I enjoyed PR Week’s piece about good practice in client/agency relations. They should do an0ther with ideas about the agency/freelance relationship. After all, there can’t be many agencies who don’t rely on bringing in specialists to beef up their teams on occasion, yet I’ve only ever once been asked by an agency for my opinion on how they worked with freelancers. Lots of agencies are delightful to work with, and some of them have become really good friends as well as clients. But there are still things that drive me nuts about even the nicest of clients. So, if you want to keep in the right side of the freelancers you subcontract, how about:
1. Paying us on time. Within thirty days is fine – sooner is always nice. At least one agency I know about (no names. no pack drill) demands payment from their clients on receipt of invoice but won’t pay contractors for 60 days. Now, that’s just not playing fair.
2. Not asking us to do work for free – although this can be a tricky area and there isn’t a hard and fast rule. For example, I’m happy to do some time uncharged on things like brainstorms for pitch presentations if I think that there’s a possiblility of work coming up in future – or if it’s with a client who gives me enough other work to make it worth my while. But at least one (former) client of mine has a habit of asking me to look at ideas they are preparing for pitches in areas they know I’ve specialised in, as a favour. They don’t offer to pay me for time spent on the pitch, and they don’t offer me any work if they get the job because it’s all done in-house. Why should I give them my time and experience for nothing? They are, after all, the commodities I sell to make a living.
3. Let us know what happens next. I’ve done a lot of work on putting pitches together for agencies, come up with the ideas, drafted the documents, waved the team off on the day. It’s depressingly common to have to go back to my client to ask whether they won the business or not. I always ask for feedback on what I did and I’d like to learn from them – if only they’d tell. Only one agency has ever asked me what I thought of their pitch team and process. Unsusprisingly its one of the agencies I like working for most!
4. And of course the real basics. Brief us as well as you brief your own staff and treat us like part of the team – for the duration of the contract that’s exactly what we are.