Outsourcing can be both a friend and a foe to freelancers. When it’s done right, it’s a real time saver; when it’s not, it’s a thorn in your side, if you’ll forgive the cliché. I know what I’m talking about because I’ve been on both sides of the equation, taking outsourced work from other people and outsourcing work of my own. There are lots of lessons I’ve learned on how to do it right.
Taking Outsourced Writing Jobs
When you’re taking outsourced work, it’s important to:
- get full details of the brief (not what the person you’re dealing with understands as the brief but, if possible, the original client brief) so you know exactly what you have to deliver.
- be clear on the deadline.
- make sure that your fee is worth your time. Someone who’s outsourcing will take a cut – is what’s left enough for you to do the job?
Issues with Outsourced Writing Jobs
Problems I’ve faced with people who don’t outsource very well include:
- not being clear about job parameters and deadlines, resulting in unnecessary revisions and time wasting. If this goes on too long, you could end up out of pocket.
- the outsourcer wanting so big a slice of the pie that the job wasn’t worth it for me. I was able to check up on what the original bid for the job had been so I knew exactly how much the person was making.
Lessons from Outsourced Writing Jobs
What I learned from the process of taking outsourced work was to be very clear about how much work I would have to do, whether it was worth it and whether the job as a whole passed the hassle test. I still occasionally take outsourced work from other professional writers who deliver clear briefs, communicate regularly and pay on time.
Outsourcing Writing Work
But what about when you are outsourcing to others? That’s not always simple either. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know that back in about 2007-2008 I ran a writing team on behalf of a copywriting agency I worked for. At its biggest, I was working with about 15 people. To work effectively I had to
- set deadlines and remind writers at regular intervals.
- form a briefing document for the basic info they needed (which included the client’s original instructions).
- be on hand to answer questions and provide feedback.
- liaise with the main client and act as a go-between.
Issues with Outsourcing Writing Jobs
I was pretty good at it, but I really didn’t like it because even with systems in place I came across:
- people who couldn’t meet deadlines
- people whose writing skills didn’t live up to their promise
- plagiarists – ugh!!!
All of those resulted in more work, more stress and less pay for me. Eventually I stopped running the team and concentrated on more lucrative personal writing gigs.
It wasn’t all bad, though. Out of that process, I built lasting relationships with two writers with whom I still work today. That’s because:
- they have the same work ethic as I do.
- they are excellent writers.
- they meet deadlines.
- they are creative and have ideas for improving processes.
- we respect each others’ time and skills.
Lessons from Outsourcing Writing Jobs
What I learned from outsourcing work is that you have to put in time at the start to identify and create processes and educate other writers about what you need. Get that right and outsourcing can be a real timesaver for the busy writer.
What experiences have you had with outsourcing writing work or taking outsourced work? Would you do it again?
This post is part of the April 2012 Word Carnival — a monthly group blogging event specifically for small business owners started by Tea Silvestre, the Word Chef. (It’s the most fun you’ll have all month!) Check out the rest of this month’s lineup here.
Image credit: striatic/Flickr