How to help freelancers who constantly miss deadlines

We are a publisher of a magazine that is focused on the local food and drink scene. It comes out six times a year, and so we are always doing some work related to producing it, be it selling ads, designing and formatting the contents, distributing the physical magazines and collecting articles and photos from our contributing freelance partners. 

One of the biggest challenges that we face in getting the issues out of the door on time is to get the work from our freelance partners before the deadline. We have just over ten people that we work with on a regular basis, and about half of them are constantly missing the deadlines. 


It's always been an issue, so recently we've made some changes. For example, we now plan the editorial contents for the whole year before the beginning of each year. Each contributing partner can see what they're assigned for the whole year by looking at their assignments tracking Google Sheets. Partners also get an automated message informing of their upcoming deadlines. 

It's been several months since we've implemented the new system and we are still having the late submission issues. Clearly, something must be done. So, here is what I am going to try. 

Have discussions early

It's true that we have a list of assignments for the whole year for each contributor early on. However, a mere list isn't enough―a discussion must take place between each partner and the chief editor to flesh out the details of each assignment. If we wish to collect assignments months in advance, the specifics for all of the assignments needs to be clear at the beginning of the year. 

We wanted to leave out the detailed discussion until just before the time to start working on the next issue to give us some leeway in case we needed to change the contents. If we decided to collect assignments earlier, we will end up some pieces that we won't publish which will be an added production cost. 

I think such cost can be justified if it means reduced stress related to, and, time spent on, chasing assignments. 

Host a training

There is a high correlation between the contributors who miss the deadline and who don't invoice us until we ask. I have a feeling that these partners don't have a good task recording and tracking system, and I want to help them.

So we are planning to host a casual drink/food staff party this summer to re-establish our core business value (i.e., provide the best user-centric product showcasing the best local food and drink) and to give a quick workshop on how to create an effective task-tracking system. 

As part of the workshop, I am going to demonstrate how to use a new function I just added to the assignment tracking spreadsheet which lets you import the assignment due dates into your Google calendar with a click of a mouse.

Basically, I just added a new menu item called "add to calendar" based on the tutorials found on these pages: 

Write a short manual

I am going to write a short manual accompanying the workshop. I will make it available on my "free" page at a later date. I will also offer any additional help to improve their work productivity, free of charge, to any contributors who ask for it. 

And that's my plan. Hopefully, I will come back in six months or so to do an update to announce the successful outcome. 

Do you have any suggestions on how to help freelancers who constantly miss deadlines?