Hiring Writers? Consider These Legal Issues.

When you hire a writer as part of your SEO strategy or website content, there are a host of legal issues to consider before making the writer permanent.

What Do You Expect From the Writer?

If you are clear about your expectations, you will have no difficulty creating the “scope of work” clause to your contract. As we have defined scope of work many times, the scope of work clause sets out the manner in which the writing will occur.

Think about:

  • Kind of content – Do you want the writer to create an outline (and subsequent drafts) which include specific keywords or do you prefer the writer to take complete artistic control and only submit a final draft? The difference will determine how much you end up paying your writer.
  • How frequently will the writer create content?
  • How do you avoid plagiarism? One option could be having your writer submit a report from a website like Copyscape, every time they submit content to you.

Payments Terms

Payment could be on an hourly basis or per word (fixed fee) basis. If you choose the former, will this include any time spent on research or only time spent on writing? Either way, you need to keep track of time spent on each writing assignment.

If you are on a tight budget, and want to gauge how long a writer might take, give him or her a sample writing assignment. This could reveal a bunch of things like the writer’s style, professionalism, performance standards etc.

For bigger writing projects, propose a milestone type payment system. For example: 30% project completion = 30% of payment. If the writer doesn’t meet the next milestone projections, you should consider drafting a penalty. This could be either having the writer return a part of the first milestone payment or any other fine.

Finally, consider how much the writer will be paid for time spent editing content. If this is included in your proposed fee to the writer, it must be clear. The writer needs to know that any time spend on editing is inclusive in the total fee you are paying him. This is where an hourly payment system might end up costing you a bit more.

It goes without saying that drafting a ‘work for hire’ clause in your employee agreement is a MUST.


Confidentiality comes in to play when you hire a “ghostwriter.” The writer cannot indicate to anyone that he or she is in fact the ‘real’ writer. Another issue with confidentiality comes up when the writer wants to add the given writing task to his portfolio. You may not want the content to be shared with a third-party, especially if the writer proposes to use it as a writing sample.

Confidentiality also comes in to play when you share information about your business with the writer.

Sample Language:

Contractor understands and acknowledges that in the regular course of _____business, Contractor is entrusted with confidences and secrets of _____ and its customers, employees, and vendors. These confidences and secrets must be protected and guarded by Contractor. By Contractor’s signature below, Contractor agrees that Contractor will keep all information regarding _______ business, customers, employees and vendors strictly confidential, and that Contractor shall not use any of this information directly or indirectly without the prior approval of_________. Contractor understands that violation of this provision is cause for immediate termination of this Agreement, and that any disclosure of such information would irreparably harm _____. It is also understood that it is likely that no amount of money could compensate for the harm that would be caused by such disclosure. Thus, Contractor agrees that injunctive relief is an appropriate remedy for breach of this provision.

Independent Contractor

Finally, having all the legal protections necessary to create an independent contractor relationship is a must. That is, you want to limit how much control you exercise over the writer. But make sure everything the writer proposes to do is legal.

Sample Language:

The relationship between ______ and Contractor is that of an independent contractor as defined by California Law, and as such will be terminated for reasons indicated in Section 2. Contractor is free to use any method he deems necessary for completing the Assignment. ____________ will not control Contractor’s methods in completing the Assignment. Contractor agrees that any method used by her will be lawful and in compliance with the law.

DISCLAIMER: This article is just friendly advice and only reflects the personal views of a few ‘ordinary’ people.

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