Education content management companies hire many freelance writers and curriculum developers to create supplements/ancillaries (test questions, lecture outlines, study guides, and much more) for textbooks at the college, high school, secondary, and primary levels.
This post is based on Chapter One of my ebook Writing College Textbook Supplements, third edition,which discusses in-depth how to get hired by these companies and by textbook publishers, and how to create high-quality tests, quizzes, instructor manuals, lecture outlines, and other supplements and ancillaries that are crucial curriculum components at all levels of education.
The List of Companies…
is near the bottom of the post. I do urge you to read the entire post, though, because it contains important information you need to know.
What Is an Education Content Management Company?
An education content management company serves as an intermediary between a textbook publishing company (or another educational entity, such as a state department of education) and freelance supplement writers, the “subject matter experts.” Basically, a publisher contracts with an education content management company to deal with all the details that go into creating a finished supplement.
These companies typically handle larger projects, some of which may involve multiple textbooks from the same publishing company and therefore require multiple writers to complete the project within the deadline. The content management companies get the project specifics from the publisher and then they hire freelance writers to do the work. They are responsible for making sure writers do the work correctly and that they meet the publisher’s deadlines.
You’ll see a variety of terms used besides education content management, including:
- Curriculum development
- Curriculum design
- Content development
- Education design
The companies may also use even more terms to describe themselves:
- Project management companies
- Packaging companies
- Development companies
Why Do Textbook Publishers Use Education Content Management Companies?
Because they think it is in their economic interest to do so. They can save money on personnel costs on their end, and they feel that those savings more than make up for what they pay to the education content management companies
A much more debatable reason is that they think they will get higher quality supplements. In some cases this can be true, especially when the personnel at the publishing company either lack the time or skill to hire and manage supplement writers.
What Are the Potential Upsides of Working For These Companies?
If you develop good relationships with several companies, you can get a lot of work. There will, of course, be both lean times and times when you will feel overworked, but overall the projects are spread a bit more evenly throughout the year, in contrast to many of the projects contracted through textbook publishers, which tend to cluster in summer and fall.
The project managers at content management companies often work on projects in multiple disciplines, and sometimes freelance for multiple companies, so if you impress the project managers you work with, they may approach you with projects in several different subject areas, including those in which you do not have a strong academic background. This is a good way to learn new things and expand your knowledge and marketability as a supplements writer.
What Are the Potential Downsides of Working for These Companies?
Read my “Nightmare Freelance Writing Client” blog post. While this is likely an extreme case, I know of other stories of other writers who have had unpleasant experiences with education content management companies.
That said, many freelance writers overall have good experiences, so don’t take what follows as necessarily representative of all education content management companies.
Now for specifics, all in comparison with working directly for textbook publishers…
The education content management companies need to make a profit for what they do, so this means overall lower pay working for them in comparison to working directly with textbook publishers. Pay rates can also vary widely, from as low as $10/hour to $50/hour and more.
Potentially Longer Waits to Get Paid
When you work directly for a textbook publisher, you’ll almost always get paid within 30 days of submitting your invoice. With education content management companies, this wait can be substantially longer. The company submits the invoice to the textbook publisher, often waits up to 30 days to get its money, and then takes another two to four weeks (or more) to pay its writers.
You also don’t get any money upfront, which is often possible when working directly for a textbook publisher.
You May Have to Create Sample Questions When You Apply
It’s understandable that the companies need to be sure you have the ability to create quality questions. Still, it’s time you’re not getting paid for.
Changing Work Specifications
Often the client your company is working with changes its mind mid-project about what it wants. This can be quite problematic for you the freelance writer because you have to go back and make changes in what you’ve already done, often without any deadline extension, or you may be asked to do more work, potentially without more pay.
In a worst-case scenario, you may actually have to redo work you’ve already done and not even get paid for your extra time. That’s what happened to me in the “nightmare” situation I describe in my blog post mentioned above.
You’ll be expected to turn in a set amount of work (a batch) per week. This may not be a problem most of the time, but it can be an issue if you have other projects or other commitments.
Take the Above with a Grain of Salt!
Yes, there are potential downsides to working with education content management companies. But if you make strong connections with good companies and you do good work, and you correctly estimate your hourly rate of return, you can make a decent income.
How Do You Get Hired?
I have much more to say about this in Chapter 3, “Getting Assignments” of Writing College Textbook Supplements, third edition. Typically you fill out an online application and attach a resume or give your LinkedIn profile.
Finding Job Listings on the Internet
Many companies list positions on LinkedIn. Make sure you have the right job search settings so you get notified.
Freelance writing job boards and a variety of education job sites frequently share good leads in the field, as do the many websites that aggregate job listings. Pay attention to the sites that are currently the most comprehensive and up to date.
Websites for Curriculum Development/Textbook Supplements and Ancillary Projects
- Edu Jobs for Flexible Practitioners
- Higher Ed Jobs
- Inside Higher Ed Careers
- eLearning Industry Jobs
- Writing for the Education Market
Search Terms for Finding Curriculum Development/Textbook Supplements and Ancillary Projects
At some of the freelance writing/curriculum development sites listed above, you’ll need to search for specific listings. In addition to putting in specific academic subjects, use search terms like:
- curriculum development
- freelance writer
- education design
- textbook supplement
- textbook ancillary
- subject matter expert
Evaluating Specific Companies
You can read about the experiences of other writers by doing a web search with the name of the company and words such as “writer” and “review” or “complaint.” Glassdoor.com and other sites also provide a lot of information about what it’s like to work for a given company. Keep in mind that a few negative reviews online doesn’t necessarily mean the company will be bad for you; writers who had bad experiences are more likely to write about them online than those who have good experiences, and writers who don’t do quality work are definitely going to have problems, no matter who they work for.
I’ve only done a handful of projects for for these companies. I vastly prefer to work directly with the publisher, primarily because I make more money per hour with fewer problems.
Education Content Management Companies List
I’ve compiled this list of companies over the last decade It is likely not comprehensive, but it does contain most of the major players. Note also that some of the companies are not primarily education content management companies, but they do need supplement writers from time to time.
Important: I in no way vouch for any of these companies. I don’t want to differentiate between them because ownership and management practices can change, for better and for worse, and I have not worked for most of them. This list also contains many companies that focus primarily on the primary school, secondary school, and high school markets. I include them because they may occasionally have projects at the college level, or they may shift their focus in that direction in the future. Also, many of you may be both willing and able to do K-12 projects.
Cenveo Publisher Services
Ceres Publishing Services
City At Work
Core Education and Technologies
How to Market to Education Content Management Companies…
And how to make and maintain excellent working relationships with editors so they hire you again and again, is covered in detail in Writing College Textbook Supplements, third edition.