Thursday, June 21, 2018

Q&A: I Think Subcontractors Aren't Getting Paid Enough

I sent out an email last week to promote a subcontracting opportunity for one of my listings in the "Making Money as a Resume Subcontractor" membership program and received the following response.

I think the 20% to the writer is the wrong way around. Especially for only a couple of assignments per month.

A fairer business model would see the writer getting 80%+ and the originator getting a 10% - 20% “finder’s fee”, based on the premise that the writer is doing the majority of the work. Also, I think the client gets a better result when the writer interacts with them directly, rather than adding links into the chain of communication.

Having said that I am definitely interested in subcontract work and will check out your site and the YouTube.

Just my two cents!

– G.S.

Compensation for subcontract writing projects generates a lot of controversy.

Ask a subcontract writer, and they will tell you the pay is too low. Compensation is generally ranges from 20-35% of the project fee. Factors affecting the percentage include: the amount of client contact (and whether writing from worksheets vs. conducting the phone intake session) and whether the subcontractor or the contracting writer handles revisions. In general, the more client contact and the more of the project the subcontractor handles, the higher the percentage the subcontract writer receives.

Ask a contracting writer about compensation, and they'd remind you how much more goes into the project than the actual writing of the resume. There is marketing and client acquisition time and costs, selling the client on the project and fee (including determining project scope), getting payment and onboarding the client, conducting the information-gathering process, and managing the project through completion, including project finalization. There's also the risk of chargebacks, which is almost always fully realized by the contracting writer, with the subcontact writer paid regardless.

The author of the question above raises several excellent points. Skilled writing should be compensated well. How much better? I would argue that 30 percent should be the mininum amount, and that should be writing from worksheets with no client contact and no revisions. A project with direct client contact (including conducting the intake session) should be compensated at a higher rate than a ghostwriting opportunity.

But it's never going to be an 85/15 or 80/20 split in favor of the writer. The industry standard for compensating referrals is 15%. That's the "finder's fee" model the original email referred to. But that's very different from subcontracting.

It can be tough to find a qualified (especially a certified) writer who will work on a project for less than $200 (their percentage). At current rates, that means the contracting writer would have to charge $600 (at 35%) to $1000 (at 20%). With the industry average for resumes currently at $500-$600, that doesn't leave a lot of wiggle room.

One more point: The author mentioned "especially for only a couple of assignments per month." Many subcontractors only take on a few assignments per week or month. (The industry average for most writers, according to the Resume Writers' Digest Annual Industry Survey  is 1-2 projects per week, or 4-8 projects a month.) Many resume writers pursue subcontract opportunities while they build their own client base, to smooth out the peaks and valleys. Most subcontractors are looking for extra income, experience, and the opportunity to learn how other writers run their businesses and interact with clients. Some subcontract full-time (or as their only work), but that's not the majority of subcontract writers.

Interested in subcontract resume writing? Check out the Making Money as a Resume Subcontractor membership site. Your annual membership includes the "Making Money as a Resume Subcontractor" special report (with information for subcontract writers about compensation, project management, and more -- and profiles of other subcontract writers), plus access to the Directory of Subcontract Opportunities, with more than 25 full listings for subcontract writing (with more being added and updated all the time).

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