Friday, February 20, 2009

When Your Business Grows

I recently entered into discussions for major content for a very specialized client. The workload and commitment is large--but luckily I have a secret weapon: another writer who also happens to be licensed in their industry, and who's been offering to take on extra work for me for months.

The opportunity dropped in my lap this week, and hopefully this will be a great opportunity for both of us to profit. Outsourcing writing can be a profitable way to grow your business--you take a percentage off the top and leave the bulk of the work to your outsourcee. Potentially, you could see income for a great deal of work you ordinarily wouldn't have time to handle. But I'm assuming it won't just be a walk in the park. Here are some things I'm considering in anticipation of starting a project with a new partner.

Contracts are everything. I'm contracting between my business and the client, but I'm also writing up a contract between myself and the writer detailing what's expected, pricing and delivery. Even if you're working with a friend--and I am--it's crucial to make sure all project parameters are in writing and agreed to.

It won't be work-free for you. Especially in the beginning, I'm expecting to take an active role in training, proofreading, fact-checking, and overall ensuring everything is up to standards--even though I trust this writer's work and quality standards. I'm also communicating with the client and project-managing. So yes, I do take a percentage--but I work for it.

There will be a certain amount of letting-go involved. I'm not sure how I'll deal with not being in complete control of all facets of the project. I've never done it before. Hopefully I won't be an annoying, micro-managing boss. I'm pretty sure I won't be. But I won't know until I do it.

Can you handle it if your writer flakes out? Always have a contingency plan. At this point, if my partner suddenly couldn't work on the project, I'd have to handle it myself--and I was careful to schedule it so that I could do it, although I'd be stretched for a few months. Until we've got a strong working relationship I'm not sure it's a good idea to stretch myself beyond what I could handle alone, if I had to.

I'll follow up with a new post on my advice for outsourcing once I've had a few months' worth of experience. Stay tuned!


Lillie Ammann said...

Keep us posted on how this works out.

I owned a business with 15 to 18 employees for many years. Now that I'm freelancing, I prefer to take on only work I can handle myself. Outsourcing seems too much like having employees, and I vowed I would never do that again.

Occasionally, I hire another editor to do a final proofread on a project I've worked on for months because I think a second pair of eyes is critical. However, I won't outsource regular work to another writer.

But a lot of writers do it successfully. I might feel differently if I hadn't spent nearly 20 years dealing with employees.

Kimberly Ben said...

Jennifer, I'm glad to see you discussing this topic because I am dealing with a similar situation with a client. I just finished a huge project that was slated to be outsourced to other writers back in December, but a third party unexpectedly entered the picture and started requesting several rewrites, so I knew outsourcing would be a disaster until I got them to understand that there only needs to be ONE contact person involved to minimize communication issues. Anyhoo...

I think a contract between you and the other writer is definitely a wise decision.Good tips overall, and please keep us posted on your progress.

Unknown said...

Great post, Jen. I think when you and I worked together, we had an email agreement (worked for me because I know you're reliable). But that doesn't work for everyone.

The letting go part is tough, but not as tough as the taking-time-to-organize-and-explain-so-the-other-person-can-just-run-with-it part is. For me, anyway. :)

And if you're ever in need a quick contingency, holler.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious -- does your client know you're outsourcing? How does the client feel about it? Does the client feel because YOU were hired, it should be YOUR work, or is that not an issue because of the topic?

I've had several clients in the past few months specify that they hired me because of my work and my voice, and wanted it in the contract that nothing would be outsourced, something that hasn't happened in the past, so I'm curious. They'd been burned by writers in the past who they hired because of the quality of the writer's work, and the writer then subcontracted it out and it was obvious.

I sometimes think it's more important to have contracts between friends working together than anything else.