Working with outsource copywriters

Picture copyright 123RFIn the last of this series of three, this blog looks at working with your outsource writers so you both benefit from the experience.

The legal stuff!

Like any aspect of running your own business, there are legalities involved in using outsource workers.  For everyone’s protection, it’s important you understand the legal stuff.

Employed or self-employed?

Unless you actually intend to employ staff, you must verify the self-employed status of your outsource workers.  Needless to say, that’s not as simple as it sounds!  HMRC’s (Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs) guidelines are ambiguous, to say the least.

Check that your outsource copywriter is registered as self-employed.  If they have recently set up as a freelancer, they must register within 3 months of starting their business.  However, simply being registered as self-employed isn’t always enough to satisfy HMRC.

Registering as self-employed is an age-old scam used by unscrupulous companies to avoid paying employer’s NI contributions and having to provide other employee benefits such as holiday pay.  As a result, HMRC looks very closely at people and companies employing outsource workers.  If you come under scrutiny, you might have to prove your outsource workers are genuinely self-employed.

If your outsource copywriter works only for you, HMRC might deem them to be an employee of your company.  But working exclusively for just one client isn’t all they will be looking at.  A self-employed person is expected to provide their own tools (probably a PC and stationery in the case of a copywriter).  They will also be expected to correct any faulty work in their own time.

HMRC has an online ‘Employment Status Indicator (ESI)’ questionnaire which you or your outsource workers can complete and print off.  However, as this is anonymous, it’s hard to see how it is of benefit!

Perhaps a better option might be to create your own questionnaire based on HMRC’s criteria in the ESI and ask your outsource workers to sign it, and keep your own accurate records.

Outsource workers’ terms and conditions

To avoid any potential problems, it is a good idea to write guidelines or terms and conditions for your outsource copywriters.  This will ensure there are no misunderstandings and it will protect both you and your writers.  You might include:

House styles

This might be the file formats you want used, any ‘banned’ words or phrases, and other writing or brand guidelines that should be adhered to.


You have a responsibility to keep your client’s affairs to yourself.  In some cases, you might have to ask your outsource copywriter to sign a non-disclosure agreement.

Your outsource writers should always behave professionally and not attempt to contact or solicit work from your clients.

Invoicing and payments

State when and how you should be invoiced and when you will pay their bills.

Delivery of the copy

State how you expect the copy to be delivered and stress the importance of meeting deadlines.


Make sure your outsource writer understands who is responsible for any amendments to the copy.

Intellectual property

Clarify the ownership of the ‘intellectual property’ (the copyright).

Protecting your own interests

Unless you trust your outsource copywriter implicitly, he or she should not be in direct contact with your clients.  Some copywriters and even some clients could try to take advantage of the situation.

Check your outsourcers’ work

We recommend never sending any copy to your client until you have checked it over first.  Remember, your reputation is at stake here!


Always give yourself time to check the copy and send it on to your client.  Give your outsource copywriter a deadline at least a day before the one set by your client.  That way, if there are any problems you will have time to rectify them.

(See our earlier blog about deadlines, which talks about an outsource copywriter who failed to deliver)


Rates of pay are something you will have to negotiate with your outsource copywriters.  Be sure to specify the rate for each job to make sure there is no confusion. Remember to make allowances for the time you will spend managing the project when you quote your client for the work.

If you are outsourcing a lot of work, creating Purchase Orders (POs) will help you manage the financial aspect of outsourcing.  Purchase orders should give information such as the copy deadline and the rate of pay.

Finally …

If you are lucky enough to find a good outsource worker – treat them well – they are worth their weight in gold.  That way, you can look forward to a long and mutually beneficial working relationship and that’s what it’s all about.

Blog post by Joy McCarthy


Picture credit: 123RF

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