Content marketing is always evolving, and it’s definitely not going away. In fact, 70% of B2B content marketers report their work drove more results in 2018 than in previous years, so it looks like the competition is simply heating up.
With so much riding on a consistent, quality publishing schedule, outsourcing content writing makes a lot of sense. But before you fall into common pitfalls of this model, make sure to read the tips below to get a good start with hiring content writers.
The Truth About Outsourcing Content for Content Marketing
To be fully transparent, I’ve witnessed the hesitation from marketers who were a bit wary of outsourcing their content writing to a dedicated writing service like ours. That includes fears that you can’t get quality content, there aren’t expert writers available and you can’t foster long-term relationships with writers.
Some might even write this model off by labeling them all “content mills” — platforms that are designed to crank out high volumes of content with little regard for quality and extremely low pay for writers. Sites like those do exist, and I would be extremely hesitant to work with them, too.
That said, Crowd Content does not work that way. We operate a content writing service and incentivize our freelance partners to create high-quality content, treat them well and take measures to ensure our clients are always happy with the completed work.
One of the prevalent myths about working with writing services is that you sacrifice quality for convenience. Maybe it’s because it seems too good to be true, but the facts are these:
- You can get high-quality content at affordable prices.
- You can even get it with fast turn-around time.
- But you have to know how to find the right freelancers and partner with them for success.
There are pitfalls associated with outsourcing your content to anyone, but that includes agencies, individual freelancers and even internally using in-house writers. Some things that can be a challenge in any of these cases — and not just when working with content services — can include:
- Ensuring the content creator understands your vision of the blog post or other piece and is able to produce something that matches it
- Protecting uniformity with a style guide and other measures, including editing, so your content has a consistent brand voice and doesn’t sound like it was written by a group of disparate writers
- Integrating the outsourcing process within your existing content marketing strategy, which includes getting buy-in from the entire marketing team to ensure a streamlined workflow
The good news is that whether you’re outsourcing social media posts or entire articles and landing pages, there are proven methods for building long-term relationships with good writers who can get the job done.
Tips for Finding the Right Writer
One of the things I’m really proud of when it comes to Crowd Content is our ability to help clients find writers who are ideal for their specific projects. Whether you search our robust workforce yourself through self-serve options or work with our sales, customer service or project management teams to launch your campaign, you can find freelancers with a wide variety of experience and capability.
Here are a few pro tips for finding the right writer:
- Decide whether you want marketing copy or general copy. General copy tends to refer to blog posts, articles and white papers that require fact-based writing that positions your company as a leader in the niche. Marketing or sales copy may refer to product descriptions, landing pages and email campaigns that are meant to persuade the reader to take action. These are two different writing skillsets, so ensure the writer you chose has the experience to match.
- Choose a quality level. Crowd Content offers the option to hire writers at four levels. And while all our writers strive to follow instructions and deliver a quality project, if you have complex requirements, want a true expert or need the most polished writing available, you may want to opt for a higher-level writer.
- Search for a writer with relevant experience. Look for writers who have written substantially in your niche or who have hands-on work experience in the industry. Typically, they’re more likely to understand details such as industry terms and unique challenges faced by your customers.
5 More Tips for Outsourcing Content Writing
Ultimately, if you want high-quality content, it’s not just about where you outsource your content creation. By understanding how best to partner with content writers and other freelancers, you can streamline communication and increase the chance of receiving a publish-ready piece of content that performs. Check out some tips for doing so from industry voices that have perfected their content creation processes.
1. Foster a Partnership with Writers Over Time
Writers who have written blog posts for you over the years often need less direction than those who aren’t as familiar with your brand. Putting the time in to educate and coach writers about what you want can pay off big in the end.
Rachel Cottam is the Content Manager at ZipBooks. She says, “We start by doing some good old fashioned keyword research—high search volume, low competition and strong business relevance. Then, we’ll play around with some title ideas and tweak the topic to best suit our audience. For most of our writers, this provides a pretty good starting point.”
But she takes some extra steps with writers who aren’t yet go-tos for her brand. “For first-time contributors, we typically provide a more detailed outline. We’ll suggest relevant subheadings, ask thoughtful questions and brainstorm possible angles. We want our writers to be confident and comprehensive, so we try to set this expectation from the get-go.”
2. Remember that Writers Can Offer More than Words on a Page
David Lynch, the Content Lead at UpPhone, says his content outsourcing process starts similar to Cottam’s. “First, I find a high-traffic keyword that’s related to our niche. Then, I structure an article outline around that keyword, focusing on the most important things to cover. This outline isn’t anything too crazy — just 5–10 bullet points.”
