How One Writer Used Smart Outsourcing to Earn 30% More

Freelancers can earn more with outsourcing

A few years ago I made a shocking discovery.

I took a long, hard look at how I was using my time — and I was thoroughly ashamed.

This was the breakdown:

  • Market research on prospective clients: 20%
  • Marketing to prospects (cold-calls, emails, social media, blogging, website): 20%
  • Project research: 40%
  • Writing: 20%

Notice anything amazing about this?

I only spent 20% of my time doing the thing I loved best…the thing I was supposed to be making money from: WRITING. I spent the other 80% preparing to make money (i.e. research and marketing).

Of course, without marketing and research we couldn’t write great copy or get high-paying clients.

But think about this: Your writing is the only thing of any real value, in terms of income generated.

That simple thought led me to a really big idea. An idea that boosted my income by $24,000 a year.

Here’s how it works…

1. Analyze how you spend your time

Spend two weeks noting the time you spend on each task.

Be specific. What kind of marketing are you doing? Cold-calling prospects? Searching for names on LinkedIn? Writing emails? Blogging?

What kind of research are you doing? Are you scouring medical journals, checking company websites, or looking for the specs of a B2B product? Be specific.

2. Decide what you DON’T want to do

Take a look at your list of tasks, and ask three questions:

  1. Which tasks could easily be done by someone else?
  2. Which tasks do you hate the most?
  3. Which tasks must be done by you?

Chances are, a lot of the research can be done by someone else. For instance, searching for prospects’ email addresses with ‘stealthy Googling’—essential, but boring…

Or scouring medical journals for information about a supplement ingredient—essential, but VERY time-consuming…

Truth is, probably 40% of your work can be outsourced. But you want to make sure it’s smart outsourcing.

3. Outsourcing that makes $$ sense

I tried four different companies before I found one I could trust.

I asked for someone fluent in English, with a background in health, and a track record of researching complex issues and writing short, concise summaries. I also asked for a sample of my assistant’s work before signing a contract.

For $400, I got a virtual assistant for two weeks. Her English is perfect, and she has a degree in biology. It’s important to clarify what you’re looking for in a virtual assistant.

She researched ingredients for a supplement I was marketing. She dug up names and emails of prospective clients. Then she sent me a 20-page report.

I had 50 new prospects to call, and enough research to start writing a new sales letter — all without lifting a finger.

The impact on my copywriting business was amazing.

4. Measuring the results

I paid $400 for work that would have taken me two weeks — and I shaved two weeks off an 8-week project.

So instead of my typical $13,000 for an 8-week project, I earned $12,600 for a 6-week project. In other words, the $400 I paid for outsourcing increased my weekly income from $1,625 to $2,100.

That’s an extra $24,700 a year — a 30% increase for me.

Outsourcing to the Third World may not be for everyone—but with some careful research and vetting, I found competent contractors, saved a bundle, and grew my income.

Have you increased your income by outsourcing? Tell us in the comments below.

Nick Daniel is a freelance direct-mail copywriter for alternative health clients including Dr. Sears. You can find his book on Amazon: The Wealthy Health Copywriter

Freelance Business Bootcamp: How to Launch, Earn, and Grow into a Well-Paid Freelancer. By Carol Tice and Neil Tortorella

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38 comments on “How One Writer Used Smart Outsourcing to Earn 30% More
  1. Sherry says:

    Thanks for this article, Nick & Carol.

    I’ve been truly pondering outsourcing some of my research as I’ve been brutally reminded how I can get sucked into the trap of research. I say this will a bit of disdain, but I love learning so much so I forget I have articles I’m to be writing from the research I combing through. Thank goodness I write mighty well under distress of deadlines.

    Again, thank you for your prospective on outsourcing and how it can actually propel our business forward.

  2. John says:

    You can definitely see your skills within the work you
    write. The world hopes for more passionate writers like you who are not afraid to mention how they believe.
    All the time follow your heart.

  3. Cat Johnson says:

    A lot to think about here. Thanks for the post.

    Carol, you know that stunned feeling you had when you realized a nonfiction writer created outlines then outsourced their books? You just evoked that in me. Going to mull that over for a bit.

