Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Hiring Writers

Writers: Hire local or outsource?
by Alan Eggleston, writer, editor, SEO stragetist

As a writer, I would write for just about anyone. And as a writer, I can write just about anything. Thus, I would hope that if you needed a writer, you would consider hiring me. However, it's really a completely different matter from your perspective.

When to Hire Locally
I always encourage clients to hire locally. In this economic client, they shouldn't feel guilty about trying to hire writers in their community -- it's good business. It's also good social policy. After all, if they were going to buy whatever you offer, wouldn't you hope they would look locally first and consider buying from you? In addition, there are thousands of writers, many of them good ones. It's very likely there are a few good ones in your area who would like to work with you.

It makes especially good sense to hire locally when you need or want to collaborate closely with the writer, or if you need or want the writer available for meetings or to be able to stop in to look at proofs or work closely with a designer or developer. Certainly, some aspects of this work can be done online, but some clients like to work face-to-face. And some work is on such tight deadlines that it is important to be available locally to stop by to pick up hard copies either as research or layouts or proofs.

My local clients are often big companies with whom I do a lot of work and with whom I meet face-to-face frequently, or small businesses that do not have the resources to deal with long-distance writers. Small businesses often benefit from coaching or mentoring in marketing or communications topics and will like the writer to be right there for them.

When to Outsource
It makes sense to outsource (or hire outside your area) when your budget is tight and you can save money doing so, or when work can be handled electronically and you don't need any face-to-face interaction. Also, it makes sense when an outside writer is either highly recommended or is a specialist in an area that you need.

I have accepted work with clients in neighboring states or some distance away because we can stay in touch by phone and e-mail, and because we can handle copy by e-mail or Google Documents. One potential client interviewed and hired outside of their area entirely online because they needed someone with a certain expertise.

A Caution About Cost
Some clients will be tempted to open jobs for bidding on a service like That's all right for some projects. However, bid sites are often frequented by unestablished writers looking for a way to get some work to add to their resume. You will get low-bid jobs but you may also get poorly written work. If you go that route, make sure you also involve a good editor! Don't hire someone just because they bid cheaply, however. Look for quality work.

A Caution About Location
You may receive e-mails offering writers from overseas. I have seen some pretty good writing from India, but I have also seen some terrible writing from India. And I have seen some terrible writing from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the UK. Before you hire, look at their websites and ask for samples. Don't hire anyone whose site or samples show substandard work, because very likely that's exactly what you're going to get. And be prepared for UK-standard English spellings -- words like programme (instead of program), catalogue (instead of catalog), odour (instead of odor), whilst (instead of while), etc. -- from these countries. Also keep in mind that many UK-related countries tend to write longer sentences and paragraphs than do we in the U.S., so to suit U.S. audiences you may need to do some editing. Don't overlook these!


Laura said...

I won't write for any business -- I don't like to attach my talent to businesses that are technically legal, but make me feel icky as a human being. This includes anything in the "blue" territory -- as well as organizations that border on hate speech or are teetering on the abusive side of public policy.

Sometimes, it makes sense to hire local. If the organization counts on local business, hiring a writer with admirable local connections as well as mad talent makes sense. A connected writer can help you spread the word about your business in the local community. I'll provide locals with more than great copy: I also spread word-of-mouth about how terrific the business is. Bonus: free local PR!

But I also work for non-local businesses. If they need national or international attention, it makes sense for these businesses to hire me, a writer with a niche blog and a sizable amount of subscribers. That way, if they're nice to me, why, I just might mention them kindly in my blog, thereby spreading worldwide goodwill!


alan said...

Hi Laura. True, writers need to set their standards and be firm in them. Yet, I don't know anyone who would work for someone they considered unscrupulous. Amazing what a breadth of standards there are, though.

However, I was really trying to advise the company teetering on the edge of hiring someone simply because they were cheap or someone simply because they are local.