If you’re a freelance writer who has been in the business for several years, you might have wondered if you should move from a contractor to an agency setup.
What is an “agency setup?”
Well, instead of handling every job yourself, as an agency, you would hire other writers to take on some of your work. This is called subcontracting.
For you, this could be the answer to a dream. You’re a successful freelance writer who earns a decent living. You’ve thought about ways to increase your income but not your workload. You like to manage people and you’re organized, so becoming an agency has crossed your mind.
But is it the right decision?
Can it take you to the next level OR will it hurt the quality of your work and your relationship with your clients?
Let’s delve into this further…
Why Become an Agency?
There are 2 reasons why you might contemplate transitioning into an agency.
- You have way too much work.
You’ve built your business to the point that you’re working too many hours and now you have to turn down jobs. How can you keep that money… well at least part of it? The answer: You subcontract to writers and become an agency.
- You like to edit.
I also know many people who consider becoming an agency because they prefer editing to writing. Small freelance writing agencies don’t have editors on staff, so if you start your own, you’d likely be the one reviewing and editing all of the content.
Unless you choose your subcontractors carefully, some of that editing could take a long time. Even with professional writers, every now and then, you may get someone who doesn’t do the job well. It’s up to you to edit that piece before it goes to your client. This can take a lot of time, but if you prefer it to writing, then becoming an agency could be the right move.
Pros and Cons
As with anything, there are pros and cons to starting an agency.
- You can move away from doing all of the writing yourself. If you still want to write, that’s perfectly fine as long as it doesn’t interfere with managing all of the clients, writers and deadlines.
- Starting a freelance writing agency may allow you to earn higher rates from clients, too, as it gives the appearance of a more professional, trusted solution. Throw into that the extra manpower you’ll have, and having an agency can double or even triple your earnings.
- You have to be careful when managing people. It’s no longer just you and your computer. It’s you and other writers who may have different personalities, quirks and yes, even flakiness. They can miss deadlines, which puts you in a terrible position.
- It’s your agency. The onus of the job is on you, not your writers. Telling a client that you have a flaky writer who can’t meet their deadline makes you look bad, not your writer.
So many times I have had to jump in and come to the rescue to meet a deadline. One time, one of my writers got sick and I had a wedding to go to. I had to cancel last minute because I had a project to finish. It was a great client and I didn’t want to risk losing him.
That’s just a realistic part of owning an agency.
If a writer under-performs, you have to jump in. The work that you submit from your agency has to be pristine, without error and an exemplary piece of writing if you want to keep that client.
If your writer failed, you have to rewrite the work and then speak to that writer hoping they’ll explain their issues. If they don’t – or if they take it personally – you have a problem on your hands. Yes, you’re the one that has to do the firing. Not fun.
All of this takes time, and it has to be juggled. Meanwhile, you still have to keep a smile on your face for your clients!
If you’ve made the decision to become a freelance writing agency, it’s important that you realize that the transition takes time.
Most freelance writers don’t know a group of skilled writers who can take on their workload right away. If you do, that’s a huge plus. Either way, it’s best to begin transitioning with only one writer and see how this works out for at least a month before taking on anyone else.
In that month you’ll learn what is involved with managing, communicating and working with another writer. If this is successful, add one more writer to your team. If you build slowly, you will be successful.
Finding Success as an Agency
If you want to become a successful agency, there are some traits and skills you should have. You can learn these as you go, but they will be needed as you work towards long-term success.
- You’re super organized. You have to keep track of all the clients your team is writing for, which writers are working on what project, deadlines, writers’ schedules, paying writers, bookkeeping, contracts between clients and contracts between you and your writers and more. Time management is key. Yes, it can get tedious and disorganized quickly, which is why I highly recommend management software like Basecamp and invoicing programs like Freshbooks.
- Great communication skills. As an agency, you have to not only deal with the client, but your writers as well.
- Know how to market yourself, your writers and your company. Remember, you’ll be earning less per project so you need a steady flow of work coming in or you won’t be able to scale your earnings. You might actually lose some earnings if you don’t give marketing the amount of time it needs.
- Excellent managerial skills. Managing other writers can be quite the challenge. You have to deal with them getting sick, emergencies, missing deadlines and the list goes on. If the writer has to drop out because of one of these issues, that is of no concern to the client. You still have a deadline to meet so it’s on you to either do it yourself or assign it to another writer.
What Should YOU Do?
Becoming an agency is neither right nor wrong; it’s your choice.
Your decision will depend on the type of person you are. Some love writing and want to only manage themselves. Other writers love to build businesses and manage people and no longer want to write. In addition, becoming an agency can become lucrative if done properly.
Me? I write now and then if a client expressly asks me and is willing to pay my higher rate. For the most part, I prefer to manage a group of writers who do a lot of the content work.
I love people and I love to teach others about writing, so for me and maybe for you, running an agency is a win-win situation. Think about it, and do what feels right for you and your career.