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Have you ever considered sub contracting for another copywriter?
It can take the pressure off trying to find clients yourself, and if you’re comfortable being at the mercy of someone else (and their quirks) it can be rather lucrative.
On the flip side, if you have a huge client list and need help, perhaps you can bag yourself a team of willing sub contractors to lighten the load?

Sub contracting can be a great solution for many copywriters. But it’s not without it’s issues.

In this post six members of our Clever Copywriting School community share their sub contracting smarts.



Tip 1: Formalise the agreement

“Always formalise the arrangement with a contract – however much you like each other, it keeps things simple and structured. And make sure you understand what you’re signing.”

Liz Green



Tip 2: Keep communication clear

I sub contract people to do work for me and have also sub contracted to others. I think two-way communication and having a clear brief are essential. Remember, as a subcontractor you are likely to have no direct contact with the client and that often, work is sub contracted at the last minute with tight deadlines.

 To save time and stress on both sides, my top two tips for subcontractors are:
  • Once the project starts, do a small sample piece (a page, a profile, whatever the project is about) and send it to whoever you are subcontracting to. Ask them to check it’s the right tone, style etc, so you know you have interpreted the brief correctly before you write the rest of it.
  • Give your subcontracting ‘boss’ regular progress updates and let them know immediately if there is a problem – missing information, problems with the deadline, you can’t get hold of an interviewee etc, so they can do something about it.

Jane Clement


Tip 3: Distinguish between employee and contractor

“If you sub contract someone, make sure you are not their primary source of income. Otherwise the ATO may deem them to be your employee.  Plus, make sure they have their own ABN and the tools to do the work.”

This is s a handy tool to help you make that ’employee v contractor’ decision.

Diana Todd | Balance Tax Accountants

Tip 4: Look for a kindred spirit

“My top tip is to find someone you feel comfortable with who understands your communication style. This being said, have the self-awareness to know your own flaws & be honest about what they can expect from you. They need to understand you’re only human and that subbing is a work in progress.”

Lisa Kniebe


Tip 5: Give a good brief

My tips for subcontracting are:

* Give your subbie a very detailed brief so there’s little room for error
* Give feedback/praise on their work and/or the quote they’ve submitted for the job
* Treat them like you’d want to be treated yourself

I’ve been a subbie in the past and have been amazed how some sub contractors have not even sent an email to say a quote has been unsuccessful, or their brief for the job has been so ‘brief’ that I’m writing in the dark.”

Tip 6: Remember, they’re not you

Remember that they’re not you. If they don’t deliver what’s expected, don’t jump straight to the angry shouty place.

Consider whether there were things that were in your head that didn’t make it into the brief. Also if you have high standards, be clear on what ‘good enough’ looks like in what you expect from your subcontractors. What’s non-negotiable, and what are you comfortable fixing up?

Financials-wise, to make sub contracting worthwhile, make sure you allow both a commission on their work AND allowance for your time to brief/QA. Just charging commission alone rarely makes subcontracting worth it.

Be clear on why you’re subcontracting. Any and all of the following are fine:
* Getting a service to make your business run more smoothly (eg, a VA)
* Outsourcing piece work from a retainer so you can hand off one piece of work but still keep the income stream
* Moving into more of a management/project mgmt role where you’re directing traffic rather than churning out words by the tonne

* Finding collaborators to alleviate the spine-bending loneliness of working for yourself.

Matt Fenwick


Useful resources

Grab our Sub Contracting Agreement template from the Copy Shop, or our Newbie Copywriter Contract pack.

Check out the HOT COPY PODCAST episode on Sub Contracting.


Over to you

Have you been a sub contractor or used the services of one?

Share your thoughts in the comments below.