    I can see outsourcing research, but like some of the other commenters, I like the writing too much to outsource it (and, re-drafting someone else’s draft is a pain ;))

    Cheers,
    Cat

  4. Sherri says:

    Like Carol, I don’t believe in outsourcing to foreign countries. We get enough of that from amoral US corporations that ship jobs, which should be for Americans, overseas. If I’m ever in a position to hire a virtual assistant, I believe in supporting my fellow US citizens even if I have to pay more. Sometimes it’s not just all about the money. 🙂

    • Carol Tice says:

      The old labor unionist in me doesn’t want to go there, as long as there’s one US teen I can hire, I’m going to do it. But I don’t judge, and recognize that not everyone is in a financial position to do that. I’ve made sacrifices other places in my business to pay US wages, because that’s just my values.

      I also hear a lot of horror stories about stuff gone wrong on Fiverr and places like this, and for me it’s not worth what can be a trial-and-error process. But if it works for you and you can sleep at night with it, more power.

  5. Nick Daniel says:

    It’s always a challenge! I’m constantly looking for new ways to write more and do less of everything else. We all need to market ourselves, and although it’s possible to automate marketing to some degree, you always have to find that balance between efficiency and personalisation (the personal touch). That seems to be a challenge I come up against often. Thanks for your comments 🙂

  6. The post itself was interesting, but as someone who doesn’t have the capacity to outsource anything (yet), I just thought I would comment on the point you made in the very beginning: we often can’t see the forest for the trees. We all love writing! It’s what we do. But then we get bogged down with all the extras, and a few leaps and bounds later, we find that we’re not getting much, if any, writing accomplished.

    I’ve been there. It always surprises me, and I always end up back there.

    Life is annoying like that. Haha.

    Jonathan

  7. Great post ahead. Even i am using the same strategy running multiple blogs with multiple authors. If someone manage time properly then ofcouse he/she can increase more then 30% of income by just outsourcing.

    • Nick Daniel says:

      Hi Kamlesh – sounds like you’re making really good use of this strategy 🙂 I’d be interested to know how you manage your various authors, whether you give them an outline, a topic, how you manage style and content and so on – that would be very interesting to know! 🙂

  8. Wonderful post today! I learned a lot, and was agreeing with the other non-techie people since I just spent an hour on the phone trying to get my Kindle app to work (with a guy from India – very nice, but hard to understand at times), because I downloaded Nick’s book, but couldn’t open it.
    (Carol is thinking – hey – why isn’t Debbie working on her query for Pitch Clinic right now?)
    The idea of a virtual assistant is something I will definitely want to explore when my business picks up, because I love, love, love writing.

    • Nick Daniel says:

      Good to hear you enjoyed the post, Debbie 🙂 But sorry to hear about your kindle app! I hope it worked out, and you were able to read the book 🙂

  9. Ava Jarvis says:

    Outsourcing non-writing stuff, like research, tends to work really well. I know an NYT best-selling author who has to write three or more novels a year. They couldn’t do it without their researcher!

    • Nick Daniel says:

      That’s a good point Ava 🙂 Same for fiction as well – there are more than a few best-selling authors who write the plot outlines, then outsource the actual writing. Which is why they can churn out so many books each year!

      • Carol Tice says:

        The first time I met a coach who outlines her nonfiction how-to books and then hires a writer, I was stunned. But it’s definitely done! And to her, it’s worth it — she has a lot of ideas and that way she can put more projects in the pipeline.

        But for me, I want to outsource OTHER THINGS — not writing. Which I heart.

  10. The IRS requires that when you outsource to foreign companies/persons for services, you must withhold a percentage of payments as income tax unless you have proof that the entity to which you are outsourcing performs all of their services outside the United States. This proof is in the form of properly executed IRS forms W-8BEN-E (for companies) or W-8BEN (for persons) that you must keep on file in case you are audited. An additional statement from foreign persons certifying that 100% of their services are performed outside the United States is recommended. These forms are not submitted to the IRS but simply kept on file by you. Only a few sections of these forms need to be filled out for this purpose. Please contact me if I can help further with more information!

  11. Chelsea says:

    Wow Nick, great article with great timing.

    I’ve been thinking about exactly this lately. I started timing all of my tasks throughout the workday last month, and the results are insanely interesting… and, like you found, I spend way less time on actual writing than anything else.

    Plus, in the past two weeks, I’ve found myself spending hours on the phone with customer service reps just trying to get things working properly so my business can function… easily something that could be taken care of by someone else via my Google Voice account. (And time that I could have spend on activities that increase my bottom line!)

