Content marketing is massive.
If you really want to reach a lot of readers, your content production has to be massive. Think social media posts, blog posts, email marketing content, website landing pages, and so much more.
How is one person supposed to create all that content?
There are just too many job titles, skills, and knowledge needed to run a content marketing team for it be left to one person.
It’s OK to outsource some of your content marketing to other people.
Many content marketing teams are already doing this. They don’t have everything they need from their in-house team and need to find talent elsewhere.
But, you must maintain quality when you outsource.
How is that possible?
I’ve got tips and tricks for you that I’ve learned over my years of building and marketing startup companies.
Know what you need
Before you even consider outsourcing your content marketing, you have to know what your needs are.
Create a content marketing strategy first. Assess which skills your team already has, and then you can determine what to outsource.
If you don’t know what you need and you start to outsource, you’ll either spend too much money hiring contractors or just waste their time because you won’t yet have assignments for them.
Decide what to outsource
Once you have a content marketing strategy, then you can decide what you want to outsource.
Examine your content marketing plan, your content needs, and the skills of your content team. What things can you do in-house?
Anything you can’t easily do in-house with your team and other employees has the potential to be outsourced.
You might want to outsource your social media management, content creation, ideation, video creation, video editing, or illustration.
There are many different areas of content marketing and you need to know which ones are the best for your team to outsource.
Oftentimes, content marketing companies will hire outsourced writers.
Some companies find this daunting as they aren’t sure which writer to hire, what information the writer needs, or how to explain exactly what they want.
Or, they might be worried that the writer can’t create articles and blogs that go in depth or show expertise in the subject matter.
But content creators are trained to do research and interview experts to help them create an expert document.
As you begin your content marketing journey, you’ll find that many of your company’s experts are experts in their field but are daunted by writing.
Some of the experts at your company will also be executives. They won’t have time to write blogs and thought leadership articles.
Outsourcing to a freelance writer can greatly speed up your process of content creation.
Also, you might find that a writer who isn’t part of the company can take a fresh perspective on your content. He or she may have ideas about what types of content will interest your readers.
Next, assess the ROI of outsourcing different aspects of your content marketing strategy.
If it takes your team a long time to craft blog posts, or if your team isn’t great at coming up with content marketing ideas, you can outsource those responsibilities.
Assessing ROI can help you choose which aspects of your content marketing strategy are costing your team a lot of time, money, and emotional stress.
Parts of your content marketing strategy that currently have low ROI should be outsourced to an expert who can do them quickly.
When assessing your ROI on each task, you should also look at the tasks that you haven’t had time to do. Will those tasks have a high ROI?
If not, it’s probably time to just get rid of them.
Your content marketing strategy should be full of high ROI tasks to ensure you’re getting most out of your investment.
When you assess ROI, you also need to look at how much internal information you must share with an outside writer.
Each time you share sensitive, internal information with an outsider, you raise the risk of the project.
Assess the risk of outsourcing when you assess a project’s ROI. The tasks that require more sensitive information should be completed internally.
Watch current content marketing trends
One easy way to maintain your quality when outsourcing your content is to know the current trends.
You always want your content to be relevant with the trends, the news, and what people are talking about at the time.
You also want to make sure that you’re using the current, trendy social media sites that are most frequented by your customer.
It’s important to look into which trending tools are being used most often by other content marketing teams.
If you aren’t sure how to find out which trends are popular online or within your niche, consider outsourcing this task to someone who is knowledgeable about trends.
Outsourcing tasks that you or your team aren’t capable of is a great way to maintain or even improve the quality of your content marketing strategy.
Have a company style guide
Create and use a company style guide.
Your company style guide should include information on the structure, grammar, and tone that you want to be used for any content creation.
Your style guide should include the information that might be needed by the different creatives you’re hiring.
You’re more likely to outsource content creation than a job that requires more skills, such as strategist or editor.
A company style guide helps keep your content consistent. A company style guide is important for maintaining consistency throughout your content, whether it’s outsourced or done in-house.
For example, if I had a style guide for outsourcing content, it would include these instructions:
- Write with short, direct sentences.
- Each paragraph includes its own idea.
- Use the serial or Oxford comma.
- Include lots of images.
- Add statistics where relevant.
If I provided a writer with those instructions, she would be able to create an article that is compatible with my style and fit right in with the rest of my content.
For outsourced content, the style guide helps a writer, video creator, or illustrator to more quickly adapt to the style that is unique to your company.
Your company style guide should include information on the grammar, punctuation, word choice, and tone that is preferred.
If you’re outsourcing illustration, photo, or video creation, you should also include guidelines for your preference for visuals in the company style guide.
When you have a company style guide, it’s easier to outsource your content creation because anyone will then be able to match your company’s preferred writing or visual style.
Write great instructions
One of the most difficult aspects of outsourcing your content marketing is providing the content creator with the correct instructions.
Content marketing is difficult, but outsourcing can make it more effective. Great instructions ensure that you can maintain quality.
