Content Creation Outsourcing is something that sounds attractive to a lot of solopreneur content marketers – especially those unable to bear the burdens of the workload any longer. But the question isn’t as simple as: “Should you or shouldn’t you outsource?” Once you decide to outsource, that’s when the questions really begin. Are you ready to place your brand at someone else’s mercy? Even after you manage to hire and train people, will you still be left shepherding your freelancer writers or agency? How do you get them to understand exactly what you want, and don’t want?
Our Content Marketing Roundups usually pick topics that most people would consider a perplexing dilemma, but we think it’s important to see how different content marketers have worked their way around the many challenges of this issue. That’s why we have chosen this topic of Content Creation Outsourcing for you to get a flavor of what those who’ve experimented think about it.
Our picks for this Content Marketing RoundUp include some great quotes from the blog posts of Paul Zalewski, Mitchell Hall, Isaac Justesen, Steve Lazuka, Carolyn Cohn, Jodi Harris, Sunil Rajaraman and Eric Siu. I hope their opinions open your mind to the possiblities of outsourcing and its implications. How to use these points of view is then up to you.
Content is deeply personal, and finding someone else who can help you capture your story isn’t easy: Paul Zalewski
Paul Zalewski in the article “Why You Should Outsource Content Creation & How To Do It”:
The biggest stumbling block I hear from folks thinking about outsourcing content marketing efforts is something to the effect of “Content is personal. No one else can tell my story like I can.” The biggest stumbling block I hear from folks thinking about outsourcing content marketing efforts is something to the effect of “Content is personal. No one else can tell my story like I can.” (I hear this a lot, as I run marketing for Verblio (formerly BlogMutt).We’re a outsourced content creation platform. This stumbling block has a lot of merit. Content is deeply personal, and finding someone else who can help you capture your story isn’t easy.
Most of the prospects and customers I’ve talked to have decided to outsource content creation in spite of the above. Here’s why:
- They’ve come to the realization they simply don’t have time to create their own content (or all of it).
- They’ve realized that writing (or at least writing well or writing quickly) isn’t their strong suit, or their time is just better spent elsewhere.
Once you’ve come to one of these realizations, or a similar one, a big part of the why behind why you should outsource content becomes a lot easier, and the logic goes like this:
- I believe content marketing will be helpful for my business.
- I want to do content marketing, but I don’t have time / I tried to but I couldn’t make the time, do the writing, etc.
- The only way for me to do content marketing is to outsource the work (or some of it).
OK, so we’ve established one big part of the why. But there’s another, and it’s the same reason you’d consider outsourcing any aspect of your business, the same reason you try to bring talented people of any kind onto your team: outsourcing content marketing can bring a unique, expert skillset and new, powerful ideas to the table.
Whether you’re outsourcing your accounting function, your facilities management, or your content marketing, your goal should be the same: find experts who will inject new, progressive ideas you haven’t thought of into your organization, and help you better execute on those ideas by delegating.
While there are other plentiful reasons you should outsource your content marketing, I’m going to call these the big two:
- Increase your bandwidth, and ensure content marketing gets done.
- Bring experts with new, big ideas onto your team.”
Assuming you have a content strategy, determine how much support your strategy needs for success: Mitchell Hall
Mitchell Hall in the article “Outsourcing Content Creation: Agencies vs. Freelancers”:
When considering content creation services offered by agencies and freelancers, the most important question to ask yourself is, “What am I going to need?”
Assuming you have a content strategy, determine how much support your strategy needs for success. At Curata we use the content marketing pyramid to plan our content; including research, assets, resource needs, and publishing and promotional plans. We use freelancers for some of our writing, and consider agencies when a broader set of activities is required.
Agencies can serve as a one-stop shop for your content needs if you’re looking for other services in addition to content creation. These could be, for example:
- Marketing strategy
- Web/graphic design
- Public relations
- Social media
If you have the budget for it, an agency can enable you to more cohesively execute a content marketing strategy in a shorter period of time. The collaboration of multiple agency staff members on projects, however, may just as easily inhibit ideas and collaboration if not managed properly.
