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A Relief Pitcher For Your Newsletter–How To Hire A Backup Writer

Why Your Newsletter Should Have a Backup Writer

A Relief Pitcher For Your Newsletter–How To Hire A Backup Writer

Mariano Rivera, one of baseball’s finest relief pitchers, began his career as a starter but truly excelled after moving to the bullpen. His remarkable ability to close games earned him legendary status and fundamentally changed his career trajectory.

Just as Rivera was indispensable in clinching games for his team, a backup writer plays a crucial role in maintaining the quality and consistency of your newsletter during unexpected or busy times.

Having a reliable backup writer for your newsletter is like having a star reliever ready to pitch. This role ensures that your content remains engaging and your delivery schedule consistent, regardless of life’s unforeseen challenges.

In this post, we'll explore why a backup writer is vital, and how you can effectively find, train, and manage one to keep your newsletter’s performance strong. We will also explore whether Orbit Marketing could be the right choice for you.

Ready to find the Mariano Rivera for your newsletter?

Let’s get started.

Why You Need A Backup Writer For Your Weekly Newsletter

A Relief Pitcher For Your Newsletter–How To Hire A Backup Writer

Consistency Is Non-Negotiable

In the realm of content creation, particularly for daily or weekly newsletters, consistency isn’t just a preference; it’s the cornerstone of professionalism and reliability. A consistent publication schedule keeps your audience engaged and builds a habit that they look forward to, reinforcing your presence in their digital routine.

This is even more critical for a daily newsletter, where readers build you into their routine, expecting to spend time with you during their morning coffee or evening wind-down. 

A backup writer ensures that your newsletter always goes out on time, maintaining the professional image of your business rather than letting it slide into the sporadic unpredictability typical of personal blogs.

Keeping your content delivery consistent is what marks you as a serious, dedicated business entity, distinct from a casual hobbyist.

Vacations and Sick Days

No matter how dedicated you are, it’s inevitable: life will sometimes get in the way of your best-laid plans. Whether it’s due to illness, family commitments, or much-needed vacations, these interruptions shouldn’t disrupt your newsletter’s schedule.

Having a backup writer ready to step in means your content strategy (and mental health) won’t be derailed by personal circumstances. This continuity is essential not just for keeping your audience engaged, but also for maintaining operational stability.

A reliable backup plan helps prevent your life & business from experiencing chaos during unexpected absences, ensuring that a few off days don’t lead to larger fallout.

Make Your Business Sellable

One of the biggest enhancements a backup writer brings to your business is the reduction of yourself as the key-person dependency. If your newsletter's production hinges solely on you, it introduces a significant risk to the business’s continuity, scalability, and appeal to potential buyers.

By training a backup writer and documenting your processes, you create a replicable system that any competent writer can follow. This not only makes your role within the company less critical but also increases its attractiveness to buyers who prefer businesses with established, scalable operations. A well-documented approach to content creation will turn your newsletter into a transferable asset and command higher multiples.

Delegate and Elevate

Incorporating a regular backup writer into your arsenal allows you to delegate routine writing tasks, freeing up your time to focus on other aspects of business growth or personal enrichment. 

This strategy aligns with Gino Wickman’s concept of “Delegate and Elevate” from the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS), which encourages business leaders to delegate lower-priority tasks to capable hands and concentrate on high-impact activities such as optimizing your landing page, creating better lead magnets, or attracting new subscribers with paid ads.

Moreover, bringing in fresh talent can introduce new ideas and perspectives that might even surpass your own capabilities, potentially elevating the quality and reach of your newsletter.

How To Hire Your Perfect Backup Writer

Finding and hiring the right backup writer is crucial to maintaining the quality and consistency of your newsletter. Here’s how to scout for the best talent and ensure they align with your publication's needs and ethos.

Where To Find Them

A Relief Pitcher For Your Newsletter–How To Hire A Backup Writer

Hire Within Your Organization

Sometimes the best candidate might already be part of your organization. Offering existing employees the chance to take on new challenges can boost morale and provide career development opportunities.

Pro tip: Start with a trial period to limit risk. This allows both you and the internal candidate to evaluate fit before committing to a more permanent role.

Freelancers and Part-Time Hires

Freelancers or part-time writers can be found through your personal network, on social media platforms like LinkedIn, or through freelance job boards. We’ll cover how to pay them in the next section.

