Outsourcing Content Writing: What to Know & How to Do it Right
Posted by Emery Pearson on Sep 22, 2022 8:30:00 AM
Creating content is one of the most time-consuming and difficult aspects of web marketing; it's also one of the most important. Many businesses find they do not have the required resources to attend to content writing, so they either put it off until they find the time (which they seldom do) or they forgo content creation entirely. Still others find that outsourcing writing offers a means to keep up on site updates and blog posting—which, when done well, benefits SEO and inbound marketing strategies.
If you're considering outsourcing your content writing, this guide is for you. We'll take a look at the pros and cons of outsourcing, some best practices for you and your contractors, and offer some tips for finding writers and having a successful relationship with them.
First let's take a look at what goes into creating a piece of website content:
- Coming up with an idea
- Researching relevant keywords and topics
- Reviewing competitor content
- Writing a draft
- Editing the draft
- Optimizing the content
- Posting the content
- Sharing the content
Now let's take a look at what good web content looks like:
- Written for a specific audience
- Well-structured, well-edited, and aligned with brand voice
- Long enough to cover the topic in-depth
- Optimized for search
- Compelling, shareable, and offering a clear call to action
As you can see, there are many important aspects to consider, from SEO to understanding your target audience—and that's not even taking into account the writing part of it, which is no easy task (even writers will tell you that writing is hard!) So, for many businesses, hiring someone else to do the writing is a no-brainer.
Pros and Cons
Now that you have an idea of why you might outsource, let's take a look at the pros and cons of actually doing it.
Benefits of Outsourcing
As we covered above, writing content takes time and know-how. When you hire a writer or an agency, you're getting a professional who understands all the important aspects of web content, from readability to user experience to structure and SEO.
Here's a look at some of the key benefits of hiring a content writer:
- You can add content to your site regularly without sacrificing other aspects of running your business
- You have a writer available without having to bring another person on full or part time
- You can add as much or as little content as you want—for example, if you need to spend your budget on something else for a month, you can pause content writing efforts
- Having web content that is engaging and informative adds credibility to your site and your business
- Adding content to your website regularly is important for SEO
The biggest benefit of all is that YOU don't have to do the writing!
Potential Downsides to Outsourcing
The primary reason some business owners may choose not to outsource writing is because of the cost. Good quality content can be pricey, especially if you ask your outsource partner to take on content research, keyword research, and/or optimization.
This particular issue is what typically leads to the next one: poor quality content. Businesses that go with a cheaper option—say, a $20 blog from a writer on Fiverr or Upwork—are usually disappointed with what they get. With writing—much like other services—you get what you pay for.
The other drawback is that a hired writer isn't you, or someone who works with you. That means their expertise is in writing, and not necessarily in your field. Good content writers are able to write on nearly any topic using the resources available (such as competitors' content, online articles, and whatever information you provide them with) but they'll never be able to get inside your brain. Tailoring your expectations accordingly will help with this, but we also have some other tips below that can help you have a successful relationship with your outsource partner.
Best Practices for Outsourcing
Before you even begin searching for the right writer or service provider, it's important to develop some general best practices, as well as set up some of your own that take into account your specific business goals if necessary. Here are some guidelines that are applicable to any business that outsources content writing:
Provide as Much Information As Possible
Giving your writer detailed briefs, links, product information, etc. will only make the content you get back that much better. You may want to provide some different content ideas instead of setting them loose—if you're not sure where to start, begin with the most common questions you get about your business. Or, explain the problem your product or service solves.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Similarly, keep in contact with your writer. Let them know how the content they've done is performing. Give them constructive feedback on the writing they're doing. Let them know when things have changed in your business–especially if you're no longer offering something, have added anything new, or don't want to attract particular kinds of leads.
Be Clear about Expectations
Creating brand standards and/or a style guide, providing samples, and clarifying requirements around word count, deadlines, and so forth are key ways you can communicate your expectations. It's also crucial that you identify and share your target audience, as well as the type of leads that are most valuable. Without any guidance, your writer may create content that doesn't align with your vision, which can equal wasted time and money.
…But Also Respect their Process
Setting expectations and providing guidance are great, but be careful not to micromanage. Writing is inherently a creative process, even though web content isn't the same as a novel. Good writers will work to align their content with your needs, but they also have their own flair. Writers are humans, not robots, so in addition to setting expectations with the writer, be sure to consider your own expectations and make sure they're not unreasonable. Also, remember that it will take time for both you and your writer to find the right rhythm, so it can be useful to view this relationship as a long-term partnership and know that all aspects will improve with time.
Finding an Outsource Partner
You have a few options when it comes to hiring a writer for your web content. You can find a freelance writer, hire a freelancer using a gig-based website (like Upwork), use a writing service, or hire a marketing agency.
