It’s rare, very rare, but every once in awhile, we initiate an investigation on WritersWeekly Whispers and Warnings and we become acquainted with an individual who appears to be trying to do the right thing, even though they’ve obviously gotten in over their head.
A recent investigation involved a person who was hiring writers for her client. I won’t mention names because I really don’t feel the overworked writer needs to be put through more than they already have. I’ll call her the Query Queen (QQ).
While the details are many, here’s what appears to have happened. QQ was hired by her client to produce a large number of articles. QQ found lots of writers and they all got to work. Unfortunately, some of QQ’s writers didn’t deliver and she was unable to meet her deadline. One writer in particular asked QQ for an advance and QQ fell for that old I’m-a-single-parent-and-can’t-buy-groceries sob story and sent along that advance. Of course, QQ had been hoodwinked and the writer never did do the work that was promised. QQ then had to hire other writers to do that work, but her money was tied up with the dishonest writer, and the client later demanded a refund because the work wasn’t done on time.
Through all of this, QQ continued to pay writers when she could, but her payments were going out later and later. When it was all said and done, QQ decided to simply stop hiring other writers and to do future work herself. But, she still continued to pay her previous writers and was determined to pay off her debts.
If you are so good at querying that you find yourself in need of hiring others to assist you, you need to be very careful about a few things before expanding your freelance business in this way.
* Don’t make promises you can’t keep. If you promise to pay a writer by next Thursday, you’d better make darned sure they have that check by Thursday. If you’re not absolutely positive you can make that payment, don’t promise to make it. Many people make other financial commitments while relying on promises from their employers. If your writer goes to the grocery store on Wednesday, “knowing” your check will arrive on Thursday to cover their food check, you can imagine what kind of bind they will be in if you didn’t mail that check. And, while writing checks before you have money is wrong, some writers are really struggling and their families really need those groceries, just like yours do.
* Don’t offer to pay more than you can afford. While it’s good to want to pay writers a respectable wage, if you promise more than you can afford, you will quickly find your business losing money and your debts mounting.
* Don’t offer insulting payment amounts, either. Not only is offering ridiculously low wages insulting to writers, but it can backfire and hurt your reputation later. You can imagine how hard it is to get future freelance writing work if you’ve hired writers and treated them poorly in the past. You should also offer a kill fee and only work when a contract has been agreed on by both parties.
* If you do find yourself behind on payment, do NOT ignore emails, phone calls, faxes and letters from the people to whom you owe money. Keep the lines of communication open and remain professional. And, don’t forget to apologize. A sincere apology goes a long way toward keeping all parties civil and may just save your reputation later by preventing nasty postings about you online.
* Don’t offer advances. I’ve had writers ask me for advances in the past and I always refuse. Why? I haven’t known any of them well enough to blindly send a loan, which is what an advance really is. The only people to whom I have ever advanced money were employees with whom I had a long-term relationship.
* If things do work out, you should know that you will probably have to edit your writers’ work. The less you pay them, the lower the quality of writing will be. Editing is hard work and you might be better off doing the work on your own in the end. So, be sure to check references and read their clips before offering a writer a job.
Angela Hoy is the co-owner of WritersWeekly.com and BookLocker. WritersWeekly.com is the free marketing emag for writers that features new paying markets and freelance job listings every Wednesday. According to attorney Mark Levine, attorney and author of The Fine Print, BookLocker is one of the top-rated POD publishers in the industry.