The true costs of freelance writing projects

In a tight economy, some companies try to save money on writing projects by outsourcing to other countries, or by using sites like Elance to find inexpensive freelancers.  A recent MarketingProfs article discussed the challenges of using sites like Elance.

Outsourcing can be a false economy.  A friend told me recently that her company was outsourcing all of their documentation work to India to save money, but that the effort will increase the workload on their developers, who must now write exactly what they want to go into the documentation.

As a freelance technology writer myself, I have strong opinions about penny-pinching on writing services, particularly in technology marketing.  I’ve also seen the results of these efforts – and have sometimes been hired to ‘fix’ projects that were first outsourced.

Before hiring the writer with the lowest price, consider the ‘true cost’ of the project. In my experience this includes:

The time you spend getting the writer started.  Is it enough to send some documents and have a phone call? A meeting? Several meetings? The more experience a writer has in your industry, the less time it should take to get them started.

The time spent managing the writer.  Once launched, a good writer should be able to operate very independently, with little oversight from you beyond answering additional questions.

The cost of review cycles and revisions.  How many revisions do you need to get the first draft to a final draft?  If you need many substantive rewrites and you’re paying by the hour, then there’s an immediate cost. If you’re paying on a project basis, you still have to take time to set the writer on the right path.

The opportunity cost of delays. The longer it takes to get a project to completion, the greater the opportunity cost of not having the project completed. Experienced writers may be able to turn around projects much more quickly than inexperienced ones.

The cost of clean-up. When a project is unsuccessful, you may need to hire someone else to fix the project. I’ve done this for a client, and I’m sure that whatever money they saved by outsourcing the white paper was offset by having to hire someone to fix the paper.

Cost of poor quality. Unclear or grammatically incorrect content reflects poorly on your business. If you believe in the power of content marketing, which I do, then you know the importance of quality content.

Price must be considered in the context of value. If you pay very little for an article, for example, but it is ineffective in its purpose, then you have still paid too much. If a white paper generates leads or moves prospects through the pipeline, then paying a higher price may be a great deal, relative to its impact on revenue.

3 Comments on “The true costs of freelance writing projects

  1. Thank you. Again. I had some long-buried memories of my days as a documentation writer, and how long it took to pull the right information out of engineers’ brains. It took time, tact, and diligence. I often sat in their offices for hours. I can’t imagine how that would have worked long-distance.

    • Right! In my days doing documentation, I used to bribe people with cookies to take the time to review the doc. Again, hard to do remotely!

  2. Pingback: Freelance horror stories: The consulting contract « Content Marketing for Technology

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