If you have a more limited need for only writing services, freelancers may be able to provide more personal attention than agencies. You’ll be able to have much more direct interaction with the person creating your content. This may work better for those who want to collaborate directly with writers themselves.
Freelancers have less resources in terms of software, skills, etc. than agencies. However, experienced writers usually have a quality network of contacts whom they’ve worked with in graphic and web design, video, translation, social media, or analytics, and can provide referrals for you.”
Freelancers often have creative ideas and unique skills that you can tap into: Isaac Justesen
Isaac Justesen in the article “The Complete Guide to Outsourcing Content Creation”:
Onboarding. Setting freelancers up for success. While this may seem like a relatively simple step, doing it poorly will create headaches for everyone so it’s worth spending a bit of time to get right.
To ensure that your content team is onboarded effectively, you need to familiarize writers with your company, products, services, and business goals. There are various ways to achieve this:
- Provide each writer with a short manual that clarifies your business, it’s goals, its core values, and its target audience.
- Give each writer a short style guide, outlining industry terms, formatting rules, and headline guidelines.
- Provide ongoing feedback on every assignment to build each writer’s knowledge.
- Show your writers company reviews, testimonials, and case studies that explain how your business solves customer problems.
By making your needs and expectations clear from the outset, you can avoid long cycles of content revisions in the future. You should also provide a creative brief for each assignment.
Some things to include in a creative brief:
- A working title
- A summary of the purpose of the content
- Any calls-to-action that need to be included
- Links to supporting research, if you have any
- Keywords you would like included, if applicable
- A recommended word count
- A deadline
Freelancers often have creative ideas and unique skills that you can tap into. Use their experience to help with developing content ideas. This will give writers more confidence and make them feel a part of your team.
You could also share content statistics with your writers. Did a blog post boost website traffic? How many times was an article shared on social media? Stats like these give a boost to any writer.”
Even great writers may not capture exactly what you need the first time: Steve Lazuka
Steve Lazuka in the article “7 Secrets to Outsourcing a Killer Content Creation Team”:
As you build your writer network, consider each post you get back as a first draft that may require a bit of editing and revisions. Even great writers may not capture exactly what you need the first time, but if you like their style and they are well-informed on the subject matter about which they’re writing, you can invest some up-front time offering helpful feedback, and nurturing the relationship to the benefit of your client.
You can choose to offer a higher amount of money, and attract higher rated writers who will give you more “publish-ready” work, thus spending less time editing. Or, you could offer a lower amount and save more up-front, with the understanding that you will probably need to spend more time on the back-end editing.
If you choose to work with lower-cost writers that require more feedback, invest time in providing clear, constructive feedback just like you did when writing your job instructions. Let’s pretend the email marketing blog post we referenced in the previous example needed a little work — here’s the right way to give feedback to that writer:
Thank you for this first draft, it’s looking good but needs a few edits. In the performance analytics section, can you please provide a more comprehensive list of the metrics that an email marketer should consider to evaluate the effectiveness of their campaigns? Right now, you just recommend a few, and say there are others. The readers will want to know everything to consider, though. Also, the email design section get’s a little to technology-oriented; the client’s audience will likely be outsourcing the design of their emails, so can you please remove the how-to design parts, and simply list some general best practices they should reference when working with a designer? Other than that, looks good. Thank you!
If you give feedback like this that’s extremely specific, the writer knows exactly what to change and will be able to turn around revisions much more expeditiously, and accurately.”
Be discriminating. Choose the skills that you want outsourced: Carolyn Cohn
Carolyn Cohn in the article “How to Effectively Outsource Content Creation”:
When it comes to looking at the different agencies as possible choices to outsource your content creation, you owe it to your business and to yourself to be as careful as possible. Doing the research before you make any decisions is imperative. There are many agencies that say that they have the capabilities to do all sorts of things when they actually fall short in certain ways.
Doing your homework should help you to eliminate those agencies that are really not right for your purposes. There are several things that you can look for in the early stages (before you have made any decisions). When you are interviewing a particular agency, you should:
- Ask the prospective agency to see a portfolio of what they have done for other businesses.
- Ask to see some samples of content marketing strategies that they have created. This will give you an indication of their creative ability.
