The two top challenges to B2B content marketers are producing engaging content and producing enough of it to fuel their marketing programs. This means, for many, that they’ll need to hire freelance writers to develop at least some of the content they need.
I help many of my clients learn how to work with writers—as well as to hire the right ones whether freelance or in-house. It’s tough. Much harder than it needs to be sometimes.
Once we create their content strategy and map out editorial calendars, I create a content assignment template for them to use when hiring a freelance content writer for a project.
A Content Assignment Template includes:
- Target market and how to refer to them within the content
- Format and length of content
- Style and tone
- Keywords and phrases to include
- Pain points, concerns and interests of the audience
- Premise for the content asset
- Key points the content should include
- Reference materials – links to sources or indication of attached documents
- Fixed fee price with number of revision turns
- Due dates for drafts and revisions
- Ownership rights and byline (or not) for the asset
- *If the company has a style guide, that’s also included upon acceptance of the assignment.
If the writer has solid skills for structure and balance, decent researching capabilities and a dose of creativity—in addition to some background in the subject matter—they should be able to produce a good quality content asset.
However, it’s surprising how often they don’t.
A few things to watch for when working with a content writer:
- They don’t follow the instructions in the assignment template.
- They use passive sentence structure.
- The tone doesn’t flow consistently throughout the piece.
- They use your reference materials verbatim rather than as ideation fuel.
- They become defensive when you provide revision notes.
- They act like any criticism is of a “baby” they’ve got ownership of instead of a work product.
- They miss deadlines.
- They turn around the content too fast, indicating they haven’t taken the time to let it sit and then gone back to revise with a fresh mindset. Editing takes time. A first draft is just that.
I’m a tough taskmaster – I admit that. I want the best content I can get for my clients. I’ve written a lot of content myself and run enough programs to know what I want to see.
But what’s critical is to take the time to work with the content writer to determine if they’re coachable and have the potential to become the resource you need. If they have the basic skills and a can-do attitude, then they’re worth coaching in order to develop their potential. Just be sure to get agreement that they’re willing to be coached.
If they think they know it all already, then let them go quickly and move on. I’ve been writing pretty much forever and still learn new things everyday.
Finding and/or developing great content writers is necessary. Many times we cannot create all the resources we need ourselves or with our in-house staff. Knowing you have a few solid writers you can count on will take a lot of the strain off fueling the content marketing programs your company needs to create competitive advantage.
Just remember to set writers up to win by making your expectations clear and doing the homework you need to do to create a viable content assignment. Often times it’s not the writer who messes up, but the company providing the project.