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Hiring an outside writer: some things to consider

Hiring an outside writer: some things to consider

Sarah Banks -communications gal

Meet Sarah Banks, Communications Manager for the YMCA of Hamilton/ Burlington/ Brantford. My colleague Sarah agreed to guest blog and share her perspective on being an inhouse communications person.

Sarah’s Post: The in-house special

Why a full-time communications employee may be the way to go

We’ve all heard the pros and cons of being a freelance communications consultant but what about the pros and cons on the client side—contracting out communications work vs. hiring a full-time in house expert. My friend and fellow communications gal, Jenny Mitchell has asked me to share my insight on being the latter, as she represents the former. I’m more than happy to do so and take great delight in the paradoxical fact that I’m in my pajamas as I plink away at the keyboard on a Sunday morning.

As I see it, there are three key advantages to hiring in-house. Cost, intimate knowledge of the subject at hand and convenience are the three bonuses to consider. Allow me to elaborate:

Cost According to the www.writers.ca, a database containing approximately 600 freelance writers who belong to the Professional Writers’ Association of Canada (PWAC), freelance writers can earn anywhere from $30-$150/hour for writing and editing services. Assuming a middle ground rate of $100/hour, a business or organization would be shelling out $800/day. On the flip side, an in-house, full-time communications manager at a large not-for-profit organization making a hypothetical salary of $68,000/year* would represent a significantly lower investment and no additional fees for 3rd round edits or killing an assignment (fairly standard practice in the freelance world). Even a corporation or government body with larger budgets for a communications manager (say, a salary of $95,000/year)* would be at an advantage.  So if budgets are tight, in-house may be the cost-effective long term solution because relatively speaking, in-house is practically on-the-house.

*this hypothetical salary is based entirely on my empirical knowledge of the industry.

Intimate knowledge on the subject at hand Knowing what you’re talking about is obviously an asset but as I’m sure Jenny will let you know, it can be both a blessing and curse. But I’ll focus on the positive for my purposes. An in-house communications person is absorbing the organization on a daily basis. They can usually rhyme off your mission, vision and values in their sleep and if they’re really good, they have a better than decent handle on your strategic aspirations. They’re more than familiar with your brand and style guidelines and you can trust they are a good voice for the organization in person, in print and online. Alternatively, an outside consultant will likely need briefing and overviews on all of the above and need to do research of their own—all for a fee of course. And when the assignment is done, they’re off on their next assignment—with a different organization. Some say familiarity breeds contempt but I prefer to think it breeds comfort.



Convenience Sure, I may be stating the obvious a bit here but it’s still worth mentioning. Having a communications expert in the office or cubicle next to you, every day of the week is pretty darn handy.  Just like the free babysitting service from Grandma and Grandpa around the corner, it’s something to be grateful for and something you grow to depend on. Some might even say, once you experience it, you can’t imagine life without it.

Have I convinced you that in-house is the way to go? It certainly has its plusses. But in defense of the alternative (contracting out), there’s a lot to be said for a fresh outsider perspective and that’s where my talented friend, Jenny comes in. Over to you, Mitchell.

Sarah Banks has been a marketing communications professional for over 10 years. She is currently the Communications Manager for the YMCA of Hamilton/Burlington/Brantford—a maternity leave contract that wraps in September 2011. She’s already networking for her next in-house (and hopefully permanent) gig. You can visit her blog at www.sillpillow.wordpress.com

Stay tuned for part two of this discussion with Jenny Mitchell next week.