We wanted to get to know Stephen Colwell (NAIWE’s Branding and Marketing Expert) better, so last month we sat down with him. Here are some thoughts he shared with us.
When a freelancer is working in a team environment, i.e., with authors and publishers, and trying to meet the deadlines of both, what suggestions do you have?
As freelancers, too often we give in to our natural desire to please others. Our very human impulse is to leap into action and dive into a project, often at the hair-on-fire whims of our clients. Too often, we end-up over committing ourselves, rushing the work, and delivering sub-optimal results, all at a cost that takes a toll. Instead of operating under an Idea>>Action mindset, a simple shift to an Idea>>Plan>>Action mindset can make a world of difference. It’s the Plan part that often gets overlooked or lacks a thorough process. At its most fundamental level, planning is about achieving clarity and alignment with the stakeholders charged with deciding, then reaffirming a complete, shared understanding before work begins. By adopting a plan-first approach and guiding clients through a well thought-out process, clients are more likely to see us as professionals who know our craft and who care deeply about the outcome. In turn, they’re more willing to accept and engage. By deploying the right planning exercise upfront, then affirming alignment before jumping in, you’ll be better positioned to meet or exceed expectations while preserving your sanity. Bottom line: by resisting the very normal impulse to quickly agree and move into action, I’ve found it’s best to pause and guide clients toward a plan-first mindset. That way, you’ve got a better shot at saving yourself from the fire drills and project fatigue that besets so many creators.
A freelancer is working with a client who suddenly becomes distant and unavailable, what should the freelancer do?
The first step is to resist jumping to conclusions, spending precious energy guessing at a client’s state of mind. It’s likely a fruitless exercise. More often than not, life’s events get in the way and a client’s lack of communication is entirely innocent. If a client goes dark and you need a response, my rule of thumb is to reach-out 3x over a logical period of time depending on context. I’ve found clients appreciate when I am direct and to the point, skipping the formalities. Example: “Mr./Mrs. Client, I need your feedback today to the question below. Otherwise, the deadline may be at risk. Please advise.” What’s relevant here is to speak to clients directly as the professional and expert you are. Remember, they’ve hired you for a reason. They trust your skills and ability to deliver. If the silence continues, move on to other work. Don’t ruminate. If they value the relationship, they’ll eventually emerge and you can have an honest conversation about communication and the importance of maintaining a responsive two-way street.
As assignments change due to lack of communication, how is this overcome to eliminate waste?
No question, this is one of those ubiquitous topics that cuts to the root of how organizations operate, right down to their core values. The answer is rarely a simple one. Clearly every situation is unique. With that, before every project and during the foundational planning stage, I make a point of addressing communication expectations upfront with a goal to reach “same-page” agreement between all participants before work begins. I’ve found early alignment around communication expectations, workflows, channels, and meeting cadence are all tremendously helpful when addressed at the beginning, then continually refined. Fundamentally, defining how you work together as a team is equally as important as the work itself.
As freelancers, we often find ourselves thrust into team environments that are unfamiliar, confusing and chaotic. Assignments often lack clear definition, details are scarce, feedback is vague, and deadlines are moving targets. Stephen Colwell will share the foundational methods and processes today’s top-performing teams are using to empower each other, eliminate waste, and accelerate progress…without all the overwhelm, chaos, and fatigue.
You can join in this conversation on January 26, at 2 pm eastern, when NAIWE will host a discussion on working with a team and more! The cost for NAIWE members is $10 and $30 for non-members. Register today!