Thinking about outsourcing copywriting and content creation? Wondering if it’s the right thing to do for your company?
Let’s look into that.
You’re probably expecting me to tell you “Yes, sure, you should outsource! Hire me!”. However, I believe it’s a bit more complex than that.
In this article, I’ll be going through a number of questions that will help you decide.
There are a few factors to consider:
- your needs and requirements
- your goals and expectations
- your experience, both with managing your business and also with hiring freelancers
- your budget
- the size of your company
- the resources you could allocate to it in-house
Let’s look into each one of those.
What are you struggling with?
First of all, you need to identify the main issue that you’re struggling with.
Is it that you’re wearing too many hats and can’t manage to keep up with your content creation goals?
Are your ads underperforming?
Do you want to start writing a blog or create a newsletter but don’t really know how to get started?
Do you need to completely rewrite your homepage from scratch?
Based on that, you’ll know what kind of expert you’re looking for:
- a content writer
- an editor
- a content strategist
- an SEO expert
- a copywriter
- a social media manager
- …or someone with an entirely different skill set.
You’ll also be able to identify if there’s anyone at your company with the necessary skills and expertise. If you can insource instead of outsource, I encourage you to do that!
Now, there’s one problem you might encounter. The issue is not always obvious.
You might think you need a better SEO strategy, whereas you actually need better content. You might think your ads or blog articles are underperforming, whereas you aren’t tracking your ROI correctly. In fact, only 43% of companies are measuring their content marketing ROI, according to the Content Marketing Institute’s report on B2B content marketing trends for 2020. You might think you need to tweak your sales process, whereas you need a better website.
What are your goals?
What would you like to happen? When would you like it to happen? How involved would you like to be?
Be as precise as possible. Set specific, clearly defined goals, so that you can track your progress continuously. Define the different ways those goals can be achieved, and calculate the ROI for each one.
Sometimes, hiring a new employee to work on your content strategy full-time, with no other distractions, is the way to go. That’s especially true if you’re looking to create lots of new content. Writing blog articles can be very time-consuming. If you’re aiming to publish upwards of 3 or 4 articles per week, for example, you might need to either hire someone to write for you full-time or to outsource to an agency.
In other cases, having a contractor prepare and schedule a couple of posts per week and write 2 articles per month would be entirely sufficient.
What are your expectations?
The clearer you are about what you expect, the better value you’ll get. This helps you decide whether your goals are correctly set, and also what the best way to achieve them is.
Before you hire a team of writers, you should definitely invest in developing your brand identity and tone of voice. This way, you can give them clear instructions on what you want and expect from them. Set clear expectations from the start, and be specific.
Decide how involved you’d like to be, and help your contractors do their job even when you’re busy. Supervising a team of writers won’t be easy if you’re dealing with tons of other stuff. It might be worth delegating that to someone in the company.
Streamline communication with your contractors. They need to be able to reach you if they have additional questions and if they need your feedback on something. Make communication with your team easy for everyone involved, and don’t create bottlenecks. Email, Slack, Asana, weekly Zoom calls, there are plenty of ways to stay in touch.
How experienced are you?
Finding the right freelancer for the job is not easy, and managing the relationship comes with its own challenges. Those can be minor ones, like time zones, or major ones, like cultural differences.
How experienced are you with the task you’re looking to outsource is also important. If you know exactly how you want it done, great. This could help tremendously. In case you’re a newbie, that’s also okay, of course: that’s why you’re hiring an expert.
Do you want to work with someone short or long term?
Personally, I always prefer to work with clients long term, and it usually serves both of us better. I get to know their product or service inside out, along with their tone of voice, requirements, and expectations. In my field, it’s super important to have a laser-sharp vision of what my clients want, what makes them different, and how they want to achieve their goals. It actually takes a while to figure it out, even for them.
If you’re jumping from freelancer to freelancer to get specific tasks done, then you’re not really implementing a global vision or a strategy for your business. If you hire a different graphic designer for each element of your visual identity, you’re going to end up with a pile of diverse visual content that isn’t organized by a common idea or style. For articles and website copy, it’s exactly the same thing.
What is your budget?
This is actually related to two things: your expectations, and the investment you’re willing to make.
There’s another factor to consider: high-quality work isn’t cheap. Regardless of whether it will be done in-house or outsourced.
Granted, you can sometimes get amazing content that doesn’t cost a lot of money.
There are a lot of freelancers out there who do not understand their value yet, who suffer from impostor syndrome, or who come from countries or locations with a low cost of living.
But in most cases, if you expect to pay next to nothing, you risk getting next to nothing in terms of quality, too.
Now, there are different ways to manage your budget and to keep costs low.
- Know what you want: The clearer you are about what you want & need, the less time it will take for the person to provide you with an awesome product or service.
- Let the expert do what they’re an expert in: If you’re doing 10 rounds of corrections, there’s clearly an issue. You and the person you hired for the job aren’t a good match, for whatever reason. Check your brief to see whether it’s clear. Give specific feedback. And if isn’t working, hire someone else.
- Set clear goals for you and for them: Discuss your goals from the start. Tell them what you expect to get out of your work together.
- Have a vision: Although your contractor can help you develop your vision, you need to guide the process. Ideally, you should already have a clear vision of your project before you hire them.
You should be getting a solid return-on-investment. However, in order to do that, you need to have an idea about your numbers, and you need to measure things. Few businesses do that.
What are the resources you can relocate from within your company towards that task?
Insourcing (as opposed to outsourcing) is sometimes a superior strategy when it comes to managing your whole content strategy, or even when it comes to producing content.
Someone who has been in the company for 2-3 years definitely knows your products better than someone who will have a few hours to research them before they get to work. Your company’s voice and vision is much clearer for someone who is actually a part of the business, and who is also a subject matter expert.
In many cases, companies aren’t willing to make the effort to relocate resources to content creation in-house, as everyone is already likely very busy with other stuff.
I still recommend getting your employees to write a piece of content every couple of weeks. You could then have someone edit it, rather than outsource all your content creation. Not everyone is a great writer, so the quality of what you produce in-house will sometimes be rough. However, with good editing, you can turn mediocre texts into great content, as long as you have a global vision.
Get everyone involved with the content strategy. Markus Sheridan describes this approach in detail in his brilliant book, “They Ask, You Answer“, and I cannot recommend it enough. Get your sales team involved, too. Especially your sales team. Let people own their content, i.e. publish it under their own name on the company blog.
This is where a content strategist (in-house or a freelancer) can really help: they can build a strategy, plan, and create an editorial calendar. They’ll be able to make sure your content marketing efforts aren’t wasted.
Insourcing and outsourcing both have their pros and cons. For a detailed comparison between them, I highly recommend Tom DiScipio’s article on that topic.
The right balance between outsourced content and content produced in-house is different for each company. It depends on your size, goals, expectations, budget, and many other things. Outsourcing content makes sense if you have a clear vision and have already decided on your tone of voice and requirements, and if you’re able to efficiently manage your relationships with contractors.
If you’d like to learn more about how a freelance writer can help your business grow, set up a quick meeting with me and we can discuss that in detail.