Letter #51: 5 must-use docs for working with freelancers
And no, one of these is not a brief.
On Monday morning, a paid-for package came in: a surprise birthday gift from my brother, well in advance of my birthday this month 🥳
And that’s not even the best part.
The omg-this-is-awesome part is that the gift is a trio of hardcover journals (can you smell those fresh sheets of paper?).
The hard part though? deciding what notes to add to these journals so that I keep revisiting them.
Speaking of notes: do you ever struggle with deciding which documents to share with freelance writers so you can provide them sufficient context to produce quality content without leaving them overwhelmed with the doc overload?
Because this is exactly what we’ll talk about today: 5 documents that you need to create to reduce edits with writers you work with.
But first, let’s get this straight, briefs are an absolute must. And I trust you all know this already — we've also even talked about avoiding some pesky brief-making mistakes in the past.
So we’ll go beyond the brief today with the following docs:
1. Brand voice guidelines
Nope, I don’t mean you share the entire brand doc. Because honestly, sending way-too-detailed documents reduce the odds of freelancers following those guidelines ❌
Easily scannable documents are the way to win. So take the time to create an example-rich one-pager.
Make sure you add in:
Examples of content that nails your brand voice
Lists of words to use and words to avoid. Example: “customers” instead of “users”
A table with two columns featuring examples of how we say it vs how we don’t. Include real-life examples of sentences (pre-edited ones and edited ones to fit the voice)
2. A document featuring 3-5 best performers
Instead of plainly linking to blog posts that performed well though, add in some thoughts in bullet points on:
Why the content is such a good example of content you’d like to produce more
Exactly which elements you’d like other writers (internal or external) to replicate — is it the conversational way it’s written, for example. Or is it the comprehensive approach taken?
3. A folder sharing case studies and industry-relevant stats
This will deliver two major benefits:
You’ll empower writers to weave more social proof into the content = major win for you
You’ll save time for everyone — for yourself for checking up on stat sources and for writers so they can grab stats and go
You can create a ClickUp or Notion doc for this. Add in more docs to the same folder including:
A list of impactful customer quotes that you pull out from case studies and customer calls
A list of words/sentences customers use to describe your product — this’ll help writers describe your product in the same language your customers do. Which means you’ll actually create content that speaks to its target audience
Don’t forget to refresh and update this folder periodically.
4. Submission checklist
You can add this to the brief itself or create a separate doc for it — ask your writers what they prefer and go for it.
Ideas for what to add to this checklist:
✅ Did you add internal links to this post?
✅ Are all external links high authority?
✅ Did the keyword make it to the subheadings?
✅ Did you resize screenshots to [specifications]
Such a list works as a great reminder for writers when they’re finalizing their drafts pre-submission.
5. Best practices one-pager
Lastly, this doc — it literally helps everyone: new freelancers understand your content requirements, retainer freelancers use it as a reminder, and in-house writers reference it to make sure all content they write is consistent.
A few ideas for what to add to this doc to minimize edits and clarification email back and forth:
✅ We don’t add stats older than X years
✅ We prefer linking to external sites of DA XX
✅ It’s okay to cite competitor research but we don’t link to them
To create this document, it’s best to do some writing yourself. Reflect on questions you had when writing and give answers to them as best practices.
It’s also helpful to create a list of edits you commonly make and frame the correct way to do things as best practices.
That’s all for today folks, I’m going to return to loving my new journals!