The Dos and Don’ts of Outsourcing Content

Increasingly, businesses and entrepreneurs are catching on to the idea of content marketing – creating and sharing content online to attract visitors and convert them into customers. Why is it so popular? Because it works.

One of the most important parts of content marketing is creating the content itself. This needs doing on a regular basis while maintaining the quality that your visitors expect, and that will keep them coming back for more.

Here’s a secret: many business blogs employ freelance content creators or agencies to create their articles, infographics, and other content that populate their sites on a regular basis. Whether it’s a one-off or a regular affair, outsourcing content creation is a great way to grow your site and your web traffic while you are getting on with other aspects of running your business.

Not everyone is a writer or designer, and with a vast array of third party content creators available, not everyone needs to be. It’s easier than ever to find people with the perfect skills to perform very specific jobs, such as developing high-quality content for your website or blog.

Here are things to do when outsourcing content for your project or business.

Do Qualify the Writer

Ask about relevant skills – Experience will help you know what questions you need to ask for your circumstances, but to start you off: consider whether the writer’s background/skills are relevant to your needs. You may find yourself looking at the resume of a veteran journalist with years of experience, but this might not be much use to you if you need advertising and sales copy written or descriptive text for a mobile app. Look for relevant experience, not just experience.

Also, consider that English is an international language, but that there are many flavors including US, UK, and Australian. How important is it for you to have a native speaker to provide content for your target audience?

Ask for references – Good freelance writers will be able to supply references from their past and current clients. Everyone has to start somewhere but watch out for the freelancer who claims to have performed numerous jobs, but cannot provide current, positive references.

Try to ascertain if the writer is easy to work with. He or she may produce brilliant text, but have other clients found the experience painful?

Ask for a sample – Reviewing one or more writing samples is an excellent way to see if the writer is competent before embarking on a project together. Look out for how the writing flows and beware of any grammar, spelling or formatting errors.

Unless you requested a very specific writing sample, don’t worry too much if the style is not enough as you would wish. Given the right directions, a good writer will be able to write in a range of tones, for a variety of audiences.

Do Give Clear Direction

Agree on boundaries and expectations – Agree on what you expect from each other early on. Establish the rate of pay, how many revisions are included, the time frame for completion and the tone of the writing. Let the writer know how much creativity he or she is allowed.

Identify your audience – Tell your chosen writer who they are creating the content for. You might do this simply by including the link to the relevant website, which should give the writer an overview of what is required and who it is meant to appeal to.

Provide source material – Include an example of or references to the type of content you want the writer to create. Providing suggested source material for articles requiring research will help ensure that the content is as you expect.

Establish milestones – For longer projects, you might ask your writers to check in with you at regular intervals, and you may agree to pay them upon achieving these agreed incremental targets.

Do Expect a Learning Curve

It’s not just a question of finding the perfect writer, but of finding a writer you can work with. Clarity and professionalism will be beneficial for both parties, so be clear and constructive about what works for you as well as what doesn’t.

Be prepared to work together to shape text towards your ideals. Over time, and with your help, a writer will learn what you’re after and will then be able to provide consistent results.

Many first time clients make the same errors when they begin hiring writers. Get ahead by avoiding common mistakes when outsourcing content:

Don’t Hire Based Purely on Cost

The cheapest writer is rarely the best writer for your needs. More often than not, cheap content needs rewriting and major editing to make it usable. Avoid the need to hire a second professional to clean up the mistakes of the first.

That said, more expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better quality either. Use a range of values, including ‘relevant experience’ and ‘positive references/feedback’, to evaluate the best writers for you.

Don’t Accept Content Blindly

You can demand reasonable changes and revisions to submitted content. This process is particularly painless if you’ve already discussed this possibility before the job started.

Giving additional direction gives writers an opportunity to understand and achieve your goals and, over time, can train them to provide consistently the results you expect.

Don’t Change Writers Often

Changing writers means starting again from square one. If you’ve done your research to identify a writer that matches your vision, consider working with him or her longer to give them a chance to get your style and your needs.

A good writer can write in a variety of styles and formats, and it might take a few goes to get the tone just right for you. A writer who has learned what you like can be more valuable to you than a writer who gets it right for you by accident.

You can help writers get it good for you by providing constructive criticism and rewrite requests.

Be prepared to feel your way around, in the beginning, providing as much info as is necessary to describe your angle, your vision, and your audience. The result will be a potentially long-lasting and rewarding relationship with one or more writers who can turn your ideas into perfectly balanced web content that leaps off the page.

Working with writers involves two-way communication and sometimes some chemistry. With the right ingredients, it’s a working relationship that can improve your business’ reach, scope, and profitability.

Chris Hornak

Chris is the founder of Blog Hands, a blog writing service for small businesses and agencies.