Managing Client Workflow
There is an art to building and maintaining strong working relationships with clients. As a freshman freelancer, you may not have tons of experience with managing a client (you may not have tons of clients!) But approaching brand partnerships with a professional attitude, an organized process, and of course by creating excellent content, is how you will build a strong portfolio and an impressive client roster. Bring your style and enthusiasm-- no one says you have to wear a tie. (Isn’t that the whole point of working for yourself?) But even with an artistic mind, clients need to know that you will complete the work they need in a timely manner and with professional results. As we often mention, you are still somewhat of a pioneer in the world of influencer marketing. Many of the brands you work with or talk to have never run an influencer campaign before. If you arm yourself with knowledge, you can be their guide to a great influencer marketing experience and they will become repeat customers.
Understanding client content expectations
The key to any good partnership is communication. Take time to work with someone knowledgeable on the brand side to ensure that you are on the same page for the partnership. First determine your client’s goals for the partnership:
There are many factors that may make you appealing to a brand. Your images might be the perfect style, your follower base may be giant, or your engagement could be through the roof. Maybe you are the trifecta of all three.
Each brand will be looking to fulfill different goals with their campaigns, so the first step is determining the client's’ goals. This could take a couple of conversations with a brand manager or agency handling the project, but it should become clear quickly which of these main goals a brand is hoping to achieve:
- Reach-- For some brands it’s all about exposure. They are trying to get their products in front of as many eyes as possible.
- Content generation-- Some brands need beautiful images to populate their social channels and help boost their creative efforts.
- Engagement-- Most brands will want to see good engagement rates. This is where the value of influencer marketing lies-- with the people who have cultivated meaningful conversations on social media…. That’s you.
Understanding the end game before you agree to a project is very important. This can mean the difference between a happy client and a brand partner horror story.
There are several things to consider about the brand’s ask. One of the more obvious questions is the amount of creative control you will have over the content.
Is the brand asking you to collaborate in a true sense? Meaning they are asking for your ideas and listening to your feedback? Or are they looking to pre-approve posts, dictate captions or edit photos? Brands who are entering into influencer marketing for the right reasons should be comfortable educating you about the campaign goals and then allowing you to create content. If a brand wants you to copy/paste their prescribed caption or post a photo they create and send, what they are really looking for is an ad placement and you should feel confident saying “No thank you.”
Ask smart questions ahead of time to avoid edits or issues in the creative process, like:
- How does the brand want the product featured?
- Do they want a “link in bio” ?
- How much of the caption content is dictated?
- Do they want to review concepts or approve photos?
- What is the content rights exchange going to be?
- What disclosure message should you include in your caption?
You may be part of the first influencer campaign a brand is running. Helping them understand FTC compliance --disclosure messaging-- is a good example of one way to position yourself as an authority in the space and cement your collaborative relationship with the brand.
Once you’ve determined a client’s goals and come to an agreeable compensation rate, you can begin the creative process.
Process. Have one.
Disorganization and procrastination are the enemies of success. If you want to impress a brand team with your work, make sure that you have a strong process in place. You should start, manage, report on and end each campaign in more or less the same way. This ensures that you cover all of your bases and nothing gets forgotten in the hustle. It also makes you look good.
But remember to be flexible. Brand teams and agencies will have their own plan in place. Be adaptable to working their way on projects with multiple influencers-- whether that means to adapting to their project management platform or submitting invoices in a certain format. Even if your content was exceptional, brands will remember that you were “inflexible” or “hard to work with” and may avoid you for future collaborations.
Steps to Consider
Once a brand has reached out to you, how do you formally engage in a project. This may mean signing a contract and/or making a down payment. Kick each project off the same way. The most important thing is to make sure that you and the client are on the exact same page before you begin work.
A Note about pre-made documents:
You should take the time to create standard documents like contracts and invoice templates up front. This will make it very quick for you to fill in the blanks and provide these to clients instead of drafting up a brand new agreement every time. Branding these documents with your logo or a signature style that is your own will make them appear very professional and consistent.
Formally determine how you will communicate during the project. Designate a point person for questions and communication throughout the process and determine the best way to contact that person: email, Basecamp, slack, etc. This will ensure that if you have questions, you are asking the right person each time. Also, this will help prevent wasted time due to miscommunication or excessive emails back and forth.
Project Deliverables and formats
State plainly exactly what will be created for the campaign and determine the best way to get the content to the client. There are tons of great tools like dropbox and google drive for transferring files to clients. Find out what file format and transfer method will be easiest for the client and try to make the exchange as simple as possible.
Content freedom: approvals and edits
Many clients will know exactly what content they want to gain from the partnership. Some will want more creative input from you. Either way, both parties need to be in agreement at the beginning of the engagement about what the results will look like. The brand should provide necessary creative direction, all resources like tagging, hashtags, or how to feature the product in your images.
Additionally, you should establish up front what the client’s approval process will be like. Some brands want you to submit concepts ahead of time for approval. Some brands want to review all content before it goes live on your channels. Some brands even want to have the ability to request edits. Make an agreement ahead of time that you are comfortable with. If the client wants the ability to edit, for example, outline that in your contract: “client may request 2 rounds of edits.” Knowing these things ahead of time will avoid confusion and keep everything moving on schedule.
Your contract should state a timeline for the project that both parties agree to. Obviously there are delays in the world of advertising, especially if there is shipping involved or approvals on the brand’s end. Things always take longer than expected. Try your best to complete your work on the original agreed timeline. If there are approvals or edits of content on the brand’s side, submit your content on time and don’t be afraid to follow up and ask the brand for their responses in a reasonable amount of time-- all parties should be held to the original timeline. But remember, be flexible. If there are delays, just make sure that you are requesting (or providing) updates and staying in communication about the project.
If you find that you cannot complete your project on time, reassess your capacity and give the brand a new, realistic timeline. Never go awol or unresponsive. Advertisers and marketers deal with delays on almost every project, if you are responsible about communicating and readjusting expectations in a realistic way, they will be understanding.
Remember how we keep saying that you might be one of the first influencers that a brand works with? This stuff is new and brands are just testing it out. Understand that many companies will be uncomfortable paying you up front for work. So while you may have up-front payment as your terms, you might lose out on awesome opportunities from brands who are not ready to pay upfront. Alternatives could include asking for a down payment upfront and accepting the remainder upon completion. Issue an invoice as soon as the work is complete.
Understand that large companies and agencies often have very bureaucratic billing offices. One way to ensure that you are paid promptly and fairly is to request a billing contact during the contract phase. This way you know exactly who to contact if you are not paid as originally agreed.
Consider creating a farewell package.
A farewell package is a very impressive way to end your engagement with a brand. It could include:
- A well designed invoice that is clear and easy to read, which identifies your payment terms
- High res versions of all of the files created for the campaign in a neat dropbox link
- Collection of links to all posts created for the campaign
- Highlights of engagements from those posts (great comments, relevant metrics)
- Personalized thank you note from creator
The more often you work on branded campaigns, the more comfortable you will become with your own process. Implementing some or all of these steps can make you stand out from the growing crowd of “influencers.” Most importantly, create excellent content that captures the brand’s goals and be professional in your dealings with your clients.
Creative Community Director at Snapfluence.
There is often a pen stuck in my hair.