Monday, July 28, 2008

The Buddy System for freelance writers - Part 1

Peter Bowerman does it. So do a bunch of other successful freelance writers. That alone makes this Buddy System worth a look.

Maybe I've got summer camp on the brain - remember, you'd all hike down to the lake, pair up, and jump in. Anytime the lifeguard blew the whistle, you had to find your buddy, hold hands and show that everyone was accounted for. Then usually after swimming, everyone had to line up and get some sort of drops in their ears because who knows what was in that lake??

OK, this Buddy System really bears no resemblance to that one after all.

What I'm talking about today is working with other pros who serve the same client base you do. Today, we're looking at working with graphics people.

They create all the pretty pictures to help a client with branding. Letterhead, business cards, brochures, and direct mail pieces for offline use - and website headers and email templates for online use. Just like when you see the Coke logo, or the Nike swoosh, you know exactly what you're getting; consistent branding is a huge part of a company's marketing strategy.

Lots of huge companies have in-house designers and copywriters. But you'd be surprised how many outsource these jobs. And you'd be really surprised by some of the big names out there that use freelancers! I've signed NDAs, so you won't hear any names from me - but let's just say, you've heard of them.

Here's what happens: A client goes to a designer with a project. They talk look, layout, logo... all that. And then often, the client says something like, "Oh, just write something." The designer thinks, "OH NOOOOO!!!!" and then, if you've done a good job networking, the designer calls YOU! They're relieved because, frankly, if they wanted to write for clients, they'd be freelance writers. The client's happy because they get gorgeous graphics AND great copy. You're happy because you get a steady stream of work, and the fun of working with a partner on a project.

So, how do you find designers? A few different ways:

  1. Networking events. Have a conversation, ask if you can help. Ask for a card - because you'll probably run into writing clients who also need graphics help and you can pass the info along.
  2. Make some calls. Not my favorite (sorry Peter!) but it definitely gets easier the more calls you make. Just introduce yourself and ask if you could send your info along.
  3. Do a direct mail piece and send it to some designers. You could get really creative with this. I'm picturing a horrible postcard (crooked, cropped badly, etc.) with text that reads something like: "Writers should never design graphics!" on the front and "You probably feel that way about writing - we should work together!"
Typically, the designers I work with ask for an estimate for my part. They add it to their estimate and present it to their client. I don't usually have contact with the client - although sometimes I do. And the designer pays me as we reach different project milestones. You could do the whole process the other way around if you provided graphics for your clients.

Ever work with a designer? How'd you find the gig? How did it work out for you?

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