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How to hire independent contractors.

In Hal Steward's Follow-Up feature (p. 6), Dan Oswald of Lawrence Ragan Communications bemoans the company's difficulties in hiring and retaining editors.

At the same time, in our lead article on PaperClip Communications (p. 1), publisher Andy McLaughlin says he's quite happy depending on freelancers to provide the bulk of his editorial.

At a time when unemployment is low, workplace issues are high, and telecommuting is rising, publishers would do well to consider engaging freelancers under contract.

At the June NEPA annual meeting, Annette Licitra, editorial director at the National Institute of Business Management, gave an impressively thorough and informed presentation on hiring freelancers.

She said that most editors are good at managing writers and artists. The job requires a vision for the publication, editing talent, respect for the creative person's style, ego-stroking for those who need it, and, above all, an informed and fierce defense of readers' interests.

What's harder for most editors, Licitra continued, is the business and legal side. She offered these key points publishers need to safeguard both their companies and their freelancers:

1. Choose an independent contractor relationship, not an employee relationship, for freelancers. This frees you from paying benefits and equipping the home office, as well as from liability for federal safety violations. You also save on work space at your offices. It frees contractors to work for other clients and on their own schedules.

Once you choose a contractual relationship, don't muddy it by treating the contractor as an employee. Direct the contractor on what needs to be done and when--not how.

2. Have a contract. It should be a standard document modified only slightly for one-time or on-going contributions. You need contracts for marketing, new products and special assignments, as well as for editorial.

Key elements: Rights, including worldwide copyright in all media. Liability. Control over the work. Promotion. Broad sweep and details of assignment, including subject, complexity and scope. Deadlines and fees, including late and kill fees. Noncompetes. Rules governing the contract. Signatures, dates and contractor's Social Security number.

3. Don't act like an employer Giving freelancers computers, software, tech support, supplies or materials blurs their status as independent contractors. So does directing their hours or work processes. Both Microsoft and Perdue "contractors" recently argued successfully that they were really regular employees their companies tried to pass off as independent contractors just to avoid providing benefits, stock options or overtime pay.

NIBM, 1750 Old Meadow Rd., #302, McLean, VA 22102, 703-905-4587,fax 703-905-8042.
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Publication:The Newsletter on Newsletters
Date:Jul 15, 2000
Previous Article:Be cautious when renting opt-in e-mail lists.
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