What if you could turn your freelance writing business into a full-fledged business that requires far less work on your part?
“A business isn’t a business until you can remove yourself from it.”
Most freelance writers looking to make the transition from a solo operation to an agency-style business quickly discover the hardest part: Figuring out how to make the business run without you. Three years ago, I scaled my solo writing gig into a full-fledged content marketing agency that can operate completely independently of me. In this piece, I’ll give you the nitty gritty of how I made it work.
Why a Business-Style Operation is Preferable
- With a solo operation, income is limited by the time you can spend completing client work. With a business, you earn while you sleep or vacation.
- With a solo operation, there’s a cap on the pieces you can output (again, based on your time). With a business, your cap is determined by the number of people in your employ (an unlimited quantity). Thus, you can create higher output, and further spread your personal brand. Switching from a freelance writer to a content marketing agency was a no-brainer for me.
How I Found the Right People
I knew that if I was going to trust my personal brand and reputation to a group of employees, I had to find the finest people my budget would allow. I first looked at exactly what roles I needed filled, which were:
- Multiple writers
- An editor
- Someone to liaison with clients, and manage the business side of things (invoices, payments)
To find the right people, I used job boards (e.g. the Problogger) and word-of-mouth referrals from friends of mine who had made a similar transition. I gave writer and editor candidates test articles (all paid) to work on, and selected final candidates based on their performance on the trial.
How I Structured My Organization
The basic structure of my agency was as follows:
- Writers are assigned to particular websites or publications that my organization contributes to.
- They pitch article ideas to the client liaison, who communicates with the client, who in turn selects the best pitches of the bunch.
- The writer is then commissioned to write each piece.
- The editor goes over the writer’s draft to ensure the style and content of the piece matches guidelines for the entire organization.
- Once the edited article is approved by the client, the writer and editor are paid by the client liaison, who also manages invoicing of the clients.
- After payments, I receive approximately 40+% profit margins on each piece my agency completes.
Given that there is virtually no limit to the number of pieces that my organization can complete (more writers/editors can always be hired), my income ceiling also becomes unlimited. This basic structure, although it may seem a little complicated to get up and working, ends up running very smoothly once you hire an organized and competent client liaison. My personal recommendation, however, would be to make the transition gradual.
- Start with hiring writers to replace yourself as the writer while you edit the pieces, and manage client communications.
- Next, hire an editor while you act as client liaison.
- Once you are able to find someone who you really trust to act as your client liaison, that’s the point at which you’ve really separated yourself from the day-to-day operations of the agency, and are now a true business.
But, Don’t Clients Dislike an Agency-Style Operation?
Another one of the major inhibitions that freelance writers have that block them from moving towards the agency style is the misconception that their clients will throw a fit once they find out you’re subcontracting their jobs out to others. This, however, proved entirely false for my organization. Clients generally want two things: Quality content and professionalism. As long as you give them both things, they don’t really care who produces the content, or who they are in communication with as long as you get the job done well. Of course, this falls apart if you fail to maintain the standards and quality the client experienced and expected before you switched to an agency business model.
It is important to note that you should NOT make the transition before letting your clients know. Don’t hide or obscure your operation. Be upfront about the switch you’re making, why you’re making it, and also assure them that the quality of the content will not be affected. Done this way, none of my clients were unhappy with the transition and all of the new clients I brought on board had no issues, given the agency’s track record.
By successfully implementing my transition, I was able to double my net income within a fiscal semester. Plus, due to the higher output my brand was producing, that resulted in an increase in my personal branding which, in turn, resulted in more inquiries and more clients.
All in all, making the agency switch was the best thing I could have done with my solo writing gig and I wouldn’t take it back for anything. Do it the right way and you too will take your business to the next level.
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Jonathan Rebby John is a freelance writer and a student mechanical engineer at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. An experienced content marketing strategist and WordPress maestro, his work has been published in many of the top blogs in those fields, including Problogger, Marketo, Torque, and WP Lift. Get in touch with him through his website, or connect on LinkedIn.
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