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ASK US WEDNESDAY: “Hiring writers to help with my workload – yes or no?”

by Rachel Smith
08 August 2018

Hi Rachel and Leo. I’m in the position of having too much work at the moment, which is something that’s never happened before. I’ve landed a couple of big clients and it looks like it might be on-going which is great, but now I’m worried I’ll be working 24/7 (which I really DO NOT want to do). I know some busy writers sub-contract to junior writers but what about clients who’ve hired you specifically, not your junior writer? Are there any other issues I need to be aware of? And where do I FIND junior writers? Help. A

Congrats on getting too much work – that’s a great problem to have. I know several writers who sub-contract to juniors, including journalist and teacher John Burfitt, and journalist / content marketing writer Nigel Bowen. These guys use a mix of junior writers and more established writers to take the pressure off themselves during really busy times. Hiring writers you can work with long-term can be tricky – you can start by posting a job on Rachel’s List, of course, or ask other freelancers for recommendations.

And once you have writers you trust and are willing to train up, here are some tips for working with them effectively.

Keep the client separate, but be transparent.

It’s not so much that your sub-contractor will try to run off with your clients, but having one point of contact for the client is more professional and efficient. Plus, your point about the client hiring YOU to write for them, not a 19-year-old uni graduate, is a good one. Would some clients be pissed if they found out the graduate wrote their copy but they were paying big bucks for it? Sure, and with good reason. So with some clients, make it clear that you have another writer onboard who may also be working on the client’s project, but assure them that it’s business as usual and the work will be written and edited to the high standard they’ve always expected from you.

Brief your sub-contractor well.

Include research required, word count, formatting rules if you have them and notes on style/tone – plus include similar pieces the client liked so they have something to refer to for all of the above. And, of course, to save you time! The more vague or wishy-washy the brief, the longer it will take someone who isn’t as experienced as you or knows the client like you do. For maximum productivity, create a Trello board for you and your subcontractors so you can track how they’re progressing on different projects.

Build in extra buffers around deadlines.

If you’re using junior writers or graduates, expect that you will have to edit their copy for style and tone. Or, if you’ve established more of a mentoring relationship with that person, prepare to be sending back their work possibly 3-4 times before they get it right. It’s a learning exercise for them and a training one for you so you end up with writers who can do the job quickly and to the brief. But it’s definitely not something you want to be doing on deadline.

Factor in payment.

I know some journos who hire graduates or students in a mentoring or internship type relationship and pay a stipend or set daily rate (which all depends on the person’s experience). For more experienced sub-contractors you might just pay a standard freelance rate or a rate per blog post or article, factoring in your cut from the rate the client is paying you. You’re not required to pay super unless the person is hired as your employee.

Do you hire sub-contractors? What are your tips?

Rachel Smith
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Rachel Smith

As a kid, Rachel used to carry around a little suitcase of pens and paper so she could stop and write stories whenever inspiration struck. These days, she writes for a living, in between running the show at Rachel's List. Some of you may actually believe she looks like a megaphone in real life, but it's not the case. Honest.
Rachel Smith
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