The Work-for-Hire Relationship. It’s Complicated.

Untitled-1I earn my living as a work-for-hire writer. A work-for-hire writer is the same as a freelance writer. She, or he, sells writing services, usually for a flat fee.

Work-for-hire is different from traditional publishing.  Answering questions about what it is and isn’t is a lot like being in “relationship limbo” and completing the relationship question on your Facebook profile.


Some questions are hard to answer.

Oh, you’re an author! What kinds of things do you write?

This one is easy:

“I’m a freelance writer. I write a lot of different things for a variety of publishers, mostly for Christian publishers, children’s books and devotionals . . . some educational writing, too. There’s a list of my current book projects on my web page,”

Are your books in the library? Where can I buy them?

This is where it gets complicated. A WFH writer signs a contract for every project, or book, that she writes. Often, a contract has specific language about how or if the writer can market the book. A WFH writer does not own the copyright or any rights to the book. Her name might be on the cover, but the publisher owns the book and controls all the marketing.

I follow two rules in my freelance business: 1. I never promote one publisher’s book more than another’s and 2. I direct “where can I buy” questions to my publishers’ online catalogs instead of to booksellers’ web sites. Being fair to all my clients is important to the integrity of my business.

Do you do book signings, speaking engagements, and sell your books?

Another tricky question. The short answer is, “No.” Not unless a client asks me to. I have no restrictions for promoting my service business: Jean Fischer, Writer/Consultant; however, if I engage in marketing a publisher’s books without their permission, that’s a problem. Then I would be representing their product for my personal gain, and that’s a conflict of interest.

The same applies to speaking engagements and selling autographed copies. If I speak to a group, it is about the business of writing. I don’t sell or promote books for my clients. If someone wants a copy, I direct them to purchase it from the publisher or their favorite bookseller. If my name is on the book, I’m happy to sign it for anyone who wants an autographed copy.

So, you see, answering work-for-hire questions can be complicated.

I find it much easier to say:

“I’m a work-for-hire writer, and I love it!”

You might also be interested in another of my blog posts: “Ten Things I’ve Learned from 15 Years of Freelancing”


*NOTE: Any ads appearing in this post were not put there by me nor do I endorse them. WordPress sometimes posts ads in exchange for hosting this free blog.



Filed under Aspiring Writers, The Business of Writing, work for hire

4 responses to “The Work-for-Hire Relationship. It’s Complicated.

  1. klelange

    It is complicated! But we get it, even if non writers do not initially. Wishing you all the best with your projects!

  2. Hi Jean – You did a great job clarifying your job description. I’ve shared this on Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. Susan 🙂

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