Content marketing is no longer optional. To attract customers, stand out amongst competitors, and sell products, businesses must invest in content creation.
Written content, which includes blog posts, social media updates, e-newsletters, articles, and whitepapers, is a huge part of any campaign; and it has to be interesting, engaging, and sharable. Once businesses hone in on exactly what type of content their audience will enjoy, they must decide who will create it. The best person or people for the job might work at an advertising or marketing agency. They could be freelancers working on their own. Perhaps the best people for the job work at the businesses themselves.
When deciding whether to produce written content in-house or to outsource it, there are many considerations to keep in mind. We spoke to three content creation companies about their practices, as well as how they handle their hiring processes. Here is what they had to say.
Why they opt for in-house creation
HubSpot, founded in 2006, is an inbound marketing and sales platform serving over 11,500 customers in 70 countries. Vice President of Content Joe Chernov said that the majority of the content his team creates for their blog, which covers inbound marketing and boasts more than 1.2 million monthly visitors, is done in-house.
“It’s part of the HubSpot culture — if there’s something important enough to produce, then we tend to hire someone to own it. That way we can better control quality, and we’re investing in the expertise of our own staff, not someone else’s.”
Chernov said that freelancers have had trouble adapting to HubSpot’s style. “As a result, we’ve found that we’ve spent as much time editing the content as we would have spent creating it from whole cloth.”
Debbie Williams, Chief Content Officer and Co-founder at SPROUT Content, used to focus more on freelancers, but these days, “We now have all of our writers in-house,” she said. “We tried it every which way and back again, from regular freelancers, to content creation agencies to in-house part time and full time.”
Eventually, like Chernov, she realized that it was taking more time to edit the freelancers’ work, and it wasn’t saving her company money. “We’ve had some good experience with freelancers that we worked on-on-one with on an ongoing basis, but even then, the process and deadlines can become hard to manage with your resources all over the place. Also, it’s really hard to really get to know the nuances and goals of a company when you’re working on one piece of the puzzle.”
Why they outsource creation
While SPROUT Content has moved away from outsourcing content creation, Williams said that her company still uses trusted freelancers for specific assignments on an as-needed basis. When she needed a niche topic covered, she’ll reach out to a freelancer.
According to Kim Caviness, chief content officer at McMURRY/TMG, her company creates content for companies in the travel, health, technology, education, and finance sectors. Verizon, The Ritz-Carlton, Amtrak, and Baylor Health are just a few of their clients. Like Williams, she’ll intermittently seek out independent writers.
“To expand our knowledge base and help us scale, we also rely on a deep bench of freelancers who are subject matter experts in specific subtopics of these fields and beyond,” she said. “No topic is too arcane for us, and we’ve spent three decades building and fine-tuning our database with hundreds of best-in-class, internationally renowned freelance writers who can make deadlines, work on budget and not wilt at client feedback.”
Caviness continued, “If we need to find an expert on, say, international visas for Asia travelers, or the best opening moves in chess, it makes a whole lot of sense to go out and find THE top writer in that field, who spends every single waking minute thinking and writing about that specific topic. That’s when freelance is the best way to go.”
How to outsource correctly
If you’re a business owner, and you’re considering outsourcing your content creation, here are some recommended rules to follow:
1. Tread carefully when outsourcing your leadership roles.
Instead of hiring someone on the outside to take control on a project, do it yourself or have one of your employees head the efforts. Take a cue from Caviness, who said, “We use freelancers to enhance our content experiences and products, not to lead or manage them.”
2. Develop clear editorial guidelines.
Your editorial guidelines should spell out what kind of tone you want to set, who your audience is, and technical aspects like word count, search engine optimization keywords to include, and accepted sources and backlinks. You should also state who the competitors are so that your freelancers don’t mistakenly mention them in their work.
3. Realize that time is money.
You can post an ad on Craigslist for a freelance content creator, and you’ll probably receive hundreds of replies and think to yourself, “Wow, I’m going to save a lot of money on this campaign.” Maybe you will. What’s more likely to happen is that you’ll end up doing more work than you bargained for. While freelancers can be cheap, if you’re wasting your time correcting their errors, it’s going to cost you more in the long run. “Some agencies see a cost savings to hiring freelancers but we found that not to be the case when all is said and done with the internal resources it took to manage the process,” said Williams. NewsCred works with a pool of 500 vetted, experienced, and highly recommended writers who are the best in their particular area of expertise. We also work directly with the freelancers on behalf of the brands that hire them, saving them time and stress, and ensuring their content is of the highest quality.
4. Seek out recommendations.
Do your employees have connections to great freelance writers? Have you worked with a reliable freelancer who networks with other writers? Ask them to help you locate and hire new talent. “When we need to find a new writer in a new area of expertise for us, we reach out to our super-smart staff and favorite freelancers for recommendations,” said Caviness. “Then we give the newbie a trial, in-house assignment to see if he or she can cut it before we give them a real job.”
As budget and scale increasingly become the biggest obstacles of content marketers, teams either have to grow, or find outside solutions, to reach their content creation goals. NewsCred clients have access to over 5,000 licensed content sources and a pool of 500 vetted, accomplished journalists to create bespoke branded content. Ready to outsource your content? We can help.