Pro tip: Conduct video interviews to not only assess the applicants' communication skills but also their passion and understanding of your project. This approach acts as a preliminary screen to gauge motivation and fit before proceeding to a full interview.

At Orbit Marketing, we ask every candidate to upload a three-minute (maximum) video of themselves answering five simple questions: 

  1. Why are you interested in this position?

  2. What do you know about our company?

  3. What is your ideal work environment?

  4. What are your strengths?

  5. Where do you see yourself in five years?

Agencies

Agencies like Orbit Marketing specialize in providing tailored writing services for newsletters. They ensure a reliable pool of professional writers who are pre-vetted for quality and expertise in specific niches. 

You can also check out directories of top content providers on places like Clutch.co

Pro tip: When using agencies, prioritize a firm with specific expertise in email marketing and newsletters, not just content in general.

Advanced Technique: My Favorite Unconventional Talent Pools

At Orbit Marketing, we’ve had incredible success helping recent college graduates transition out of bridge jobs and start careers in the remote agency world. 

Degree programs like English, History, and Teaching often produce incredible writers who are disillusioned with their traditional career prospects. These groups are often eager for opportunities to leverage their skills in a professional context.

Consider looking into less conventional talent pools that offer a wealth of untapped potential. An additional example is military spouses who are often highly adaptable and looking for part-time remote work opportunities. (I learned this tip when I interviewed Lisa Song Sutton on my podcast)

How to Pay Your Writer

A Relief Pitcher For Your Newsletter–How To Hire A Backup Writer

When it comes to compensating your backup writer, choosing the right payment structure is crucial for maintaining high-quality output.

While there are several methods to consider, some are more conducive to fostering a productive, motivated, and focused writer.

Fixed-Price Projects

Opting for fixed-price projects is an effective way to align the writer's incentives with your goals. This method simplifies budgeting as it involves agreeing on a set fee for a defined piece of work, such as an individual newsletter or a series of posts.

Encouraging efficiency and focus, the writer knows the scope and payment upfront, allowing them to concentrate on delivering quality work within the agreed parameters. 

This setup is particularly beneficial when your newsletter’s “acceptance criteria” are well-defined, making expectations straightforward and manageable.

Pro tip: If you anticipate several revision cycles before approving their first piece of content, this may not be your best bet at first. 

Retainers

Retainers are another excellent option, especially if you need ongoing work. This payment method involves paying your writer a regular fee, typically monthly, in exchange for a committed block of their time or a set number of newsletters.

Retainers guarantee that your writer will be available when you need them, providing stability for both parties. It fosters a deeper understanding of your expectations and style, as the writer becomes more integrated into your workflow and content strategy.

Pay-per-word is a payment method where writers are compensated based on the number of words they produce. 

This method is straightforward and provides a clear metric for payment. However, it can lead to some challenges, particularly in content creation that values quality and conciseness. Writers might be inclined to add unnecessary details to increase word count, potentially sacrificing clarity and impact.

While this approach can be effective for some types of writing, it entirely depends on what you’re looking for and who you collaborate with.

Paying Hourly (Yes, We Actually Frequently Suggest This)

Hourly rates are particularly useful for compensating writers during the initial phases of your relationship, such as during training or while absorbing your content backlog. This is how we start all of our new writers during trial-periods at Orbit Marketing.

Paying your writer by the hour to watch training videos or review past newsletters is an excellent way to ensure they invest the necessary time to understand your brand and content strategy thoroughly without rushing through the learning process.

Once you’ve confidently trained your writer (what we cover next), it can make sense to transition out of hourly pay in favor of a retainer or per-issue budget.

How To Train Your Backup Writer – Four Tips

A Relief Pitcher For Your Newsletter–How To Hire A Backup Writer

1–Create Detailed SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures)

These can exist as basic Google or Notion documents, with supplemental Loom videos for additional support (more on this in the next section).

These documents should outline every step in the newsletter creation process, from brainstorming and research to writing and editing. The more detailed your SOPs, the easier it will be for your backup writer to understand your expectations and maintain the quality of your newsletter.

A good newsletter SOP will include guidance on:

  • SEO Best Practices: Guidelines on optimizing content for search engines, incorporating keywords, meta descriptions, and SEO-friendly headlines.

  • Editing and Proofreading Steps: A checklist focusing on grammar, punctuation, usage, and style consistency.

