When you hire a technical marketing writer — or any writer — you’ll need to put some paperwork in place. Professional writers have these items ready and are prepared to send them promptly.
“Send me a contract,” you tell the marketing communications writer, once you’ve decided you like the cut of his jib.
There’s usually a bit more to it than that. A few other kinds of paperwork help to smooth the business relationship with your writer.
5 business instruments your writer should have
- Proposal/Statement of Work – Before you sign a contract, you should get a statement of work. It sets out what the writer is going to do for you, by when he will do it and how much he will charge. (If the details of how he’s going to write your white paper or brochure are important to you, put them in your creative brief.) Be sure the proposal makes sense to you; if not, then modify it.
- Contract – The role of the contract is not to help my writer and me sue each other. Contracts are to remind me of what I said and what the writer said, because memory and informal notes are not always perfect. Most professional writers have their own contract, and if I have the choice, I’ll use theirs for simplicity. Contracts from the corporate side can get long and protective, and sometimes their terms are biased too strongly against the writer.
- Non-disclosure Agreement (NDA) – You’ll expose the writer to proprietary information. The NDA is an effective vehicle for telling the marketing writer he’s not allowed to reveal it to anybody else. Give the writer extra points if he has his own bilateral NDA – the mutuality can be important — 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: “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.
A technical marketing writer has all of that?
It sounds like a Big Bunch o’ Paper — and he hasn’t written a single word of 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 of these items in place and can send them to me preemptively. It’s better than having to scurry around the company and bundle them up myself.
And, if you’re aspiring to a paperless office, note 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), DocuSign, PayPal (2.9%) and ACH electronic funds transfer (free at most banks), you and the writer can do it all without paper.