- Determine if they are capable of creating an entire campaign or if they think on a smaller scale and only create programs. It is very important to keep in mind that your content marketing campaign is a long-term strategy as opposed to being a short-term concept.
Before you hire anyone, you need to look at the skills and knowledge that are required in order to successfully complete your content marketing campaign. Once you have listed those skills, you can determine which ones will be better handled internally and which ones should be outsourced.
Of course, you will have close and frequent interactions with whichever agency you go with but you also need to make sure that they can do a great job with whatever you choose them to do. After all, it is your business’s reputation on the line.”
As part of your vetting process, use a writing test to gauge skills, creativity and style: Jodi Harris
Jodi Harris in the article “Your Get-it-Done Guide to Content Creation Outsourcing”:
An interview only provides subjective evidence of a writer’s skills and abilities. As part of your vetting process, make sure to review a few samples from a candidate’s portfolio.
However, this doesn’t always give a full picture of their capabilities – or a sense of what it took the editor to whip the original asset into publication-ready shape. For instance, maybe you’ve found a freelance writer with great chops but little experience with your industry, or whose work samples don’t include the specific kind of content you are looking to create.
In cases like these, you might consider paying them to take on a brief writing assignment. This can come in particularly handy if you work in an industry with strict regulatory requirements, require advanced technical expertise, or if you expect writers to adopt a particular style or tone of voice.
Not only will this exercise help you gauge their creative abilities and technical know-how as a marketing writer, but seeing their raw copy will give you a sense of how much work it might take your internal team to move their assets through your company’s content review and approval process.”
Different content types require different skill sets in content writers: Sunil Rajaraman
Sunil Rajaraman in the article “When Should You Consider Outsourcing Content Creation?”:
Not only are companies realizing that content marketing is an important part of customer acquisition, but different types of content marketing are emerging that can help organizations succeed in other areas.
For example, emerging tech blogs, such as Pando Daily, are beginning to use eBooks effectively, and established start-ups like Hootsuite are using white papers to market their products.
Different content types require different skill sets, so even if you have a fabulous writer on staff, if that person doesn’t understand the finer points of writing the white papers you need to create as part of your marketing strategy, you’ll need to outsource.
Having different writers for different content types is essentially the equivalent of having a baseball team — where different players’ strengths make them better at playing some positions compared to others.
It does not matter if you have a great hitter — that person cannot play first base, shortstop, and catcher at the same time. For example, your in-house writer may be great at writing press releases, but not have the SEO knowledge needed to write content for the internet or the marketing experience to write Facebook posts and sales brochures.”
Too many business owners approach outsourcing as if it’s a “set it and forget it” process: Eric Siu
Eric Siu in the article “Is Outsourcing Content Creation Right for Your Business?”:
Even if you do go ahead and outsourcing your company’s content creation process, you’ll still need to commit your time to ensuring that all new content pieces meet your company’s editorial standards.
Too many business owners approach outsourcing as if it’s a “set it and forget it” process. And certainly, there are some cases where long-standing relationships between clients and freelancers have developed to the point that these outsourcers are able to produce content pieces that don’t require further overview or corrections.
Truly, though, it can take a long time to build this level of trust with your company’s content creators, so it’s best to assume that you’ll need to set aside time to thoroughly check and correct your freelancer’s work for at least the first few months of your relationship.
Clearly, there’s no easy solution to the question of whether or not your company should outsource the creation of your content marketing materials to freelancers or to external media agencies.
Only by carefully weighing the considerations above and their likely impact on your business will you be able to make the outsourcing decision that’s right for your business.”
So what are your thoughts on this topic? Do share!
This post is incomplete without your input. The community of aspiring digital solopreneurs would feel galvanized to hear from you … so do share your thoughts on this topic with us in the comments field below this post.
Other articles in our series “Content Marketing RoundUps”:
- When Content Marketing Doesn’t Work … Solohacks Roundup #1!
- How To Make Blogging Feel Easier … Solohacks Roundup #2!
- Traffic From SEO vs Traffic From Social … Solohacks Roundup #3!
- How To Get Out Of A Creative Rut … Solohacks Roundup #5!