But Lynch also relies on the creativity of his writing team. “I always encourage my writing team to do some research on their own and bring their own ideas into the process. Everyone has a different perspective and they may have some valuable insights that I originally overlooked.”
Ashley Coolman is the Content Strategist at Qordoba and offers some additional advice about leveraging subject matter experts and freelancer creativity when outsourcing content writing. Coolman says, “I prefer to map out the boundaries and then give them space to be creative. In my experience, providing the desired outline boxes people into how you’d create content and often results in awkward writing.”
Of course, you do need to foster that growing relationship with newer writers, even if you’re taking Coolman’s approach. “If I’m working with someone for the first time, I’ve found it helpful to request their light outline for the piece,” she says. “Perhaps just headers or topics for the different sections of a piece — and move forward with more confidence that we’re aligned.”
Coolman provides a list of the types of boundaries she sets for writers:
- Context around why the content is needed
- Brand voice, tone and style guidelines
- Audience and their assumed mindset when reading the content
- Where the content will live
- Desired takeaways for the audience — what they should learn by the end, including actionable takeaways and more subtle branding benefits
- Desired goals of the piece — slightly different than takeaways in that it includes what you want them to do next such as request a demo, read another article or complete a setup workflow
3. Remember Samples Are One of the Most Powerful Tools You Have
One of the things we’ve learned at Crowd Content is that it can be hard to put exactly what you want with regard to style and voice into words. That’s because one person’s “funny” is another person’s “irreverent,” and when you say “serious,” the writer might not know if you mean encyclopedic, journalistic or simply a conversational tone that favors somber over sassy.
Detailed client instructions and briefs go a long way, but the best tool you have in communicating your needs to writers is often a sample of what you like.
Zack Reboletti is the Owner and SEO Consultant for Web Focused. He says that he provides writers with different things depending on the situation, but he always gives one piece of direction: links to competing and reference articles as samples.
“I always provide writers with examples of content I’d like them to reference, noting things such as language style, sub-topics, formatting and length,” says Reboletti. “If it’s content I want to rank in search results, at least a couple of my reference articles will be the top-ranking content for the topic and corresponding search terms I’m hoping to rank for. That way, the writer knows what she’s trying to beat.”
4. Make Sure Content Writers Know Who the Audience Is
Erin Letson, the Content Lead at Looka, seconds a lot of the above information, including providing links to content that’s already performing well. She also says, “It’s also useful to include your company’s target customer persona and a style guide to help the writer understand your brand voice and other requirements.”
At Crowd Content, we’ve definitely run into situations where the target audience is a fundamental element to ensure a great writer can be successful with content. And it’s easy to overlook passing along this information because as the business owner or operator, you’re probably intimately familiar with it. It’s not always something you remember needs to be said.
But consider this: If a brand publishes in the healthcare field, there’s a huge difference in how content is created for an audience of doctors versus an audience of patients.
At Crowd Content, we work with some of our freelancers to create content for our own site. We also publish content for a variety of target audiences, including clients (businesses and individuals that need content) and writers (the people that create that content). Recently we ordered a piece on a certain topic and forgot to let the writer know which audience it was for; a miscommunication meant she wrote it targeted to writers when we originally intended it for clients.
To avoid this type of miscue, make sure to include your target audience in every brief.
5. Provide a Detailed Brief or Other Instructions
Whether you’re leaving things open to writer creativity or mandating where the keywords, headers and bullet points go, there’s one thing you should avoid whenever you outsource your content writing: Don’t leave your writer hanging with vague instructions.
Yes, if you have a previous relationship with a writer and they know what to do to make your content marketing goals happen, you can give them a bit less guidance. But do give guidance, especially when you’re placing orders to a new writer or an entire team. Trust me, it saves everyone hassle in the long run.
Consider this issue we ran into. A competitor tried out our site and wrote a review saying the content they received back from the writer they chose didn’t reference their company, include internal links or provide certain depth on the topic. Of course, we wanted to see where we went wrong in handling this order, but when we looked it up in the system, we discovered something puzzling: The only instruction the writer was given was “write an article about content marketing.”
If you don’t do the work to create a detailed brief or instructions that guide your writer, then your writer can’t do the work to support your business. And that applies to any writer you work with, regardless of where you hired them.
Start Outsourcing Content Writing with Crowd Content
We’ve got some of the best tools in the business to help you navigate this journey. From a huge list of available writers to a detailed order form that helps you build your brief to revision processes and layout options to ensure your content looks the way you want, Crowd Content’s platform is designed to make outsourcing content writing as easy as possible. Sign up today to find out for yourself.