  • Compliance and Legal Checks: Ensure compliance with laws such as copyright, data protection, and advertising standards.

  • Formatting and Layout: Formatting text, inserting images, and correct use of brand elements like logos and colors.

  • Publishing Protocols: Steps for uploading content to your platform, scheduling publication, and final checks before going live.

2–The Newsletter Recipe Book and Research Brief

This should act as a comprehensive guide for constructing your newsletter based on the various “types” of issues that you produce and the “blocks” you assemble to create a finished issue.

Think of this as a research brief that outlines where to find credible information, how to generate engaging topics, and the process for turning an idea into a full-fledged article. 

Here are some things that the recipe book can cover:

  • Template Designs: Templates for different newsletter types like informational, promotional, and event-driven.

  • Data Sources: A list of reliable content sources and databases, with access information and tips for effective use.

  • Engagement Strategies: Effective calls-to-action, interactive elements such as surveys, and reader engagement techniques.

3–The Common Mistakes Checklist

This is a personal favorite of mine at Orbit Marketing. This checklist should highlight potential pitfalls and pet peeves with advice on how to avoid them. 

To implement this, draft a checklist highlighting common writing pitfalls, such as inconsistent word usage, incorrect handling of currencies and acronyms, or presenting statistics without proper context. This list will help your backup writer avoid these errors and maintain a professional quality in every issue.

Here are some specific “gotchas” to make sure your writer watches out for.

  • Inconsistent Usage: How do you express currencies and acronyms? Make sure you pick one technique, and use it consistently in the entire piece. 

  • Incorrect Links and CTAs: Ensure all links and calls-to-action function correctly.

4– The Communication and Project Management Process

Set clear expectations at the outset of your relationship with your backup writer that address the following concerns.

A Relief Pitcher For Your Newsletter–How To Hire A Backup Writer
  • Establish Where to Communicate: Determine the primary communication channels to ensure clear, consistent interactions. Options like Slack, WhatsApp, email, or SMS can be tailored to different needs.

  • Establish How Often to Expect Replies: Clearly define expectations regarding responsiveness. Establish guidelines such as responding to messages during work hours within a few hours, and allowing next-business-day replies for after-hours communications. This helps set reasonable boundaries and ensures timely interactions without assuming round-the-clock availability.

  • Establish a Shared Task List: Utilize project management tools like Asana, Trello, or ClickUp to track intermediate tasks and deadlines. You can also use these tools to create a Content Calendar.

  • Establish Where to Access Documentation: Centralize all training documentation, SOPs, and resources in an easily accessible location using cloud storage solutions like Google Drive or Dropbox.

Advanced Technique: Partial Delegation

Even if you don’t need a backup writer yet, consider delegating the research and more tedious aspects of content creation to a potential backup writer. 

This partial delegation helps train your writer before you are ready to hire them to write a full issue. You kill two birds with one stone here: vetting a potential hire and freeing up time every week. 

This method involves assigning specific, less critical tasks to your potential backup writer, such as research and the preparation of content drafts. 

There Are Four Big Benefits to Partial Delegation

1–Skill Assessment and Vetting: Partial delegation serves as a practical trial period, allowing you to assess a writer’s research skills, understanding of your topic, ability to follow instructions, and overall writing style. This approach gives you insight into their proficiency and fit with your editorial standards without the full commitment of having them write entire newsletters.

2–Efficiency and Time Management: Delegating research and content drafting can significantly free up your time each week. This allows you to focus on higher-level tasks. 

3–Creating a Content Repository: As your backup writer conducts research and drafts sections of content, they simultaneously contribute to building a rich repository of pre-vetted information and partially developed content. This repository can be invaluable for quickly assembling future newsletters or for pulling information on the fly when needed.

4–Mitigating Risk: With partial delegation, you mitigate the risk of a full handover by keeping control over the critical phases of the newsletter creation process, such as final writing touches and distribution. This phased approach ensures that the quality remains high and consistent with your brand’s standards while gradually increasing the backup writer’s responsibilities.

Even if you’re not immediately ready to hand over the reins to a backup writer for full newsletter issues, you can still effectively use partial delegation as a strategic approach to both train and vet potential writers. 

Advanced Training Technique: Three Very Powerful Loom Videos

A Relief Pitcher For Your Newsletter–How To Hire A Backup Writer

Loom is a video recording tool that allows users to capture their screen and voice simultaneously, making it an excellent resource for creating detailed instructional content and feedback.

