How to Manage Me While I Manage You
I snuck into publishing through the back door. I freelanced first. People asked me to do things. As fast as they asked was how fast I would learn. I was sure that everyone else already knew them.
Then I got my first job as an Executive Editor, and a whole new world view came with it. I had been learning things few people knew. . . . It worked for me. I kind of liked it.
I also saw that most freelancers weren’t like me.
What I saw was that folks who had full-time jobs did more accurate work than freelancers — even when they were the same people. As soon as we hired a freelancer, that person’s work improved to the full-time work standard. That’s when I knew it was us, not them. There was something in what we were doing.
It wasn’t the work. It wasn’t the people.
It was how we put the two together.
I know how you can get my best work every time. Do 10 things, and I can’t help but do a great job for you. Really.
10 +1 Sure-Fire Ways to Get My Best Work Every Time
The secrets work both ways, by the way. As a writer (or designer), you can use them to get the information you need. Here are the 10 secrets to get my best work. In other words, here’s how you and I should manage each other.
1. Make the work important. Let me know that the work is important work by the way you talk to me or write me about it. Focus me on the fact that the reason you’ve given this job to me is that you’re counting on me to do it well.
2. Spend time to show me you mean that. Too often we send or receive the wrong signal — “Here write this thing.” Even if you can explain the job in five minutes, take five more to explain its context and its relevance.
3. Start by defining as many terms as you can. Most miscommunication happens because what I called a list wasn’t what you called a list. That makes work and uncomfortable feelings for everyone. Let’s just agree before the work starts.
4. Be able to tell me what you want me to write. I’m going to ask you what you want to say. If I don’t know what you’re trying to say, I can’t find a way to say it for you. I’ll listen all afternoon if I need to, but if you don’t know I’ll never be successful.
5. Think about how you would approach the writing task if you had to do it. I’m going to ask you that question. It’s how I find out if we’re talking about the same project and seeing the same vision.
6. Imagine how I might go off in the wrong direction. I’m going to ask you that too. It’s another way that I find out what you want and don’t want from the project that you are assigning me.
7. Tell me where you want me to get creative. I’ll probably throw out some ideas. Please, tell me if they’re not what you want. That’s the reason I’m bringing them up. I’m trying to find the boundaries.
8. Estimate how long you think it would take you to do the job. I’m sure to ask you this one. It’s yet one more way to know if we’re on the same page. If you say 2 hours and I’m thinking 2 days, we’ve got a misunderstanding somewhere.
9. Ask for an early checkpoint or sample. A sample is a safety net to fill in the gaps in our initial conversation. Any details we missed will come out when you see what I do in the sample. It saves so much work to do one.
10. Write a quick bulleted list of what we agreed to. The list doesn’t have to be formal and we can write it together during the meeting.
PLUS ONE: Give me all of the information you can — Don’t hold back for fear of insulting me. You’d be surprised how often it happens that intelligent folks hesitate to give other folks information about work for fear of insulting a person’s intelligence. Not knowing is not the same as not being intelligent. Please tell me so that I can do well for you.
It’s no secret that writers love writing for clients who let us do a great job for them. In fact, the secret is that those clients end up paying less.
Of course, I really wrote this list so you can show folks the best ways to manage you and so you know the best ways to manage them.
–ME “Liz” Strauss
If you think Liz can help with a problem you’re having with your writing, check out the Work with Liz!! page in the sidebar.
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