Monday, September 23, 2019

The Monthly Retainer: A Smart Way to Hire a Freelance Copywriter

I've mentioned before that there's more than one way to hire a freelance copywriter in San Antonio, Austin, or anywhere else in the world. It's a simple matter to engage a freelancer whenever you need a particular piece of marketing content written. But is that "piecework" approach the smartest way to go? Not always, I would argue. Many organizations can enjoy some important benefits from signing their writers to monthly retainer agreements instead. Let's examine why you might want to pursue this method of outsourcing your content writing needs.

If you've ever engaged outside professionals by paying them a set amount of money in advance, then you already have some idea of how retainer agreements work. If you need a lawyer who bills $100 per hour, for example, you might pay that lawyer $1,000 to do 10 hours of work for you. If the project at hand takes exactly 10 hours to complete, you've gotten your money's worth to the penny. If your lawyer needs a couple more hours to finish the job, you might receive an additional bill for $200 before work can continue. If the work took less than 10 hours to perform, you might be given credit for 2 hours of future work. Or if you're hiring the lawyer on a monthly basis, the extra money you paid can be justified as the cost of guaranteeing the lawyer's availability for that month.

A monthly retainer for a copywriter works pretty much the same way. You agree to pay the writer X amount of dollars at the beginning of each month; that money then guarantees that your writer is available to you for X number of hours. If you need more hours of the writer's time before the end of the month, you can purchase them separately, either right then and there or on a supplemental invoice at the beginning of the following month.

This arrangement works just fine when your writer charges by the hour -- but what do you do if your writer charges flat per-project rates? I've always used the per-project pricing method myself, since it gives my clients a firm idea of exactly what they can expect to pay for any given job. (It's also great for marketing agencies, since they can easily plug my numbers into their bids on larger marketing projects.) You can still use a monthly retainer agreement with this kind of writer; it's just a matter of pre-purchasing a total dollar amount instead of a total number of hours. You've now secured that writer's services to produce as much work as that total dollar amount will cover. If you need more writing that month, you can purchase another job or two at whatever fixed rates the writer normally charges.

Why would you put a copywriter on a monthly retainer when you could simply purchase individual jobs at the same rates, without any risk of overpaying? There are actually a couple of good reasons:

Guaranteed availability: Remember, you've bought those jobs on the condition that they will also hit your inbox that month. Your writer has already taken the money, so your writer has to deliver per the terms of the agreement. You don't have to ask yourself that dreaded question, "Gee, I wonder if he's gonna be available for this one?" The retainer ensures that we're on the hook to give you what you need, when you need it.

Minimal invoicing: Imagine being a marketing agency who needs to produce a wide range of marketing content for multiple clients each month. Now imagine having to process a fresh invoice and make a fresh payment for each and every one of those jobs. Doesn't sound like a smart use of your time and effort, does it? With a monthly retainer, you pay one bill at the beginning of each month. If you ordered additional work the previous month, you may also receive one other, smaller invoice. Any organization that expects to run through a fair amount of content each month will find this arrangement much smoother sailing.

Limited Risk/Obligation: Of course, there's always the possibility than you might not need or want the same volume of marketing content 6 months or a year from now. Fortunately, you don't have to lock yourself into a long-term retainer agreement. Some writers (including me) offer the option of a month-to-month arrangement. This setup allows you to say, "Okay, this is the last month we're going to need a retainer," and then go back to ordering individual jobs as needed the following month.

Ready to learn more about the process of hiring a freelance copywriter on a monthly retainer agreement? Contact me and let's discuss the details!

Monday, September 9, 2019

The Blogger's Nightmare: "But I Have Nothing to Say!"

How many times have you heard those words escape your lips as you stared into the abyss of an blank notepad or computer screen? Whether you've just taken up the art (and business) of blogging or you're struggling with your thousandth post, this exclamation may ring all too familiar.

It's not unlike the common actor's nightmare: You're summoned to play a role you know like the back of your hand, only to realize at the last minute that they've switched you to a different role, or that you had the wrong play in mind altogether. All you can do is stand there and make something up -- or run away. That may be how you feel right now. You know you need to blog regularly as a means of refreshing your online content and maintaining your target market's attention. But where in the world do you start?

Ideation, or the generation of ideas, can be a major stumbling block to all kinds of creative activity. Many artistic types respond by shutting down entirely and waiting until some invisible hand turns on the idea spigot again. (Hopefully these folks have day jobs or trust funds to carry them through their draught.) The rest of us simply push forward as best we can, relying on every memory, anecdote, thought or stimulus that might hold some promise. It's tempting for many novice writers to imagine some wellspring of ideas that fuel the great practitioners. Harlan Ellison got so tired of having people ask him, "Where do you get your ideas?" that he began telling them that there was an idea factory in Schenectady that sent him a monthly package of them. (It says something about the desperation of these individuals that many of them believed him.)

Ideas almost never drop in out of nowhere; they have to be squeezed into existence, sometimes by brute force. Start by going through any resources that have saved your creative bacon in the past. Do you have a favorite book of quotes, for instance, or a particular art form or hobby that always seems to inspire you? Have current events made a notable impact on your industry or your readers? Do your business interactions produce interesting anecdotes or case histories for you to share your audience?

Another trick when you feel stuck in a rut is to change up the way you blog. If you tend to post serious pieces, for example, try a humorous one to break up the mood. If you've never involved a second person in your blog creation, try interviewing a colleague or peer. If you never create lists, create a list. If you always write in lists, write in paragraphs instead.

Last but not least, remember that two heads are better than one. Ask your readers what they would like to see in future posts, or ask your business team for a quick bull session. and if all else fails, bring in a total outsider such as a freelance copywriter to dream up some fresh ideas you might never have considered on your own. (Just a thought.)

The point is that there's always something to say. In fact, I just wrote an entire blog post about having nothing to say. So, no excuses -- put your idea hat on and get back to work!