Monday, April 27, 2009

To Outsource or Not: What's Best?

I've been following an interesting debate between Men with Pens James Chartrand and All Freelance Writing's Jennifer Mattern. I'll briefly recap: James has a new ebook he co-created to help writers fine tune their freelancing business model so that they are more productive and making more money without stress and burnout. Jennifer on the other hand considers freelancing more of a lifestyle than a typical small business.

The controversy

Outsourcing is a topic I notice lots of writers going back and forth about. I had lunch with a client last summer who is expanding his business which means more projects for me (let's hope it continues…). He even suggested that I consider outsourcing some projects out to other writers.

Why outsourcing makes sense

According to James, outsourcing makes sense as a way to maximize a writer's billable hours. He goes on to list reasons when you should consider outsourcing which include not having the skills to accomplish a certain project (that would be web design and anything dealing with html for me) and of course when outsourcing projects allows you time to work on something else. Let me just say for the record that I have not yet read his ebook. I also have to say when it comes to outsourcing I hesitate…

When Outsourcing goes wrong

I've mentioned it here before that I've had some bad experiences outsourcing. In the end I ended up doing as much or more work than I would have done had I just done the project myself. I imagined something along the lines of the scenario James' argument paints: that I would be free to work on my own writing projects or those that were more lucrative while still making a little off the top. However, I'm not someone who wants to manage others. I have enough of a time keeping up with my own daily tasks, and to be quite honest I don't want anyone to start thinking of me as "the man." No sir. But, outsourcing is a tempting thought sometimes, especially when I'm beside-myself-busy.

The argument for residual income

Jenn on the other hand encourages writers to boost their earning potential by working on their own projects creating residual incomes by creating ebooks or informative websites. Of course this takes time to accomplish, and if you don't already have a built-in audience, you'll need to market your little hiney off. She duly acknowledges this fact.

Jenn also explains that one reason she doesn't agree with the business model way of doing this that James suggests is because many writers just don't have enough disposable income to consistently hire out help. Good point.

Which way is best for you?

Personally I believe that either of these methods can work. Am I punking out by agreeing with them both? I know it looks that way, but I'm really not – this time. I actually know a couple of writers who have no problems outsourcing and think it's the best idea since sliced bread. I also know writers who are successfully making good money creating their own products, blogs, websites, etc.

Here's the best part about freelancing: you get to do whatever works for your own bottom line. Whether it's outsourcing, creating your own streams of residual income or a combination of the two; you can make adjustments to get what you need professionally and financially. What's your opinion about outsourcing and developing residual income?


Devon Ellington said...

I've had it come up in several contracts lately where the client insisted on a "no outsourcing" clause, because the client had bad experiences previously with hiring a writer because of that writer's style, only to have the writer outsource and the client received what the client felt was crap.

I think it depends on the situation. To date, I have always felt that the client is hiring me for my unique abilities, and to outsource is not aboveboard. But that's for the type of work I do.

If it works for someone else and they can do it ethically, good for them.

If I'm overbooked, I just refer the client to a really good writer pal so they can work directly.

Kimberly Ben said...

"I've had it come up in several contracts lately where the client insisted on a "no outsourcing" clause, because the client had bad experiences previously with hiring a writer because of that writer's style, only to have the writer outsource and the client received what the client felt was crap."

Devon, I've always wondered how well outsourcing worked if it's quality a client's looking for. Two writers will rarely have the same style.

James Chartrand - Men with Pens said...

Hey, this is a great little summary, and I appreciate your thoughts in the matter.

Here's what it comes down to, I think: If freelancers don't believe in outsourcing, how can we feasibly ask clients to outsource writing work to us?

I'm going to be writing more on the topic, so thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts. Cheers!

Kimberly Ben said...

Hey James,

I appreciate you stopping by to comment. While I actually do consider my freelancing as a business, I've just not had the best luck with outsourcing personally. Another writer with much more experience than I has given me some very helpful tips in case I ever gather up the courage to try again. Who knows...

I'm glad to know that you will continue discussing this topic. I'll be keeping an eye out.

Lori said...

Well, punk me out, too. :)

I've had great experiences with outsourcing my work. If I hadn't had help last year, I'd have gone insane or never slept - or both. I've also been dropped on my butt a few times because the writers just never deliver - and never bother to tell me until the deadline is long gone and I've already done the work myself.

Kimberly Ben said...

^^^ See, that's just wrong. If I ever decide to outsource again, I'll use a much better screening process.

Di said...

I have gone both ways. Admittedly, I haven't outsourced much of my work due to the first time being a disaster. Like you said, it created more work for me in the end. It's also very time consuming to me, so I would rather use the time wisely and do it myself :)

I don't see a problem if the client is aware of the said "outsourcing."

Kimberly Ben said...

Hey, Di, and thanks for commenting. I always felt like I did a decent job of screening candidates for outsourcing by checking their samples. However, my client suggested paying writers to write a sample prior to hiring. Only one problem: I don't always have the funds set aside for this.:-(

This discussion has me much more curious about James' ebook. Maybe he has some suggestions...

Di said...

Kimberly, let me know if you do get the book and if it is worth it :)

Kimberly Ben said...

If I do get it Di, I will contact you and let you know. I'll also post a review of it here.

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