Freelance Writers: An In-Depth Discussion on Why You Should Register with Staffing Agencies to Land Writing Gigs, Part I

In last Friday’s Quick Tip for Freelance Writing Success, we talked about why freelance writers should contact staffing agencies to get jobs. I just wanted to go into this in a bit more detail here so you’ll fully understand the benefit of this way of landing gigs.

My Background as a Recruit of PT, FT and Freelance Talent

For those of you who may be new to this blog, I was a recruiter in one of my past professional lives. In fact, I started, owned and managed an EDITORIAL staffing agency in New York City from 1996-2004. I’ve recruited for big names in publishing like Random House, McGraw-Hill and Pearson Publishing – in addition to tons of small publishers, mostly in the New York, NJ, Connecticut area.

Then, I was a Regional Director of Recruiting for a firm in Atlanta for a couple of years after that.

Currently, I sometimes recruit freelance talent for my SEO writing company. So, I have about 15 years of recruiting experience under my belt.

I relay all of this so you understand that I know how the process works and what happens when you send your resume/professional credentials off to a firm and think that it disappears down a big, black rabbit hole.

What Happens When I Respond to a Job Ad or Send My Resume to a Recruiter for Writing Jobs?

In some cases, it does disappear down a big, black hole. BUT, sometimes it doesn’t.

freelance-writer-advice-on-working-with-staffing-agenciesTo explain, usually you contact these companies because you’re responding to a job ad you’ve seen someplace, like the ones we post in our freelance job listings every Monday.

The ad may or may not say that they’re a staffing agency/recruiting firm. If you’ve responded to an ad, it could be a specific position a recruiter is trying to fill, or a “draw ad.”

What Is a Draw Ad?

This is the type of ad where recruiters don’t have any specific job order on their desk (eg, a client looking to hire a writer), but they get requests enough for this type of talent that they’ll place an ad to “draw” this type of talent in. The reason for this is, when they get that next job order, they can fill it quickly.

For example, let’s say a firm is looking for a Marketing Copywriter (I’ve seen quite a few ads for this type of writer lately; eg, see first listing in the linked-to post). But, the position is hard to recruit for because there isn’t a lot of talent with the exacting skill set the recruiter’s client needs.

In this case, the recruiter will probably place a series of draw ads that will run perennially (or for a few months or weeks) on sites like Craigslist, The New York Times classified section, etc. The reason is, they want to find as many qualified applicants as they can so they present them to their client when the next job order comes in.

Or, if a recruiter knows that a client is always looking for this type of talent, once they find it, they’ll immediately send over that Marketing Copywriter’s resume/CV/professional profile because they know they’ll likely get a placement.

What Is a Placement?

In recruiting terms, this is when a client hires talent that the recruiter has sent their way. Ka-ching! Money in the bank for the recruiter. Speaking of money …

How Staffing Agencies Pay Freelance Writers

This depends on what type of contract the client and the recruiting agency have decided on. Sometimes, it’s a straight, one-time “finder’s fee;” other times it’s an hourly rate.

As an example, when I owned my staffing agency in New York, one of our copywriters worked for the client on an hourly basis. She would turn in a time sheet to us (Inkwell Editorial) and we would bill the client for those hours. We paid her directly – each week.

So if she worked 30 hours that week, we’d bill the client for those hours each week. Clients would pay us ever 30-60 days. But again, we paid the freelancer every week.

As for how much, that depends on what you negotiate with the client. At the time, we billed the client $40/hour and paid the freelance writer $30/hour.

So if she worked 30 hours in one week, then her gross paycheck at the end of the week was $900. If a freelancer worked on-site, we’d deduct taxes. If they worked off-site, we didn’t.

And FYI, most clients that use staffing agencies have no idea what the freelance talent they hire is being paid. If they’re paying the recruiting agency, for example, $90 per hour for a copywriter, the agency may be paying the copywriter anywhere from a third to 75%.

Most pay somewhere in the 1/3 range, eg, if they’re being paid $90 by the client, then they’re paying the copywriter $30 per hour. So when you see an ad for a copywriter and it’s via a recruiting/staffing agency, paying $40/hour, then the agency is probably billing their client anywhere from $80 to $120.

At my firm, we usually paid talent two-thirds and we kept a third as our profit; sometimes we went 50-50. But again, it’s very individual.

Why Do Businesses Use Staffing Agencies Instead of Hiring Freelancers Directly?

Quite simply, many firms prefer not to deal with the recruiting process, so they use staffing agencies to vet talent. Then, they take the recruiting process from there. Or, they could just need someone quickly and don’t have time to place an ad, source talent, then hire them and hope they work out.

Recruiters/staffing agencies have a pool of ready-to-go talent. These are the main reasons companies use recruiting firms.

Many freelancers price their services much lower than what a staffing/recruiting agency would pay, and this is why freelance talent can earn so much more coming through a staffing agency. This alone is one reason to get on file with a few.

Another reason is consistency of work, which we’ll talk about in the second part of this post, Part II, tomorrow.

Update: Here’s Part II and Part III of this post.

Share Your Thoughts

Have you ever worked with a staffing agency? Did you find it an easy/difficult process? Would you recommend this way of finding freelance writing jobs? Please share in the comments section below.

coverP.S.: Want to start a career as a successful, home-based freelance writer?

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For some reason, I thought your advice would only work for you. I know, call me naive, but I guess it seemed too good to be true. Luckily, I discovered you and liked what you had to say. If it wasn’t for you, I think I would still be trying to break into magazine writing.

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    1. […] Part I of this post, we discussed why you should register with them to find jobs as a freelance writer, and what […]