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  • Writer's pictureSarah Lustig

How to save time securing freelancers for new projects

Do you spend hours emailing freelancers to discuss new projects? First you check if they are available. Then you discuss the scope of the work, possibly on the phone. And finally you need to negotiate the payment.

It might feel like the discussion goes back and forth endlessly. But there is a simpler way.

Here I will lay out a simple process to follow. It will help you save time and book your freelancers in by sending just two emails.

The four components of a contract

Clients often send offers of work that don’t contain all the information I need to be able to answer them. I’ve heard of more than one instance in which a client believed they had secured someone’s services, only to discover the freelancer wasn’t so sure and has since accepted other work.

This situation is frustrating for everyone involved. In order to avoid it, you can make it clear in your early emails that your freelancer is booked in. To do this, it's useful to keep in mind the components of a contract.

There are four basic components of a contract: an offer, an acceptance, the consideration and the intention to create legal relations. The consideration refers to the monetary value of the contract. We’ll come back to that one later.

Technically, if you cover all of these elements in an email offer to a freelancer, then a contract has been created between you. This could be done in three simple emails:

  1. You email a freelancer and offer them a piece of work.

  2. They write back and accept your terms.

  3. You respond to confirm that you will raise a contract for the work.

This is sufficient. You don’t need to have a long email exchange to firm up the details, as long as you have given all the information necessary in your first email for it to constitute an offer of work.

The purpose of this is not to bind a freelancer to the work. But thinking of your approach in this way ensures that you have given the freelancer all the information they need to accept the offer. It also means the freelance can feel confident turning down other offers of work that should come their way, because they have a firm agreement with you.

Let’s look at exactly what you need to include in that first email to make sure you have covered everything.

1. The type and scope of the work

This is the most flexible part of your email. Some freelancers might be happy to accept work with just the knowledge of the type of work involved, for example proofreading. Others might want a clearer list of the tasks to be carried out. It’s also common for editors to ask to see a sample of the material.

As a general rule, it is good practice to include:

  • The type of work – copyediting, proofreading, fact checking and so on.

  • Any unusual or time-consuming tasks that might not be assumed to be included as standard for the type of work outlined. This could include checking artwork drafts or references.

  • Some information about the title and author. Information about the author could be limited to whether they are an experienced or a first-time author. It is helpful to say something about the title – for education texts the subject matter and level are a bare minimum.

  • The length of the work, in page numbers or as a word count.

  • A short sample of the material. A single chapter or even a few pages is enough. If this isn't yet available, it can be sent later.

2. The schedule dates

Obviously, exact dates are preferable here. If you know them, include them in your first email. If you don’t, rough dates are still helpful.

Include the date that you will send the freelancer the files, their return date and any other pertinent milestones. If the work involves compiling comments from other team members, let the freelancer know when those comments will be available to add to the mark up.

3. The pay offered

It’s tempting not to open with a discussion of fees and rates. Sometimes we just want to scope out someone’s availability, without giving away information that may be unnecessary if they aren't available.

But this information is actually the most important part of your offer email. It is one of the four basic elements of your contract – the consideration. Without it, you have not agreed terms with your freelancer, even if you have included – and agreed – the scope of the work, the schedule and every other detail.

Most freelancers will not consider themselves tied to a project until they have agreed the fee or rate. This is because they cannot know whether it’s worthwhile to take on the work without knowing how much they will be paid for it. Since this information is so vital to them, it is sensible to be upfront about it. This empowers freelancers to give you a firm answer from the outset and avoids wasted discussions about projects that don’t fit a freelancer’s rates.

4. Payment terms

If this is your first time working with this freelancer, then I think it’s also good practice to explain the payment terms offered. Will invoices be paid within 30 days? 60 days?

It’s probably not necessary to put this information in your approach email. But it’s great to include it in your second email, in which you confirm that you will request/create a contract for the work. The statement that you will create a contract shows an intention to create legal relations and fulfils the contract requirements. Including the payment terms means that you have already laid out some of the terms that will go on the actual contract. It’s not legally necessary, but helps freelancers with their financial planning.

What if this doesn't work?

Even if you follow this formula, it's still possible that a freelancer might say no to your offer of work, because they may not be available. At least you then have a template email that can be sent out to others. And you'll have found out quickly, so you can move on, instead of sending several emails that ultimately lead nowhere.

Alternatively, the freelancer might want to negotiate the pay. Next month I will be discussing ways to go about the negotiation to help you secure your preferred supplier.


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