You might be surprised just how difficult it is to write clear, concise, and detailed instructions.
Make sure when you’re writing instructions for outsourcing content that you aren’t adding too much detail.
Keep your instructions short and sweet.
Make sure to tell the writer that he or she can ask you questions at any time.
When you’re writing your instructions, you should include measurable metrics for quality control.
Your instructions should include information such as how long the content should be and how many links and images it should include.
These metrics make it easy for writers to comply with the instruction and style guide while also maintaining the quality that the company desires.
For example, when you are outsourcing a blog post, you’ll need to answer these questions for the writers:
- How long should the content be?
- What keywords should they include?
- Should they include images? How many?
- What tone should they write in?
- How many links should be included?
- Should they include links or information from specific resources or experts?
- Should they include quotations from an expert interview?
Answer all of those questions, and you’ve got a good start on creating concise and useful instructions for a content creator to follow.
Providing these metrics and instructions helps maintain a certain quality throughout all of your content.
These metrics are usually more immediately attainable for writers than tone. Perfecting and achieving a company tone or style can take time for content creators.
High-quality content creators will be able to easily meet these metrics.
If they don’t, you know that they’re not the right content creators for your company.
Have a great editor
When you outsource content, you’ll have to have an editor.
Even the best writers need an editor.
An in-house editor will also help monitor consistency and adherence to the style guide, and perfect the company tone in each piece.
A first draft will always need editing. Having an in-house editor will make maintaining quality with your outsourced content much easier.
Some companies expect that writers will be able to edit their own work and create perfect pieces each time. This usually isn’t the case.
Having an in-house editor for outsourced content will still be less expensive and more efficient than having in-house writers.
Ask other internal employees for contribution
Most people think of outsourcing content as outsourcing to those who aren’t part of the company.
But, you can also outsource to employees who aren’t part of the content marketing team.
These employees will have a fresh and different perspective on the company. They might even have great ideas for content.
They may feel comfortable creating their own content or they might want to be interviewed and have someone else write the content for them.
Employees who aren’t part of the content marketing team already have intimate knowledge of the company, so why not let them contribute?
Offer abundant resources
When you outsource content, you want to make sure that the content creator has access to the resources that he or she will need.
The most commonly outsourced tasks for content marketing are writing and design, so think about this when compiling resources.
Some resources that a content creator might need:
- Contact information for other employees for interviews or information.
- Contact information for internal or external experts.
- Access to internal documents such as a style guide, content idea sheet, and information sheets.
- Access to the website or blog to make updates.
Try to think in advance what the content creators might need to make their jobs easier and then ensure that they will have access to those resources.
Have open channels of communication
When you’re working with outside content creators, it’s important that you open up the lines of communication.
If someone outside of the company has a question, how can he or she reach you?
With so many options for ways to communicate, it’s important to let external employees know how they can contact you.
Some companies prefer to talk in a Slack channel, some use Google Hangouts, some utilize email, and still others prefer a phone call.
Make your preference clear to your content creators.
Once your content creators know how they can get in touch, let them know that you’re always there to answer questions.
When you’re trying to maintain the quality of your content when outsourcing, being available to answer questions is very important.
Remember: it’s better for content creators to ask questions now than for you to have to fix problems later.
One of the most important ingredients in content marketing is authenticity.
When you outsource content, you’re at risk of losing your authenticity, which is part of your quality.
To maintain your authenticity and quality when outsourcing, choose contract employees who are passionate about the topic.
If you choose content creators who aren’t passionate about the topic that they’re writing about, you’re more likely to lose your authenticity. And readers will notice.
An editor who looks for that authentic spark can help to make sure it remains.
However, it’s better to hire writers who are enthusiastic and able to be authentic when creating content for your brand.
Check past experience
When you’re looking to get high-quality content from an outside employee, make sure that you check his or her past experience.
Vetting and interviewing any contract employee is just as important as vetting internal employees before hiring.
If you’re hiring an illustrator to come on board and create content for your online blog, ask to see his or her portfolio.
You should be able to get a good feel for talent and ability by looking at his or her work.
If you’re still not sure, you can ask the content creator to do a test piece for one of your blogs. I’ll explain this in more detail in a later tip.
If you’re hiring a writer, ask to see his or her clips. You can also speak to past clients to see what they have to say about the contract employee you’re thinking of hiring.
Have a workflow
If you want your content marketing team to work efficiently, you need to have a set workflow that everyone follows.
This is especially important when you’re outsourcing content and want to maintain quality.
The majority of your outsourced material will be used in the first stage of the content marketing funnel.
Once your workflow is set, make sure everyone knows and sticks to the process.
There are numerous tools that you can use to streamline your content marketing process. Many content marketing teams use Google Docs and Trello.
Google Docs allows documents to be shared with the entire team, so those who need to review and edit it can do so at their convenience.
Trello helps keep the team organized and see where each piece of content is in the creation process.
For articles and blogs, a piece of content might go through a workflow such as this:
- Idea is created.
