You can’t always do it all. In fact, when it comes to creating content, many people don’t feel that they are strong enough writers. As a result, they outsource their content creation to a specialist. Because content creation is such an important part of a company’s comprehensive marketing plan, it’s important to be strategic about the way you outsource that content. Here’s a rundown of the dos and don’ts of content outsourcing.
1. Do: Be Sure the Writer is Qualified
Just because someone is cheap doesn’t make that person the best-qualified for creating content for your company. Writers come with all different price tags, but most of the expert content creators won’t be willing to write quality content for pennies. This means that you need to do your homework. Check out a potential contractor’s resume, but also follow up on that writer’s references.
Any writer worth his or her rate will have a portfolio. Even new writers serious about the craft will put something together to show potential clients. Make sure you ask to see samples.
If your company is a niche industry, it would be ideal to find a writer with a background in that industry. While some content creators may try to be generalists, in very technical fields, this won’t fly. Your potential clients or customers will see behind the veneer of fluff and wonder why your company’s content never scratches beneath the surface.
2. Do: Have a Clear Picture of Your Content Strategy
Don’t go out hiring a contractor until you’ve put together a vision of what your content strategy should be. If you need help with creating a content strategy, there are many firms that specialize in this. What you don’t want to do is hire someone solely to create content if you don’t know what type of content your company needs to thrive with your content marketing efforts.
Ideally, if you need help developing your content strategy, anyone you outsource to will have a background in strategy development in addition to content creation. This, however, isn’t always feasible or realistic.
If you don’t have a clear picture of what your company needs to be doing to be successful, then it’s likely that any content created – whether in house or outsourced – will miss the target.
3. Do: Communicate Needs Clearly
This is essential. One of the reasons you want your content strategy in hand before you create your content is that it helps you to communicate what your company will need. There are some companies, however, who hire content creators without giving any real sense of direction. The better you can communicate your needs, including what your goals are with each piece of content being created, the better your consultant can carry out his or her job.
Rather than tell your writer, “I need something written about travel,” tell your writer, “I need a piece that talks about the importance of travel insurance when engaging in extreme sports, as we’re trying to sell our travel insurance package to those engaging in adventure travel.”
The more specific you are, the more targeted your content will be, and the greater your ROI will be. Be sure to also provide samples of the style and depth that you’re going for.
4. Don’t: Undervalue Your Writer
It’s easy to undervalue the importance of a highly-qualified writer. Remember that any quote you receive from a reputable provider will include time-estimates for research and revision in addition to the actual writing of the content you’ve requested.
Undervaluing doesn’t only have to do with pay, though. You can undervalue your writer by not respecting his or her time. Try not to change ideas once your writer has begun writing, and respect requests for additional pay for additional revisions. Make sure that if you’re sending your writer an email that it’s necessary and keep small talk on the phone to a minimum.
Most importantly, if your writer is doing an amazing job for you, and he or she is open to taking more clients, pass his or her name on to those you know who are looking to outsource their content.
5. Don’t: Continue to Go with Something That’s Not Working
That said, if your content creator isn’t working out, don’t be afraid to go in a different direction. Sometimes personalities clash, styles don’t mix, or someone is just all-out incompetent. It’s okay to let that person go and move in a different direction.
When you let someone go, be courteous about it. Pay that person for the work that has been completed, and let the individual know why it hasn’t worked out. If you know that you won’t be able to continue with someone, but he or she has been working on a project for you, pay for the time that was spent. Not only can consultants develop bad reputations for providing poor-quality work, but companies can develop bad reputations in the content creation community by not being fair to those they hire.
6. Don’t: Put All Your Outsourcing in One Basket
Someone who writes great content might not be the best at social media marketing. That’s okay. It’s fine to hire different content creators for your needs. Likewise, an SEO specialist may be great at getting your website found, but not so great at creating relevant content for your blog. When you’re thinking about outsourcing, think outside the box. Can your company make-do with one contractor or would you benefit from specialists for each area?
While there are content creators who are experts in all three areas, if you’re trying to save money, an agency that specializes in website content and content management may be your best bet. This way, they can assign the work to their in-house specialists while charging you a single price for all aspects of your content creation needs.
7. Do: Collaborate with Your Contract Writer
Once you’ve been working with a writer for a while, he or she will often be able to offer valuable input on further content that should be on your site. Don’t be afraid to be open to your contractor’s ideas. He or she has put a lot of effort into researching what’s already been created and has a good idea of what’s out there in terms of further topics that can be covered.
Likewise, if you see a topic in something that your content creator wrote that could be expanded on, mention it. The best content is the content that was a team effort.
8. Don’t: Neglect to Keep Accurate Financial Records of Your Outsourcing
It will be important come tax time to know who you paid and how much you paid. Let your contractor know what your preferred form of invoicing is – whether you want a physical copy of the invoice or an electronic copy. Keep a running total so that it’s easy to file a 1099 form for your contractor. This will be easiest if you make sure you get the appropriate tax information up front if you will pay more than $600 to an independent contractor in a given year. You don’t want to be scrambling in January to find all the cancelled checks or e-commerce transactions and add them up so your company can maintain compliance.
9. Don’t: Forget to Follow Up
If you haven’t heard from your contractor in a hot minute, make sure you follow up. All sorts of things can go wrong. Don’t just assume that no news is good news. Send a friendly email checking in to say, “Hey, how’s it going, do you need anything else to complete the project?”
Note: If you constantly have to follow up to see where your contractor is at on your projects, it might be the case that this individual is not the right person for your company.
10. Do: Use Tools That Make Communication, Collaboration, and Follow-up Easy
Finally, transparency is key to success. There are so many great tools out there for collaborating, communicating, and following up on projects, that there’s no reason not to use one. Slack, Asana, Trello, Google Docs, and others all make it simple to see exactly where people are in their work processes. The learning curve on these apps is pretty simple, so you can onboard your contractors pretty quickly.
It really doesn’t matter which tool you use as long as it’s one that works for both you and your content creator so that you can share what’s important quickly and easily. Some contractors have their own apps that they work with and are comfortable with, others are open. By using tools to make some of the places where outsourcing can go awry easier to manage, you can help ensure the success of your outsourced project.
What Works for Your Company?
The most important takeaway from all of this is that you should do what works best for your company and your content creator. You want to make things as easy as possible on both ends to ensure success and a great ROI.
Ronda Bowen – Content Creator
Want help with sourcing your content? EnVeritas Group can help you. Reach out to us today to find out how.