Writer's Second Job: Project Coordinator
by Brian S. Konradt of BSK Communications
You provide copywriting services, that's it.
On your business card, it clearly states: Freelance copywriter.
Newsletters, press releases, brochures, sales letters, etc. You're a
If you've been in the freelance writing business long enough, you've
probably encountered this experience: a client wants to know if you can
also provide the layout/graphic design? Can you?
Freelance writers choose one of these three alternatives:
1) Yes, I can do the layout and graphic design. Desmond Arturo, a
freelance copywriter in Prattsville, NY, says freelance writers should
avoid this choice. "Freelance writers who claim to do layout and
design always command lower prices than what their time and services are
worth. You must focus on one area in order to command top pay as a
specialist." Another disadvantage is: "You're fooling
yourself," says Arturo. "How can you specialize as a
copywriter and be a professional layout artist at the same time? Most
likely, you do not possess the skills of a professional layout artist,
and you will be giving the client an unsatisfactory job."
2) The second alternative is: No, I don't. I'm a writer, and that's
what I do. This choice may detour clients from your services and let
them seek other freelance writers who'll be more willing to juggle the
task of writing and layout. "Clients want competent freelancers
who'll work on a project from beginning to completion," says
Arturo. "The client doesn't want to be burdened with hiring two or
more freelancers just to get the job done. It's extra time, money, and
paperwork for the client."
3) Arturo recommends the third alternative: I only do copy — but I
know of a graphic designer who'll be more than happy to provide
professional layout for your newsletter. Your resourcefulness will
increase the chances of the client hiring you for the project.
"Tell the client that you'd like to manage the project from
beginning to completion," says Arturo. "Tell the client you'll
take care of all of the details and coordination. This involves catering
work out to other freelancers who'll provide professional layout,
illustration, print production, photography, whatever it is."
Managing a project from beginning to completion has these advantages:
You can — and should — command a higher pay rate for the
project. Add, to the total amount of your fee, a certain percent. If
your total fee for copywriting the newsletter is $1,500, add an
additional 20% - 25% to your fee. Or you can charge per hour for your
time, says Arturo. "When you manage a project from start to finish,
you're burdened with a second job as a project coordinator. Keep a log
of your time that you spend contracting work out to other freelancers
and working with them. I suggest you charge per hour as the project
coordinator; then add this amount to the total amount of the
The client will be more willing to hire you again. A freelance
writer who knows how to manage a project from beginning to end and can
produce professional results are a definite plus. Arturo suggests you
emphasize these qualities in your promotional material: state that
you're resourceful in working with other freelancers in order to manage
a project from copy to completion. New clients will see these qualities
and be more willing to work with you.
You network with other freelancers who, in return, will contract
work out to you, too. This is another great benefit. Weeks or months
later the same freelancer who you'd hired to provide graphic design may
hire you to provide copy for a brochure that his client needs. By
networking and contracting work out to other freelancers, you'll soon
develop a friendly relationship — which includes receiving repeated
referrals from one another.
Before you agree to manage a project from beginning to completion, make
sure you are aware of these extra responsibilities:
You are completely responsible for the entire
You are responsible for the quality of
everybody's work. (The client has trusted you to hire whomever.
Based on your decision, you are responsible to know how each freelancer
You are responsible for everybody's deadline. If
you need an extension, you are responsible for getting one.
You are responsible for all problems — and
finding solutions to them.
You are responsible to keep in constant touch
with the other freelancers — not the client. And you are
responsible to keep in touch with the client — not the other
You are to make sure that each freelancer gets
paid — and gets paid on time.
You are responsible for setting up a contract
and prices between you and the client. And you are responsible to
set up a contract and fees between you and the other freelancers.
You are responsible to keep costs reasonably
within the budget of the project. If one of your freelancers says
that he will need to charge more (because it's taking him more time than
planned), you are responsible to get permission from the client to
increase the budget.
You must figure out how much each freelancer is
to get paid — and, if necessary, you are responsible to negotiate
fees. Managing a project from beginning to completion will burden
you with additional decisions and extra paper work.
Here are some decisions that you must make with the client before you
begin the project:
Estimated budget of project (and make sure you figure out your share
as a copywriter and project coordinator).
How many other freelancers will you need? (This is something that you
will need to decide on your own after assessing the size and complexity
of the project.)
Should you have each freelancer bill the client for his/her services
or have each freelancer bill you directly?
Should you bill the client under one invoice or submit separate
invoices from each freelancer? (Arturo suggests under one invoice.)
Will you and the other freelancers be required to meet with the
client? (If the client needs to meet with the graphic artist, Arturo
suggest that you should attend as well — and that goes with any other
freelancer whom you'll be contracting work out to.)
Managing a project from start to finish will definitely steal valuable
time from your schedule — so it's up to you to make it profitable. A
copywriting job can actually be extended into two jobs at once: one as a
writer, the second as a project coordinator. And yes, this means making
your time more profitable.
When a project is completed and produced, the best time to celebrate is
not when you receive your paycheck, but when you hand out the finished
product to those who have assisted you: your fellow freelancers. Go out
to lunch as a team and celebrate your achievement.
Teaming Up with Other Freelancers
You should hire freelancers who are local. Hiring freelancers
nationally will burden you with extra costs.
Seek freelancers in the Yellow Pages, membership directories,
associations, and in the newspaper.
Call up different freelancers of different specialties and request
their samples, prices, terms and conditions. Tell them why you need this
information: you're seeking to hire freelancers for upcoming projects.
Try to hook up with freelancers who have won awards. (A freelancer who
has won awards creates clout with clients.)
Organize your information into these categories: Graphic Designers;
Illustrators; Photographers; Writers.
Create a "verbal" contract with each freelancer about
referrals: if you hire them for projects, they, too, ought to consider
you for projects, whenever appropriate.
Before, during, and after projects, always keep in touch with your
fellow freelancers. Be willing to create a business friendship and help
one another out whenever possible — even on different projects.
Provide free consultation and help to one another. THE END