- Outsourced writer writes the article.
- Internal editor edits the article for grammar and facts.
- Internal editor requests changes from the writer.
- Writer makes the requested changes.
- Article is sent to outsourced illustrator for an image.
- Article is sent to content marketing manager for final approval.
- Article is posted to the blog by the content marketing web manager.
When everyone knows the steps of the workflow, the work moves quickly and efficiently.
If a bottleneck appears, you know where it is and can work to eliminate it to make things more efficient.
Have a clear strategy
I talked earlier about having a designated workflow, and I don’t want these tips to be confused.
A workflow is a process that is followed by the members of the content marketing team from content ideation to publication.
A clear content marketing strategy will make all of the content you outsource be produced with ease.
In contrast, a content marketing strategy is a strategy you’re using to grow user awareness of your brand, find new customers, and reach out to potential leads.
Your content marketing strategy would include how many times a week you post on social media, how many videos you share, how often you post to your blog and any other type of content marketing that you do.
If you have a clear content marketing strategy, it’s easier to bring in outsourced content because you know exactly what content you need and how often.
A content strategy ensures that you and your content marketing team are organized and aware of what everyone else needs or is working on.
Have a clear content marketing strategy and everyone will be able to work together, support one another, and know exactly what is needed from the outside employees.
If you don’t make a content marketing strategy or create one that isn’t detailed enough, you might find that your entire team is running around with their heads cut off, especially the contract workers.
If your internal content marketing team knows the strategy, they’ll be able to better advise the contract workers, who will, in turn, produce higher quality content.
Ask for a test piece
I mentioned this idea earlier as one way to know if your contract worker is a good fit for your team before hiring him or her outright.
I want to make one caveat before I dig in: you must pay for the test piece.
You wouldn’t ask a plumber to do his job for free, so don’t ask creatives to do their jobs for free.
You might ask for a discounted rate for the first test piece or agree to a kill fee to be paid if the test piece doesn’t work out.
Those are both acceptable. To be clear, you must pay content creators for their work. No matter what.
When asking for a test piece, choose something small at first. Ask for a blog post or one chapter of a white paper instead of an entire e-book.
A test piece is a great way to find out how content creators will work with your team, if their personalities will mesh, and if their styles are adaptable to your style and tone guide.
The first piece will never be perfect, but if you can see their effort and they get a close approximation to the desired tone, you likely have a strong candidate.
The test piece will also give you a good idea of their work ethic, their ability to submit material on time, and passion for the topic.
Choose freelancer or agency
When you’re considering outsourcing some or all of your content marketing needs, you must decide if you want to hire an agency or a freelancer.
A freelancer is just a single person who will be able to fill a single role in your content marketing team.
An agency acts as a middleman. The agency hires many freelancers with many different skill sets and then matches those freelancers with clients who need content creators.
There are benefits and drawbacks to both.
An agency is more beneficial when you need freelancers with different skill sets and have a high volume of work that needs to be done.
In contrast, a freelancer is better if you’re looking to create a long-term relationship with someone or need to only outsource one aspect of content marketing.
Protect sensitive data
When you choose to outsource your content marketing, it’s important that you find a way to protect your sensitive data from contract employees.
In some instances, those contract employees will need access to your sensitive information, but you want to have protective measures in place to protect yourself and your data.
You might have some documents or data that are password protected. You should have a non-disclosure agreement, which gives you legal protection.
Reward the contract employee
If you want to make sure that you’re receiving high-quality work from your contract employees, treat them well.
Just because they aren’t in the office each day doesn’t mean you shouldn’t treat them like you would any other employee. Be a great boss, even to contract workers.
Reward contract workers by paying them well, communicating efficiently, being kind, and providing constructive feedback.
If you treat contract workers with kindness, they’ll return the same attitude and will be sure to provide you with high-quality content.
Sign a contract
I don’t think it gets any simpler than this: sign a contract.
Contracts protect you and the contract employee.
Make sure that your company’s legal department takes a look at the contract before you use it. If you don’t have a legal department, you can find generic contracts online.
Know how you measure success
If you don’t know what success looks like or what quality work is, you won’t know it when you see it.
A lot of companies outsource content marketing, so it’s no excuse to settle for substandard content creation.
Make sure that when you’re defining your content marketing strategy that you also take time to set your analytics for success.
Once you know what success looks like, communicate it to your contract workers and they’ll be more likely to meet your expectations and provide quality content.
Outsourcing work can be a major stressor for some companies. They may just decide not to do it.
I think this is the wrong decision.
Content marketing is hard. Don’t avoid outsourcing, which can make content marketing much easier.
Outsourcing your content marketing can be a major benefit for your company — as long as you can maintain the quality.
The most important thing that you can take away from these tips is to have a content marketing tone and style guide.
You also need to communicate your needs and desires in a clear and concise manner.
If you can do that, outsourcing your content marketing will be a breeze.
What are your best tips for maintaining quality when outsourcing your content marketing to contract employees?