5 Cost Controls for Outsourced Writing

2 lemons and a yellow plate

Feeling Squeezed Like a Lemon?

The real costs of outsourcing work, especially freelance writing work, is in the edits (revisions).

Both a client and a freelancer need to understand they share the risk of controlling cost. That risk comes with the responsibility to communicate and clarify expectations throughout a job (no matter how small.) Often the job is both squeezed for time and for money at the end, during the revisions.

Sweeten the Deal

What steps can be taken at each stage of the freelance job to sweeten the deal and control the cost? Communication and commitment at each step in the job makes

1. Samples

Cost risk: Engaging the wrong type of freelancer, or not knowing the realistic time needed for the work costs money.

The Writer: showcases a portfolio or produce a partial writing sample. The samples should include an explanation date ranges (but may not include cost).

The Client: reviews and accepts or rejects this Freelancer based on how the work will fit their needs and their timing. Only accept work that fits, not just Freelancers who do work.

2. Briefs

Cost risk: Developing a brief (a job description) costs time and money

The Writer: mocks up an ideal brief based on previous experience. The freelancer needs to follow up by voice or in-person to verify the brief has been approved (not just received).

The Client: reviews and accepts or modifies the brief. If the brief cannot be corrected, the job should be stopped. Revisions can rarely correct a bad brief.

3. Drafts

Cost risk: There isn’t enough time to review and edit drafts. Be clear about which party is going to edit and when

The Writer: does not accept a job that goes straight to publication, unless the job is at the end of a series of successful publications that went through draft

The Client: understands that some jobs need to be canceled when there is not enough time to draft and review work before publication

4. Revisions

The Cost: The work goes through too many revisions or the revisions are requested too close to the publication date

The Writer: Sets a deadline for when the revisions can be requested and states the limit of how many revisions can be requested before that deadline

The Client: Commits to the dates and plans to review the draft before the revision date. The revisions are organised and communicated in a single activity in writing, in-person or on the phone

5. Very Good Not Perfect

The Cost: The client or the freelancer wants to work to be a little bit better ending in an unhappy, unachievable cycle of small changes.

The Writer: Takes responsibility for using his or her talent to write at a level that fits the audience. The writer is responsible for choosing the simplicity or complexity of the topics, setting the readers’ expectations and focusing the copy around an action or purpose.

The Client: Edits the copy for correct terminology, but resists the urge to rewrite the writer’s work. In such a case where the Client is not satisfied with the focus or the purpose of the copy, the job should be canceled and the work to date paid.

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A Special Note for Working with Agencies

The Writer needs to be prepared that “The Client” may be the combination an agency and an end-customer. All people involved need to be ready to discuss and harmonize their expectations.

Controlling costs with clear, short communication. In person is the most ideal for maintaining a strong project relationship. But where the in-person time adds cost, use video or phone. Follow up the video or phone with a short, bullet point email summarizing the dates and deliverables.

Controlling the costs does not mean the agency or the Writer needs to disclose their rates. Controlling costs means that the end-customer can push the Writer to deliver work beyond a lean budget. And, the Writer doesn’t have the right to stop working because he or she has reached the negotiated budget.

Starting with regular communication is the key to Controlling the Cost of outsourced writing. Setting the right expectations and being ready to accept the Writer’s output prevent a cost blowout.

Thinking about your own industry, what do your clients do that cost them money? What tips from your experience can you add to the 5 steps for controlling costs?