The urban legends about creating a business plan on a cocktail napkin are all well and good, but a professional freelancer is going to want to know exactly what the parameters are in order to formulate an estimate for you. Obviously, it’s in your best interest to have an accurate number in order to budget and plan. (It might even scare them away if you seem unsure of what the project entails or what the goals are.) Here are the seven items a freelancer needs to know before they can give you an accurate estimate:
- What materials will be supplied versus original content to produce? There’s a major difference between developing content based on existing materials versus creating something from scratch. Depending on the project, there may be significant background work such as interviews and industry research. A freelancer will appreciate whatever specific guidance you can provide, particularly contact information for interviewees or other experts you expect the freelancer to contact.
- How much communications/meeting time is required, and what will the venue be? As a client, you may prefer to regularly meet in person or virtually, and you may want regular updates to verify progress is being made–particularly if it’s a first-time collaboration. If you’re busy, maybe you’d rather hear from the freelancer only when the work is done. Most freelancers will be amenable to your chosen schedule; the important aspect is to communicate your expectations so you don’t run afoul of Òagreed-upon availability.Ó Note that communications, meetings, and travel time will customarily be charged at the freelancer’s standard rate, not at a discount.
- Are there project or physical tasks unrelated to the creative output? If you want the freelancer to handle tasks such as uploading files to a content management system/blog/social media outlet, managing an editorial calendar, or securing images and sign-offs from people they interview, that’s something they need to know up front.
- How many rounds of revisions will be required? Most commonly, freelancers will define a specific number of revisions within a contract or agreement, particularly for a new client. Others will “work till approval.” If you have a preference on process, this is the time to discuss it.
- What’s the approval process and who’s the point person? Unless you’re dealing with an inexperienced freelancer, they will be keen to understand what steps the creative work will go through en route to approval. How many people are involved in the development, and what are their roles? Who gets the final say?
- What is the deadline? Longer timelines don’t necessarily get you a lower price, but tight deadlines may warrant a premium. For your own sanity and the freelancer’s, never say, “Oh, whenever you can get it to me.” Even if you have to construct an artificial deadline, do it to ensure the project gets done.
- What’s your approximate budget? While you may not want to disclose precise figures, a general range can be helpful for the freelancer to understand your financial commitment to the project so that she can tailor an estimate appropriate to your needs. In addition, it can eliminate negotiation issues later if the expectations are set early.
This post is adapted from Jake Poinier’s Dr. Freelance guide, Help! My Freelancers Are Driving Me Crazy: 12 Keys to Driving Loyalty and Results from Your Creative Workforce–available on Amazon.