Posted Under: Hiring writers,managing writing project,rapport with writer
“Send me a contract,” you tell the marketing communications writer, once you’ve decided you like the cut of his jib.
It should be a bit more granular than that. It’s possible to put everything you need into a single contract, but that’s rather unwieldy. Keep in mind these 5 items when kicking off your relationship with a marketing writer:
- Proposal/Statement of Work – Before you sign a contract, you should get a statement of the work to be done. This sets out rather concretely what the writer is going to do for you and by when he will do it. (Don’t expect many details as to how he’s going to write your white paper or brochure; that’s up to him.) You should review the proposal and ensure that it makes sense to you, adding/editing/deleting language as necessary.
- Contract – The role of the contract is not to help us sue each other if it comes to that; contracts are to remind me of what I said and what the writer said, because memory and written notes are not always perfect. Most professional writers have their own contract, and if I have the choice, I’ll use theirs because they’re generally simple. Contracts from the corporate side may be long, and that’s not a problem, but in some corporate contracts the terms are biased too strongly against the writer, so you may end up working with just a purchase order.
- Non-disclosure Agreement (NDA) – You’ll expose the writer to proprietary information. I can’t guarantee you’ll be glad you put an NDA in place, but it’s an effective way of telling the marketing writer that there’s a confidential aspect to what you’re telling him. Give the writer extra points if he has his own bilateral – the mutuality is important – NDA and offers to use it in your relationship.
- W-9 – This IRS form gives the writer’s tax identification number (Social Security number or Employer Identification Number). The writer doesn’t need this, but you do. Kudos again to the writer who has it signed and ready to send to you or your Accounting department.
- Down Payment Invoice – This is optional and negotiable. I don’t mind it when a writer asks for a down payment, because it’s a card I can play if his schedule suddenly starts slipping or he stops returning my calls: “I gave you a good-faith down payment and this is the thanks I get??!!”) A professional writer will let you know ahead of time that he’s going to ask for the down payment.
It sounds like a Big Bunch o’ Paper – and he hasn’t written a single word of marketing content for you yet – but any business relationship worth putting in place is worth putting in place correctly. I’d rather work with a marketing writer who has all these items in place and can send them to me preemptively, than have to scurry around the company and bundle them up myself.
And, if you’re aspiring to a paperless office, you’ll be glad to know that you and the writer can move all of these back and forth – including signatures – without ever using a printer. Between digital signatures on PDF (free), PayPal (2.9%) and electronic funds transfer (free at most banks), you and the writer can do it all without paper.
John White of venTAJA Marketing posts about technology writing from the perspective of the marketing manager. It’s dirty work, but somebody has to do it.