#146: How to Build a Team of Contractors, with Erin Brenner

Today’s guest is Erin Brenner, an editor in Massachusetts. Erin is the owner of the editorial services agency Right Touch Editing, which specializes in providing small and midsized organizations with writing and editing teams. Erin also offers training in writing and editing, particularly for editors and for professionals who write. 

Today, Erin talks about how she is building a team of contractors for her editorial agency. I believe her advice and the lessons she’s learned will be helpful both to those of you who WANT to build a small agency from your solo business, as well as those, like me, who DON’T want to build an agency but sometimes want or need to partner with another freelancer on a particular project.

In this episode, Erin dives into the details of how she finds and vets contractors, how she charges clients and then pays contractors, and how she onboards her contractors to represent her business well. She also talks about what you should consider before building a team and what challenges she has faced—and much more. 

Erin got to a point in her editing business where she didn’t want to do the editing all the time. She liked managing people and taking on a variety of projects. So, she began to build out her business by hiring contractors to take on the bulk of the work. 

She now has 10-12 contractors that she pays by the project. She makes it clear to new clients that she works with a team, that she doesn’t do the work. She let her previous clients know that she was transitioning to this new model. She also reviews all the client work before it goes to the client, and she is the main contact for the client. 

Before creating an agency, Erin recommends thinking about how you feel about managing people and managing projects—versus providing the actual hands-on services. 

Erin vets contractors by starting with the freelancers closest to her—her mastermind groups—and then moves out to other organizations she’s involved with. She talks about the challenges of advertising publicly. 

Then she vets the recommendations by looking at candidates’ resumes, LinkedIn profiles, websites and social media accounts. She’ll narrow that list down to about four people to conduct interviews with, usually via online video. She will then usually narrow it down further to about two candidates and give them an appropriate editing or writing test. During the interview process, Erin talks through how both she and the contractor prefer to communicate and what she expects. 

Erin hires W-9 independent contractors, not employees. She requires contractors to sign one contract that includes non-compete and non-disclosure language, as well as outlines the scope of the work and relationship.

Erin adds her contractors to several systems, which include Slack and Google Drive (where she stores resource materials and process sheets). She also uses Zapier Webhooks and Zoho Bigin, which provides a suite that includes software for customer relationship management, hosting meetings, managing social media and more, all in one spot. 

Challenges have included making sure there is enough work to keep everyone busy, trying to figure out how many contractors she needs on a team, and dealing with freelancers’ availability. 

Erin talks through how she charges clients and how she decides what and how to pay the contractors. She typically pays a contractor a percentage. She also talks about how she made the business case to her clients when moving to agency—and raising her overall rates. 

Erin recommends you grow at your own pace. You can start using contractors just on certain projects or every once in awhile. But build out a list of people and vet them now, not when you need them. 

Biz Bite: Let software work for you. 
“Software is really great at doing small repetitive tasks over and over again, exactly the same way every time.” 
Zoho Bigin
Zapier Webhooks


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