Let’s say you’ve optimized your Contently portfolio to land work with our clients, and you’ve studied up on working effectively with brands. You’re more primed for success than most, but you still have to figure out one of the most important parts of freelance life. You need to become your managing editor’s favorite writer.
Working with editors is an integral part of being a Contently freelancer, but it’s also a valuable skill for creatives anywhere. Managing editors are often the ones who select talent for client teams.
To demystify their search process and give freelancers the insights they need to manage up, we spoke to some of Contently’s highest-performing managing editors. It turns out, many of them share the same definition of a freelancer worth collaborating with. Here are the five quickest ways to the hearts of Contently MEs:
1. Spruce up your bio, clips, LinkedIn, and personal website
Which do managing editors take into account when going through a freelancer’s portfolio? Well, it depends.
When evaluating a portfolio, all managing editors consider your bio and clips, but their criteria might differ depending on client needs. Many are checking to see that your clips match with the experience you listed in your bio. Lisa Farino, who often needs contributors for B2B healthcare, B2B finance, and B2C investing content, is inclined to work with writers who have a sharp focus on a narrow range of topics. A wide variety of claimed topical expertise might suggest that you don’t have the deep knowledge the client is looking for. Rarely do MEs want a jack of all trades.
Greg Sandler, who works with technology clients, says it’s key that writers upload recent work to their portfolios. “I’m looking for writers who can demonstrate that they understand today’s technology and business ecosystem,” he says. If all your clips are from 2017, Sandler (and other editors) might assume you’ve opted out of the last couple years of news.
We did speak to several managing editors who consider freelancers’ LinkedIns and personal websites, but many don’t. Either way, the best thing to do is make sure that your Contently portfolio, LinkedIn, and personal website are up to date. Treat your whole web presence as a single entity and update accordingly.
2. Read the instructions and follow them
Have you ever tried to build IKEA furniture without following the instruction manual? If so, you probably ended up crying on the floor with a backwards chair.
Well, that’s what happens when a writer doesn’t take the time to read a project brief. When you’re working in the Contently system, a project brief contains all the components clients are expecting from your deliverable. When you accept an assignment, you are essentially agreeing to satisfy each requirement listed in that brief.
According to Jennifer Fernández Solano, a Mexico City-based managing editor working in travel content, “it’s upsetting when it’s clear that writers haven’t read my emails with instructions.” Solano says she spends a great deal of time and effort on briefs, “to make sure that what we’re looking for is spelled out,” so it feels like a huge disappointment when a deliverable misses the mark in terms of tone or style.
Attention to detail will help build trust with your editor. It’s a great way to guarantee that MEs will bring new work to you first.
3. Check your work
Many editors we spoke with shared feelings of frustration when they described reviewing drafts that had clearly been submitted without a final review.
As an editor, it’s an ME’s job to…well, edit. However, there’s a difference between catching a few typos and having to send a story back to a writer because of widespread spelling, grammatical, or factual errors.
You should be your own first line of defense when it comes to producing copy. High-level edits are fine, and most MEs expect to send over questions or requests regarding big ideas, but your first draft should always come in (mostly) clean.
4. Keep an open mind about editor feedback
When your managing editor sends back a draft asking for revisions, as they do 99% of the time, try to communicate your questions or concerns with a courteous, professional tone. Most of us are writers ourselves, so we understand that copy can feel personal, but editors and creators are on the same team at Contently. We all want to polish the final product until it shines.
ME Priti Ubhayakar recommends that writers take feedback constructively and stay open to the revision process. In most cases, MEs aren’t making random decisions based on their own whims. They understand the client’s content strategy and goals better than anyone; if they’re asking for certain revisions, it’s because the client is asking for them.
5. Communicate candidly, as much as possible
Communication is important in any working relationship, but especially when most of your work is completed and negotiated via emails and messaging apps. “Writers should ask questions [early] about anything that’s unclear,” says ME Peter Luyckx, to clear up any misunderstandings before they get worse.
Managing Editor Anne Miller encourages freelancers to keep editors updated on any circumstantial issues that might arise during content production. The earlier the problem can be addressed, the easier it’ll be to resolve it as a team.
We care deeply about developing our freelance talent network, which is why we invest in deepening relationships between creators and MEs. Developing a system of trust with your managing editor will make them want to continue working with you, and a positive reputation as a reporter will only work in your favor. Another secret: Contently MEs consult each other when they need writers for specific projects. If you’ve put in the work to market yourself as a responsible, friendly professional, your reputation will precede you.
Excited to get to work with our managing editors, or interested in applying for an ME position yourself? Create a Contently portfolio today.