Whether it’s because you hate to write or are simply too busy running your business, you’ve decided to outsource your content creation. You feel a huge sense of relief, right?
Sure…until you realize that outsourcing content creation opens up what we here in the South call “a whole ‘nother” set of challenges. That’s why so many small businesses procrastinate even more after the outsourcing decision is made: They don’t know how to go about it.
This post will walk you through it. From my experience on the content creation side, I think these are the most important things to know:
Be smart about finding the right freelancer.
There are lots of places to find fantastic freelancers. Start by asking the people in your network for recommendations.
LinkedIn is also a popular source for finding writers, as is Copyblogger’s list of Certified Content Marketers (Self-interest alert: as a Certified Content Marketer, I’m on this list.) Writers with a Copyblogger certification have completed some extremely solid training. And just doing the coursework isn’t enough to get certified: The next hurdle is a thorough review of your content to make sure you can apply what you’ve learned.
Once you’ve identified a few candidates, it’s time to vet them. The key here is to focus on questions that provide information that actually matters.
In all honesty, some of the most common questions recommended for vetting freelancers are absolute BS. Knowing who my favorite blogger is will in no way help you decide if I’m a good match for you and your business. In fact, the best writers have their fingers in all sorts of different pies so they can keep up with the latest developments. They cast a wide net and go deep as needed. Click here for more information on which interview questions actually tell you something useful — and which don’t.
Complete a thorough content brief.
Not only does completing a content brief help you clarify what you want your writer to deliver, it’s a critical piece in the writer’s ability to deliver it. A good content brief does a lot more than tell the writer to bake a loaf of bread: It specifies wheat or rye, baguette or boule, etc.
The more specific you are about the content you need, the happier you’re going to be with the results.
Get a written work agreement.
Although this doesn’t have to be a formal contract (although that might be a good idea if you’re going to commit to a monthly retainer), it’s smart to have something to refer to in case problems crop up. Most professional writers will ask for a work agreement; if not, you can initiate it yourself. The content brief can serve as the foundation of the agreement, but there are a few other things it should cover, as well:
- Payment structure: Will you be paying the writer by the word, by the hour, by the project, or by retainer?
- Payment timing: Does the writer require a downpayment before beginning work? If so, how much is it? How long after the writer submits a final version of the content is payment due?
- Additional services: Will the writer also be responsible for things like keyword research, social promotion, etc.? If so, is that included in the base fee, or is that extra?
- Revisions: This one is extremely important. A lot of writers limit clients to one or two rounds of revisions, charging extra for anything beyond that. That’s because some clients aren’t really sure of what they want, so the project parameters change midstream. Limiting the number of revisions helps writers protect themselves against something over which they would otherwise have no control (and which can seriously eat away at your revenue). Other writers, myself included, offer unlimited rounds of “normal” revisions but do charge extra for revisions that are requested because of a change in direction. Basically, if I don’t deliver what you asked for, it’s on me. If you change your mind about what you want, it’s on you.
- Copyright: Who will own the finished content? In ghostwriting, it’s common for all rights to transfer to the client, which means that the writer gives up all claims to the work and the client can use it however they want, including putting their own name on it as the author. In other situations, the writer retains ownership and, in essence, “licenses” the client to use it. In that case, you should use the writer’s byline unless you’ve agreed otherwise. Pro tip: Often, writers like to sell “full rights” but retain the right to use the content in a portfolio. That’s a great option as long as you both agree to it.
- How payment will be made: Will you pay by check? Paypal? Stripe? If either of the latter options, who will pay the processing fees?
- Dispute resolution: More often than not, everything goes smoothly. But sometimes things go wrong. The work agreement should cover things like what will happen if the writer misses the deadline, if you decide you don’t want the content after it’s written, if you cancel the project before it’s finished, if payment is late, etc.
- Other: If you want the writer to operate under a nondisclosure disagreement or have any other specific stipulation, make sure you include it in the work agreement.
Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer, so please don’t take this as professional legal advice. These are simply the things I like to see in a work agreement.
Make nice with the IRS.
Taxes can be somewhat of an issue if you don’t thoroughly understand your role in the process. Since I’m neither a tax attorney, an accountant, nor an IRS agent, I’m not going to attempt to explain the details. In a nutshell, though, you have to file a 1099 for any contractor to whom you pay $600 or more in a given year.
Some businesses — agencies in particular — like to get that out of the way and ask the writer to complete a W-9 up front. That’s makes a lot of sense from the client’s perspective — but, as a writer, I hate it. And I’ve turned down opportunities because a client insisted on it. I don’t like the idea of handing over my personal information without knowing whether there’s the potential for a long-term relationship. It’s like naming your kids on the first date. When we get close to $600, then I’ll be happy to complete a W-9 for you.
The important thing is to understand your responsibilities — and to carry them out in a way that doesn’t make the writer run for the proverbial hills.
1099 vs. employee: You need to know the difference
Make nice with the writer.
Assuming you’d like to establish an ongoing relationship with one or more writers, it’s important to remember one thing: It’s really easy for us to move on. There’s a ton of work out there, and dropping one job in favor of another doesn’t disrupt our lives like changing full-time employment would. I don’t mean to make it sound like you should kiss your writer’s feet for consenting to take you on as a client; you are, after all, the customer and the distributor of the paycheck. Just realize that part of the beauty of the freelance life is having a lot of options. Click here to read my post about how to become your freelancer writer’s favorite client.
The days when freelancing was considered an alternative to “normal” work are long gone. Today, there are 53 million freelancers in the U.S., and it’s estimated that, by 2020, 50% of the workforce will freelance in some capacity. Developing your skills at working with freelancers will become an ever-more-important part of remaining competitive.
Have any questions about content creation? Or are you ready to take the plunge? Get in touch today and we’ll get straight to work.