    I’ve done some research into some VA companies in India (I used to live and work there, so I know they’ve got some brilliant talent!), but I’ve also heard good things about some companies in the Philippines.

    Would you mind sharing which company you ended up with?

    Thanks so much! (And congrats on that extra $24k!)

    • Nick Daniel says:

      Thanks Chelsea 🙂 I ended up with brickworkindia (www.brickworkindia.com) – they have a very strong pool of assistants, with different areas of expertise. They cover three areas – Admin, Knowledge and Technical. So they can do anything from phone calls to in-depth research to website development. There are good companies all over, including the Philippines – but it’s question of seeing who is the right fit for you and your set of tasks. Glad to hear you’ve started timing your tasks, and I hope you get some good virtual assistance soon! 🙂

    • Carol Tice says:

      At this point in MY business, of course, I outsource a TON, because it would not be humanly possible for me to do everything required for my blog, Freelance Writers Den, and Useful Writing Courses. Some of the tech stuff I don’t even know HOW to do!

      My problem is as fast as I outsource, I STILL find I’m working way too many hours. Still trying to get more efficient so my work/life balance is better!

      • Chelsea says:

        “Some of the tech stuff I don’t even know HOW to do!” <- Hahaha, this is SO me as well! Can't wait to get some help on this stuff!

        • Nick Daniel says:

          I should add that outsourcing doesn’t always have to be foreign. One example – marketing a book via social media can be extremely time-consuming, but I’ve paid $20 on Fiverr for someone to set up tweets, instagram posts, register the book on book marketing sites etc. – work that would eat more than a few hours out of my day, but that continues reaping benefits for a month…

          • Carol Tice says:

            Because I personally don’t believe in outsourcing abroad (as long as there is an unemployed American left who could do the work), I’m a big fan of hiring teens and young adults out of community college writing/design programs. They need projects! And are affordable.

        • Carol Tice says:

          See if you can find someone to trade copywriting with, as others have suggested here! At one point, I did that to get a header I wanted, I wrote the About page of a designer’s website.

  12. Kayla says:

    I’ve started doing a bit more outsourcing and I’ve found that it’s been extremely lucrative so far. The only down-side is that my assistant has started to get super busy that she can’t take on any more work.

    • Nick Daniel says:

      That’s great to hear, Kayla (though not the part about being too busy!):) I’ve found that once you find the right assistant, developing that relationship is key. The longer you work with someone, the better they understand your needs, and the more ‘bang’ you get for your ‘buck’.

  13. I’m on the other end of this. I research history and environmental concerns for museums and government agencies. Researchers can save you time. Much of the knowledge others would have to look up is already in my head or at my fingertips, and I know where to search for the obscure information. What takes me 1 hour could take someone else 10, and they may not even find what they are looking for.

    • Nick Daniel says:

      Charlene, I agree – that’s another great benefit of outsourcing. I’ve often outsourced to experts who can find information much quicker than I can.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Good point, Charlene! If you can find someone who knows the topic, maybe it’s a big time-saver for you as the writer.

  14. Ken Little says:

    I have some minimal skills in Web page design, but it takes me a long time and the results are usually so-so. I wanted a landing page, so I outsourced the work to Brickwork. I was very specific about what I wanted and had an image already picked out. They came back with a very reasonable price and delivered exactly what I wanted.

    • Nick Daniel says:

      Great to see you had a positive experience as well, Ken 🙂 And yes, there’s all kinds of things you can outsource…especially technical jobs (if, like me, you’re not a techie)…And as you say, the key to success is to provide a very specific / detailed outline of what you want done.

  15. Abby Nduta says:

    Oh, I also outsourced some few articles when I had a lot on my hands. It was a lot of work ‘recruiting’, you know, reading samples, commenting on the content written etc. I’m done with my projects now though. It was a very challenging time. I didn’t even have time to do research.

    • Nick Daniel says:

      Hi Abby – yes it does take some vetting to find exactly the right assistant. But well worth it, for time-consuming tasks!

    • Carol Tice says:

      Well, that’s always been my issue with outsourcing — I hear a lot of stories that you end up doing so much rewriting you could have done it yourself. But Nick’s idea of outsourcing research instead intrigues me!

  16. Abby Nduta says:

    I like the outsourcing part. Of course, you can outsource to me in the third world:-)