That New Writer? Don’t Be Afraid to Start Out Small

This post was written by John White on Thu, 11 Nov 2010 11:53:10 +0000
Posted Under: Hiring writers,managing writing project,rapport with writer

Even when your content needs are enormous, you don’t need to start by taking a huge bite out of them. Start out small with a new writer.

What happens when you take over the marketing reins in a mid-sized technology company?

“There were a jillion case studies, blog posts, newsletter articles, white papers and collateral pieces in various stages of completion, from dream state to staging server,” one marketing manager moaned to me. “I needed a marketing communications writer to help me get through everything, but I didn’t want to dive in too deep with an unknown entity and run the risk of having to do most of the work myself.”

She was tempted by the retainer model of, say, $3,000 per month for an all-you-can-eat writer, so that she could simply queue up work and start seeing progress in short order.

Instead of embarking on an ambitious editorial calendar from top to bottom, she found a writer and picked three discrete, small projects for him to work on. She made progress, albeit incremental, on her to-do list and became more comfortable with the writer.

This approach can even work for big-ticket items like white papers. Break these projects into two deliverables: outline and draft. If the outline is a train wreck, you pull the plug and find a different writer. You make progress on the project, without incurring too much of the risk of working with a writer who is an unknown quantity.

I’d recommend that especially for PR and marketing agencies whose clients ask, “Can you write a white paper for us?” and who say, “Of course,” even if they know they’re going to have to outsource it. The clients are the ones with final say on the paper, and if the agency dives in with the wrong writer, it gets stuck in the middle between the two ends. Breaking a project like a white paper into smaller milestones just makes sense for them.

How do you start out with new marketing communications writers?

P.S. I’m also pleased to point to my guest-post this week on new realities for the beginning writer at Make a Living Writing. Drop by and have a look.

John White of venTAJA Marketing is a marketing communications writer for technology companies. He posts about technology writing from the perspective of the marketing manager. It’s dirty work, but somebody has to do it. Download his eBook, “10 Questions to Ask When Hiring Your Marketing Communications Writer.”

photo credit: Radhika Bhagwat

Reader Comments

The retainer model certainly benefits both parties if they can work together well.

However, I’m a wee bit dubious about wearing those pink shoes. Of course, at home in my boxer shorts, no one would ever know. Still… 😉

#1 
Written By Mark McClure on November 13th, 2010 @ 23:00

Needn’t be pink…

#2 
Written By John White on November 14th, 2010 @ 20:38

Hi John,

As a new marketing writer, the prospect of a looming white paper on a completely new subject can knock you from the useful and productive “this is a manageable challenge” to extremely unproductive stress. You have to start small and build up. Outlines are good, or even ready to be published summaries – much more readable, and these can be developed into full white papers when the author is ready.

#3 
Written By Rob on November 14th, 2010 @ 19:25

Outlines are better than good; there’s no getting around them for large pieces. Thanks, Robert.

#4 
Written By John White on November 14th, 2010 @ 20:37