Contracting a freelance writer to take care of your web content can be a great option for many businesses. They tend to be less expensive than most other options, and they may offer more flexibility and faster turnaround times than other service providers. However, it can be hard to find freelancers that fit. Some freelancers have a specific way of doing things and may not want to ghostwrite in the way you'd like. Some writers struggle with deadlines, especially during busy times when they are juggling multiple projects and clients. It can also be difficult to have a long-standing partnership with a freelance writer as many end up taking full time positions when self-employment becomes too much.
Gig sites like Upwork and Fiverr let you shop around for writers. Writers have portfolios and customer reviews available for you to view, and their rates are easy to find. However, high quality, higher rated freelancers can and do charge significantly more. So, many businesses take a chance on writers with lower rates, which can lead to low quality. There can be other issues with these sites, too. Fake reviews are a known problem on many, and several of these sites aren't particularly popular with freelancers given the way they structure their commissions.
Writing Service Providers
Content writing platforms (like WriterAccess and ClearVoice) are similar to gig sites in that they typically employ freelance or contract writers. However, they are more hands on in their services, and in exchange, they charge more. Depending on the platform, they may do keyword and topic research for you, offer some different briefs for you to accept or reject, and identify the writer best suited for your content writing. Potential issues with this option include higher prices, questionable quality at times, and the inability to work one-on-one with the writer (which then prohibits a strong, long-term relationship).
At Tribute Media, we do a lot of content writing for our clients, as it's a significant part of nearly any inbound marketing strategy. Hiring an agency is a great idea if you want more than just content. Using an agency just for content writing isn't always a viable option for many businesses, but that doesn't mean it's out of the question. Agencies, in general, understand the importance of good writing, and they are able to tailor approaches based on your business goals and place emphasis on lead generation. You may also find that you want to pay a little more to have SEO services or social media management added on to content writing, making an agency a useful partner to have for content. However, if you have a smaller budget and are only looking for a blog or two each month, a marketing agency may not be right for you.
Tips for Outsourcing Success
If you've decided you want to go ahead with outsourcing, your first step is to find the best fit. We offered some suggestions above, so use that as a jumping off point to determine which type of outsourcing is best for you. You may need to do some legwork before you start your search, though, including figuring out goals and budgets. Here are some suggestions for identifying those as well as some other tips to ensure you get the most out of your content writing and your outsource partner.
Set Some Goals
It can be tempting to live and die by a budget, but we recommend first identifying what, exactly, you want to get out of content writing. Do you want to target keywords for Google search? Have new content regularly to share on social media or your email newsletter? There are many different reasons to add content writing to your marketing strategy, but you should definitely parse those out and be specific as possible. Doing this will help to inform your budget and it plays a big role in finding and working with a writer.
Determine Your Budget
So many businesses struggle with allocating budget for content writing. We get it—it so often seems like something you could do if you just had a bit more time. It's also not something that you see an immediate benefit from (SEO and content marketing is the long-game, not a short term strategy), so the ROI is harder to identify. However, it's in your best interest to put as much as you can into your content writing budget, for all the reasons we've covered so far.
Spend Time Looking
It takes time to find the right fit, so take time to shop around for writers. You may have to try out a few different writers before you find the right fit. You may also want to search out writers who specialize in your field. This is easier to do with industries like tech or legal, as those areas really do need writers who understand the industry. Check out writing samples and take note of the writers who feel like they might be a good fit.
Test Before Committing
Good content writers and ethical services will offer test content before asking for a commitment. Expect to pay for the test content, but also be sure you have the option to give feedback or send it back for revision. You may end up testing a few writers before you find a good match, but you can also try working with a writer for a bit before giving up—if they are open to feedback, you can let them know what's working and what isn't, and there's a good chance they will be able to keep refining their process to align with your expectations.
Keep in Contact
Even if you hire a writer or a service to handle the keyword research and topic ideation for you, it's still a good idea to keep in touch. Let your writers know if things have changed (as we discussed in the best practices section above), which content is working, any suggested topics or audiences you'd like to target, and so forth. The more you communicate with your writer, the more relevant your content will be.
Is Outsourcing Right for You?
If you don't have the time or resources to create content for your website, you should definitely consider hiring a contract writer. There are a lot of options and plenty of possibilities for outsourcing your content writing.
Whether you choose a freelance writer or opt to combine content writing with other marketing services, staying involved is one of the best ways to reach your ROI.
Written by Emery Pearson
Emery is the content strategist at Tribute Media. She has an MA in rhetoric and composition from Boise State University, and she is currently an MFA candidate in creative writing at Antioch University. She lives in southern California with a bunch of creatures and many plants.