By leveraging Loom, you can provide personalized, actionable guidance to your backup writer, which is particularly effective in a remote work environment where direct interaction is limited. Here are three crucial Loom videos to create for training your backup writer:

A Relief Pitcher For Your Newsletter–How To Hire A Backup Writer

Loom 1 – Do a Complete Newsletter, From Zero to Completion

Start with a comprehensive video where you document the entire process of creating a newsletter from scratch. 

Begin by explaining the concept or theme of the newsletter and how you decide on this. Show how you research and gather information, noting any specific sources or databases you prefer. 

Discuss how you organize this information into a coherent structure and then proceed to draft the content, explaining why you choose certain words or phrases.

Discuss the role of any visual elements like images or graphics and how they should be integrated. Highlight how you optimize the newsletter for different devices and email clients, ensuring a smooth reader experience. 

Finally, explain your proofreading and final review processes, emphasizing attention to detail and adherence to style guides. 

This video serves as a complete blueprint for creating a newsletter and sets clear expectations for the quality and thoroughness required. 

Pro tip: Expect this to take 1.5x to 2x the typical amount of time it takes you to usually write your newsletter. 

Loom 2 – Give Feedback and Revision Requests on Their Draft

The second video should focus on providing feedback on a draft submitted by your backup writer. 

Record yourself reading their draft aloud and either make real-time edits or make specific requests as to what you’d like to see changed and improved.

In either case, discuss your reasoning for each change, whether it's tweaking the language for clarity, adjusting the tone to better suit your audience, or reorganizing content for better flow.

This feedback should be constructive and comprehensive, covering not only grammatical corrections but also stylistic considerations and content relevance. 

Taking the time to explain the nuances of choosing specific words or phrases and the importance of aligning with the newsletter's overall voice will really help your new writer “download” all of the preferences and opinions from your mind into theirs.

I cannot possibly stress enough how much time this will save you down the road.

Loom 3 – Turn Their Draft Into a Complete Newsletter 

Even after a few cycles of revisions, you still might want to make a few tweaks before you feel ready to broadcast the issue.

Practically speaking, you might also want to get the newsletter out the door before you have time to go through another cycle of edit requests. 

In this case, use the third Loom to turn their draft into a complete newsletter, ready for sending. 

Start with any final adjustments to the content, then move on to the technical aspects of sending a newsletter. Show how to select the appropriate audience segmentation, scheduling, craft effective and compelling subject lines, and write preview text that increases open rates. 

Taking this video all the way through hitting the lovely beehiiv publish button and double-checking the settings leaves no room for error or guesswork.

Pro tip: 95% correct by someone else is still a HUGE WIN. It may take several weeks to feel confident enough to send someone else’s work, however, if doing a newsletter on your own takes 2-6 hours, scaling that down to a quick 10-25-minute polishing session is still a fantastic reduction in the amount of your time and effort required to publish content that meets your standards.

Conclusion – Taking the First Action Step

In the realm of both baseball and newsletter production, the value of preparedness cannot be overstated. 

Reflecting on Mariano Rivera’s career, it was his early, unexpected transition to a relief pitcher that set the stage for his legendary success. He was prepared to step into a role that he hadn’t originally anticipated, embodying the maxim, "Start before you are ready."

In the same vein, securing and training a backup writer for your newsletter should be approached with a proactive mindset. "Dig your well before you're thirsty," as the adage goes.

Even the most skilled writers, much like talented pitchers, require a period of adjustment—expect to go through two to three revisions as you and your backup writer learn to synchronize your styles and understandings.

Here are a few ways to start before you are ready

  • Put out feelers in your network for potential writers

  • Take a discovery call with an agency

  • Consider partial delegation to test the waters

Don’t let all of the steps, processes, and checklists scare you. The 20% of efforts that yield 80% of the results are simple: use paid trial projects with loom based feedback. Everything else can come with time.

It’s time for that vacation

Now, with a capable backup writer ready to take the baton when needed, you can confidently plan that long-overdue vacation or step away for a personal break, knowing your newsletter is in competent hands.

With beehiiv, your newsletter’s growth can get a boost with features like automations, the beehiiv Ad Network, Referral Program, and so much more.

You don’t have to take our word for it, but try out the 30-day free trial to see if you like it!

Happy Emailing!

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