In part one of this three part series we’ll explore a common question I get asked frequently:
‘If I’m planning to build out a content team for my company is it better for me to hire in-house, outsource, or hire freelancers writers?’
Questions to ask yourself before deciding which is best for your company
Before answering this question, there are a couple of questions you’ll need to ask yourself to determine which option will be the best for your business.
How much domain expertise would someone need to write about my industry?
If you’re at a company in a larger industry finding a writer or team of writers will likely be easier for you.
Some examples companies in a larger industry: A company in the management consulting space, recruiting company, sales or marketing software company, etc.
If you’re at a company that sells something specific, finding a writer or team of writers will likely be more difficult because you’ll need to find someone, or multiple people with the subject matter expertise that are also good writers.
Some examples of more specific companies: Health insurance company, coding bootcamp or software development company, personal finance or corporate finance company, etc.
I’ll walk through how I’ve managed to find writers for some of the more specific industries in part 2 which will cover hiring and vetting writers:
What type of writers do I need for my content strategy?
If this is your first time hiring a writer, you might not know that there are different types of writers with all different sorts of skill sets.
There are journalists which can be good for research based stories, current trends, interviews, etc. These are typically the kind of writers that are hired at media outlets.
There are copywriters which are typically good for ad copywriting, website headlines, etc.
There are creative non-fiction writers which are typically really good for interview style pieces and long form research based writing. These could also be good for writing e-book content, whitepapers, etc.
I’ve always found that when hiring a writer, It’s good to ask them what type of writing they like to do.
Before you figure out if hiring in-house, outsourcing, or hiring a team of freelancers will be best for your business, it will be important for you to define what type of content you’ll need for your business. In other words, what’s the content strategy you’re going to use to attract readers to your blog?
Hiring In-House Bloggers
I’ve found that most content marketers, entrepreneurs, or hiring managers immediately go to this option when they want to grow a blog.
I see it all the time — job descriptions get posted that look something like this (the sample below was actually taken from one that was found on LinkedIn):
We’re looking for a Content Marketer, Blogger, Etc.—
“We’re looking for a hardworking, passionate content creator and marketer who can support multiple projects and inbound marketing efforts focused around the company’s B2B website and blog.
This position is responsible for managing, creating, publishing, and disseminating expert content marketing designed to position x company as a thought leader. You will serve as lead creator, contributor, and manager of marketing content including blogs, article bylines, infographics, eBooks, white papers, and customer spotlight content. You will also be responsible for managing the editorial calendar for the corporate blog, including writing, editing, posting, and distributing content.”
- Must love to write and be a great writer
- Must have deep expertise in x industry
- Publish content in CMS and measure analytics
- Distribute content
- Come up with inbound campaigns that drive leads for the company
- Manage e-mail campaigns
On and on…
Finding someone that has all of these skills is like finding a unicorn. It’s not to say that It’s impossible to find someone like this, but it’s highly unlikely.
I’d say hiring an in-house writer or team of in-house writers is a good option if you’re a larger company and can afford to pay someone or multiple people full-time to do mostly writing. It also might be a good option if you need one person with deep industry expertise to constantly write about one space.
However, for most businesses, hiring one person in-house with the intention of having them write content, manage a content calendar, distribute content, etc. is not a good idea.
The problem with hiring an in-house person is that it isn’t scalable (you’re limited by that person’s time, knowledge and writing capabilities), that person is unlikely to have all of the skills needed to make your blog successful, and it’s going to be expensive.
Outsourcing Content Writing to an Agency
An outsourced content marketing agency sounds like a great option — you get an account manager that can help you develop a content strategy, you get a team of writers with ‘industry expertise’, they optimize your content for you, and help you drive traffic to your blog.
The problem with outsourced content marketing agencies is that they’re not aligned with your goal. Your content marketing goal should be to develop a blog that provides a ton of value in your specific area of expertise which in turn attracts prospects and ultimately converts them to paying customers.
For the most part, content marketing agencies are incentivized to deliver content at scale, but typically the content lacks quality domain expertise. If you identified yourself as a company that needs more specific domain expertise — this is definitely not a good option for you because your blog will require writers with deep expertise around your topic, and I’d find it very unlikely that an agency will have writers on staff that can deliver content at high quality, at scale.
Also, typically you’re looking at between a $4k — 8k+ monthly retainer for these types of agencies.
An agency might be a good option if you identified yourself as a company in a larger industry above, and you care more about having consistent posts that you can turn out every month.
Building a Team of Freelance Writers
For almost every business that I’ve successfully done content marketing for building a team of freelance writers was the best option.
This requires hiring a content marketer that can develop your content strategy, hire and vet writers, manage the writers, post and format content in your CMS and be in charge of distribution.
That is the skill set your company should look for when looking for your first content marketing hire. The content marketing hire doesn’t have to be a writer — they just need to be able to tell the difference between good and bad writing, and be able to be really creative when it comes to content distribution. That’s it.
Then your content marketer hire should embark on the journey of building out a team of freelancers writers with different skill sets and varying level of expertise in your industry.
For example, you might want a writer who is great at interviews— they can be assigned to interview influencers in your industry and turn those interviews into great stories.
You might want a writer who can research a topic or knows a topic in depth and can write lengthy how-to posts around a certain topic.
The advantages of building out a team of freelancers are that you get a wide range of voices, types of content, and that this model is infinitely scalable.
Also, from a cost perspective this will be a much cheaper way to build out your content marketing team.
Now you might be wondering how to actually build out this team of freelancers…
Next post now live: Here’s the process I use to find, evaluate and hire quality writers.
We’ve also put together a useful cheatsheet of this post so you can share it with your team or keep it for quick reference. It outlines the three hiring options discussed in this post and the pros and cons.