after years of working with brands, they’re tuned into the, well, unique psychology of marketers. To get some insights on making nice with MEs, we asked some of our veterans to tell us what they look for in creative talent. They helped us layout a roadmap for freelancers building careers in brand work. Here, in aggregate, is what they had to say.

Flexibility is critical

Some brands are a breeze to work with from start to finish, but others may have more strenuous demands. Often, you don’t get to see what’s behind the requests for rush jobs, revisions, or swiftly shifting priorities. But—and we can’t stress this enough—it’s not personal.

Chances are, your ME is already running interference and keeping the stuff that’s out of scope away from you. But the better you get at rolling with the punches (within reason), the easier you’ll make your editor’s life, and the more they’ll come to trust you. Of course, if a request is really bizarre or unreasonable, notify your ME and they’ll work out a solution. Remember: they’re your representative, too.

Trust your ME

Current and former journalists are the backbone of Contently’s talent network, and they all come with relevant industry experience and finely tuned reporting skills. But, when it comes to balancing a brand’s wants and needs, the ME is the expert. They’ve been ensconced in the brand’s goals and objectives from Day One, and they can help provide editorial direction. So when they offer feedback on voice and tone or ask you to refocus the piece in one area, it’s key to remember that the feedback they provide is based on the brand’s larger content strategy and not their personal opinions.

One ME in our network told us, “we are a community, and we’re in this together to serve the client and create an end result we all can be proud of. I am here to listen, guide and give my best to help you do your best work.”

Understand your project

Before taking on a project, be sure to read through all the requirements. If there’s anything you’re confused about, ask before you get started. This ensures that you’ll submit a strong draft that won’t need major revisions. If you complete your work by meeting the expectations clearly outlined in the project brief, the client won’t have to request a partial refund.

One ME recommended that contributors “refresh [their] knowledge of the publication’s voice and tone section regularly,” and another ME agreed, though they also emphasized that it’s key for contributors to “read the brief, the whole brief, and nothing but the brief…before writing every story.”

Remember the basics

You’d be surprised how many freelancers submit drafts with grammar and spelling mistakes or infographics using the incorrect color palette.

Ensuring quality is your job as a creator, but the managing editor’s reputation is on the line too. Spotting too many oversights like that may make an ME hesitant to assign more work to you in the future. They need to trust that you have their back, too.

The managing editor is a resource

All of our MEs want to help you write quality work that serves an assigning brand’s editorial vision. If you have any questions about the brand, if you’re curious what they’re looking for longterm, or if you need extra details about the project you’re currently working on, your resources are all in the same place. Ask your managing editor—and in the interest of fostering a professional relationship, consider asking how their day is going, too. Remember, although you have several stories due this week, your ME probably has five times that much. Cut them a little slack, and make their lives a little easier by checking all of your boxes on time.

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