Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Outsourcing: What's Your Policy?

Lately I've been getting more and more emails from other copywriters offering their services as outsourcers. I've never done outsourcing before, and I've never worked on an outsourced project. If I have too much work to handle, I'll generally refer potential clients to other writers whose work I respect. I'm a good source of referrals; I even referred a very long-time client to another writer once because he wanted something I could do, but I felt she could do much better. (I didn't lose the client, by the way.)

However, lately I've been thinking about outsourcing and how it might work for my business. I'm wondering if I could get more done by outsourcing some of the work to others and taking a cut. The graphic design company I work with does this when they hire me. I don't know any writers who outsource work to others under their own business model, but I've considered it and know several excellent writers I'd want to tap for this kind of work if I ever decided to get into it. Here are a few outsourcing models I'm considering:

Occasional outsourcing. Every so often I might get swamped. Instead of referring clients to other writers, I could "hire" another writer to do the project and take a cut. I'm not sure how this works in terms of taxes and reporting, and whether or not I should tell clients if it's me doing the work or someone else. I'd love to hear from other writers who do this regularly.

Regular outsourcing. Instead of being a one-woman show, I could partner up with other writers who specialize in different areas: press releases, business plan writing, et cetera. This would allow me to specialize in the writing work I like best, without turning away other work. It would also allow me to exponentially grow my business.

Outsourcing of other services. Why stick with just writing? Why not partner with graphic designers, web designers, programmers, SEO's, desktop publishers, public relations people and other professionals whose work complements mine? Then I'd have a full-service agency.

What's your policy on outsourcing? Have you had luck marketing your services to other writers or outsourcing your own work?


Kimberly Ben said...

Jennifer, I've been thinking about this too. I once tried it on a very sall scale with a huge project. I had so much on my plate at the time and I just needed a little help with some keyword articles. It didn't go well. The writer I picked was not as good as her samples indicated and I ended up rewriting most of her work.

I may try it again, but I will screen potential writers more thoroughly next time. It would be nice to have another writer to turn to in a pinch.

Susan Johnston Taylor said...

Jennifer, I will email you a couple of writers who've outsourced work in case you’d like to talk to them.

Personally, I have been on the receiving end of outsourced work, but I haven’t outsourced work to other writers. In addition to concerns about the quality, there’s also an element of project management that I’d rather not get into.

Will they meet their deadline? Will I be the liaison between the client and the other writer? What if something get lost in an email chain? I think it takes a very organized person who communicates clearly and enjoys mentoring other writers.

Unknown said...

I've been on both sides of this. I outsourced to a few writers, and in these cases, they are contractors. I don't know how I'm to do this tax-wise, but how I DID do it was I deducted their pay as a business expense. No 1099. They provided a service and an invoice - just like the phone company. I've been told that's okay as long as it's not a constant thing, such as a writer who works for you every week or every month.

I'm about to get slammed with a lot of work and frankly, 12-hour days aren't going to scratch the surface of these jobs (if they all come in at once). At the moment, two of my three back-up writers are out of the office, and my third isn't able to handle the subject matter. I'm on the lookout for another writer (hint hint)....

Jennifer Williamson said...

@Kimberly: That's what I worried about initially. I'm pretty sure I'd have to be very careful in who I choose to work with, but even then there may be stylistic differences and I'd have to keep in mind that this wouldn't be 100% work-free for me.

@Susan: Thanks for the email! Just got it and I appreciate the info.

@Lori: Perfect--that's exactly the info I was hoping for. Do you ever outsource to people in other states, or only in your home state? BTW--I'll send you an email later about the (hint hint).

Unknown said...

I outsourced to a woman in Oklahoma, one in California, one in New York, one in Virginia.... it's more about who you trust than where they're located. My one bad experience involved someone closer to home. Just make sure you know the person well enough and their work well enough to make that call.

Anonymous said...

Longtime lurker, first time poster here. In my experience, it really depends on the project. (I used to manage writers for an agency.) I'd suggest starting small and choosing easier projects to outsource. Also, I think clients definitely prefer to know if you are working with another writer--they are choosing you for a reason. However, they may not need to know who the other writer is, and should be able to trust you to vet the person. There is some very sketchy outsourcing out there, as I'm sure you know.

Anonymous said...

Jennifer, one of my writing buddy regularly outsources things like copy editing. She covers that service under her contract at her usual rate then hires a subcontractor for less, taking the difference as profit.

I've always just referred services like that, but I'm beginning to rethink it. I'm talking now with a copy editor to make sure she'd be okay with the idea and she seems willing, so we shall see.

Another writer buddy regularly outsources some of her writing work... she does more what I might call production writing than I do, but it seems to work well for her.

Interesting to think about isn't it?

Anne Wayman