Draft cuts writer payout work to a few minutes per week

5 million
words (4,000 articles) written per month
saved per year in payment errors
less time spent on preparing and processing payments
Company Info
Marketing content, content as a service
HQ Location
Toronto, Canada
Customer Since
Freelance writers
Payout Countries

Draft offers its customers access to a network of high-quality content creators who produce blog articles, landing page copy, newsletters, emails, social media posts, and more on demand. Manually paying those creators was a tedious process that took time and was inaccurate. By implementing Trolley, the Draft team saves hours of work per week and at least $60,000 per year in payment errors.

The challenge

Founded in 2018 as Contentfly, Draft is building the content infrastructure to help companies of all sizes solve content problems and tell their stories at scale. Through their SaaS platform, Draft’s customers are able to engage a network of high-quality, on-demand creators to produce content on demand.

And no, they didn’t write this article, although we’re sure they could have.

Draft has seen a significant increase in demand for its services over the past few years. As such, Draft has needed to grow, adding hundreds of writers who now produce over 4,000 pieces of content a month, totalling 60 million words every year.

Reliably paying this growing network of creators was a challenge to scaling, one they predicted as far back as 2020. At that point, they knew it was time to do something about it.

Trolley has helped us save actual, tangible money. It’s also sped up our payment process dramatically.

Trolley is a one size fits all solution to automate freelance payments. It’s a perfect fit for us.

-- John Thomas, COO of Draft
Early in their history, Draft relied on a manual, honor system where writers submitted invoices for work completed. Managing this process took a half-day out of Thomas’ week, and he frequently encountered complications. Blocked payments, account reviews, and compliance checks led to payment delays and logistical headaches.

As the pool of Draft creators grew, Thomas knew they would need to automate payouts—for the good of Draft and his own sanity. He estimates that the same process today—with a larger pool of writers—would take a full day per week to complete.

He first investigated Stripe Connect, which seemed workable but lacked support for the number of countries that Draft would need to send payouts to. Thomas and Draft’s CTO Vasil Damyanov also looked at PayPal's API but felt it opened up a technical “can of worms” to implement with a limited amount of customer support offered.

The solution

As they learned more about Trolley, Thomas and Damyanov liked that they could start with out-of-the-box, no-code payment automation features.

Other platforms were all manual or all APIs. Trolley was the perfect scalable solution. I didn’t need a single engineer to get Trolley up and running, but I knew that when we were ready to, they could integrate the API.

Trolley’s predictable pricing model also appealed to Thomas. Trolley offered a monthly subscription fee (with no annual commitment), whereas other options either had large up-front costs or charged a percentage of each payment.

“It was a huge win for us to offer our creators a one-dollar fee per transaction instead of a percentage that could add up to $20 to $40 per payment,” shares Thomas. “We knew by leaving more of their earnings in their pockets; we’d face less resistance when we asked them to move away from PayPal. Our content creators love that they’re not spending a ton of money every month on fees.”

The integration

Draft selected Trolley as their payouts platform and implemented it in February 2021. Using Trolley’s Zapier connections, Thomas connected it to their invoice system. Though there was still a manual component to processing payments, his time savings were already significant. In October of that year, Thomas tasked his Product Manager, Nelson Truong, to directly integrate Trolley’s API platform into the Draft platform. This resulted in automated, seamless payments.

“It was pretty simple for the engineering team to make changes and build out the functionality,” Truong explains. “Using the help chat and the support team at Trolley, I got very quick, live responses, and they continue to support us when any questions arise.”

Draft's platform tracks each creator’s completions and sends that information to the Trolley platform every Thursday to ensure accurate payments based on automated invoicing. After the team approves creator payments, they receive an email confirming that funds will land in creators’ accounts within two to three business days. The finance and operations teams work together to push payments, check statuses, or fix issues.

The results

With these integrations up and running, Draft’s team now spends only 15 minutes per week reconciling invoices and sending payments instead of the day they estimate it would take using their previous manual process. That’s a 96% reduction in time spent remitting payments.

Technologically, things have also been running very smoothly. “Ever since we rolled out the feature to automatically pay, we haven’t needed to touch our Trolley integration,” says Truong. Draft has experienced another major bonus from implementing Trolley above and beyond the time savings and smooth integration: They’ve saved actual money.

“Discrepancies in what the writers invoiced versus what they completed could sometimes be in the range of five to ten thousand dollars per month that was being incorrectly paid out,” Thomas explains.

Our system automatically creates the invoices based on actual work completed and pushes the payment amounts to Trolley via their API. Mispayments have been reduced to zero.

Trolley also enables Draft to better report on the cost of goods sold (COGS); they can track the money to creators, amounts of sales tax payments, and the cost of fees.

“Trolley enables us to get that reporting a lot easier now with the dashboard,” Thomas reports. “Being able to project our expenses for COGS, to have a reliable figure and exact metric is extremely helpful.”

The future

In 2022, Draft expects to double or triple its revenue through increased content creation work. Truong predicts that they will likewise need to scale their talent base in a similar way. He sees Trolley’s support for payouts to creators in more regions as crucial to this growth.

In gaining more creators, Draft also expects it will need to fully automate its payment process in 2022 and will rely on Trolley’s flexible API to power this upgrade.

Lastly, with more payments comes a greater tax reporting burden. Draft plans to streamline their manual tax compliance process, leaning on Trolley to improve how they report payments made to their content creator network and producing the requisite 1099 forms. Trolley offers robust automation of tax-related admin tasks, including statement generation and distribution.

Thomas loves that Trolley will grow with their business. “We’ve created a seamless internal payout process with it, and for our external creators, it's delivered the benefit of predictably getting paid. Trolley is a perfect fit.”

We send the payment information to Trolley, and then we can walk away. We’re confifident that Trolley will pay our creators without needing manual assistance.

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