As the demand for excellent blog and email content increases, marketing agencies and small businesses are outsourcing writing more frequently. I have developed material as a freelancer, an in-house agency writer, and an account manager outsourcing content to freelancers. My varied experiences have taught me several things.
If you are considering outsourcing content to increase website traffic or the frequency with which post each month or you are a marketing agency working at capacity but not ready to bring on additional employees freelancers are an excellent potential solution if managed effectively.
Ideally, outsourcing content writing will free up your calendar so you have time to focus on more pressing matters, but often managing freelancers can absorb as much time as writing the content yourself, especially when you have to edit submissions. Luckily there are actions and strategies you can implement to maximize your freelancer’s writing and protect the time needed to focus on other tasks.
I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. You get what you pay for when you hire a freelancer. There are many ways to find freelancers. You can use an agency or hire an independent writer directly. Either way, it’s important to have a screening process established to make sure you are selecting writers who can complete their assignments.
Our agency prioritizes SEO and inbound marketing. When selecting a freelancer, we will look for writers who have experience creating content for inbound agencies and also mention SEO in their resumes. This alone doesn’t guarantee a writer will be able to accomplish an assignment which is why we take the additional step to review writing samples.
The opportunity to review published articles may depend on whether you work directly with a writer or go through an agency. Regardless, writing samples are the best way to determine if you are likely to receive content that will meet your expectations.
Read Tips for Working with Freelancers for more information about screening writing samples.
Once you have decided on a freelancer, it’s time to send them an assignment. By taking steps to state your needs, including clear deadlines, you will set your writer up for success and reduce the time you will need to spend managing their work.
When possible send these things to your freelancer:
Clarifying communication doesn’t end with sending an assignment, especially when you are submitting your first few assignments to your freelancer. The more feedback you can provide on the first few articles the better. If you tell a writer they met your expectations and then edit most of the article to fit your preferences there is a high likelihood your freelancer will not learn how to meet your needs.
If you find that the writer you have selected continues to disregard your instructions don’t be afraid to move on, but consider telling the freelancer why you are choosing to do so.
Unless you have established a previous agreement, it’s important to remember that your freelancer doesn’t work exclusively for you and cannot always guarantee they will meet last minute deadlines. This is true for both writing content as well as completing edits.
Our agency works a few weeks ahead on all content when possible. This means that a writer receives an assignment weeks before the publish date and has several days to complete the work. By working ahead, we can accommodate our favorite writers if they request an extension on a deadline.
Timeliness is also essential with edits. More than once I received requests for edits with very short deadlines causing me to have to adjust family plans on the weekends. While this isn’t always avoidable, when this became a routine request I declined future work from the client. You won't need to rush to meet your deadline if you work ahead and remember your freelancer's time is as valuable as yours.
For strategies on using a content calendar check out our post: Creating Content Your Buyers Actually Want to Read
In my opinion, with most content, it’s unrealistic to expect to receive an article without the need for edits. This is especially true when you go through online platforms that pay a few cents per word. If your budget and/or preference limits you only to use the most inexpensive freelance writers, you need to build more editing and article review time into your calendar.
I’ve noticed a trend with online sources recently. For an additional fee, you can pay to not only have your content written but added to your website. I’ve also found offerings for content calendar creation. These added services also fall into the “you get what you pay for” category most of the time. There is much more that goes into adding blog content to your website than simply loading a post.
While it might sound appealing to have someone write content and add it to your website for you at a reduced cost, this process removes a significant asset from the equation. When a marketing agency hires a freelancer on your behalf, they are still working for you and are your advocate.
Not only will your agency do all the research to develop a strategic content calendar, but they will hold the freelancer to the standard you expect. A great content manager is not just an additional set of eyes to proof an article. They will work to ensure your blog articles represent your voice consistently and ensure SEO best practices are executed.
By taking time to select a freelancer carefully, clearly explaining expectations and edits and being timely with assignments you will find that you can effectively manage your freelancers without losing your mind.
Remember, onboarding is often a time-consuming process that can be unique for every company. It typically includes introducing the corporate culture, getting to know coworkers, and integrating into the job itself.
By taking the time to select a freelancer carefully, clearly explaining expectations and edits, and being timely with assignments, you will find that you can effectively manage your freelancers without losing your mind.
The SMA team works hard to develop analytics-backed content calendars for all our clients. Contact us to learn more.
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