As the demand for excellent blog and email content increases, marketing agencies and small businesses outsource writing more frequently. I have developed material as a freelancer and an in-house agency writer. As a project manager, I’ve also outsourced content to freelancers. My varied experiences have taught me several things.
- Freelancers are valuable assets that marketing agencies should not shy away from utilizing.
- Clear and frequent communication is the best way to ensure your freelancers provide you with the highest quality content they can write.
- Not all freelancers have developed the same skills.
If you are considering outsourcing content to increase website traffic, hiring a freelancer rather than full-time employees may be better. A remote team of writers can help you increase the frequency of publishing blog posts and remain independent contractors.
Ideally, outsourcing content writing will free up your calendar so you have time to focus on more pressing matters, but often managing freelancers can absorb as much time as writing the content yourself, especially when you have to edit submissions. Luckily there are actions and strategies you can implement to maximize your freelancer’s writing and protect the time needed to focus on other tasks.
Consider These Tips for Effectively Managing Freelancers
I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. You get what you pay for when you hire a freelancer. There are many ways to find freelancers. You can use an agency or hire an independent writer directly. Either way, it’s important to establish a screening process to ensure you are selecting writers who can complete their assignments.
Our agency prioritizes SEO and content marketing. When selecting a freelancer for our in-house team, we will look for writers who have experience creating content for internet marketing agencies and mention SEO in their resumes. This alone doesn’t guarantee a writer will be able to accomplish an assignment which is why we take the additional step of reviewing writing samples.
The opportunity to review published articles may depend on whether you work directly with a writer or go through an agency. Regardless, writing samples are the best way to determine if you will likely receive content that will meet your expectations.
Read Tips for Working with Freelancers for more information about screening writing samples.
Send Clear Instructions
Once you have decided on a freelancer, it’s time to send them an assignment. By taking steps to state your needs and including clear deadlines, you will set your freelance team up for success and reduce the time you will need to spend managing their work.
When possible, send these things to your freelancer:
- Content Title
- Example posts or outline of the structure you prefer
- Link to client’s website
- Buyer Persona
- Articles with some preliminary research or pre-approved sources for the writer to use for quotes and external links
- Keyword to target
- Sources or words to avoid
- Specific formatting expectations (e.g., headers and bulleted lists)
One helpful way to ensure you send all the information to your freelance workers is by creating a content brief. Clarifying communication doesn’t end with sending an assignment, especially when submitting your first few assignments to your freelancer. Schedule a meeting with individual freelancers to review work.
The more feedback you can provide on the first few articles, the better. If you tell a writer they met your expectations and then edit most of the article to fit your preferences, there is a high likelihood your freelancer will not learn how to meet your needs.
If you find that the writer you selected continues to disregard your instructions, don’t be afraid to move on, but consider telling the freelancer why you are choosing.
Unless you have established a previous agreement, it’s important to remember that your freelancer doesn’t work exclusively for you and cannot always guarantee they will meet last-minute deadlines. In a gig economy, freelancers are a dime a dozen, but that doesn’t mean everyone’s skill sets are equal.
Our agency works a few weeks ahead on all content when possible. This means that a writer receives an assignment weeks before the publish date and has several days to complete the work. By working ahead, we can accommodate our favorite writers if they request an extension on a deadline.
As you build relationships with freelancers, they may willing to accommodate a last-minute request, but it’s not business best practice, so avoid it at all costs.
Timeliness is also essential with edits. More than once, I received requests for edits with very short deadlines causing me to have to adjust family plans on the weekends. While this isn’t always avoidable, when this became a routine request, I declined future work from the client. You won’t need to rush to meet your deadline if you work ahead, and remember your freelancer’s time is as valuable as yours.
For strategies on using a content calendar, check out our post: Creating Content Your Buyers Actually Want to Read
In my opinion, with most content, it’s unrealistic to expect to receive an article without the need for edits. This is especially true when you go through online platforms that pay a few cents per word. If your budget and/or preference limits you only to use the most inexpensive freelance writers, you need to build more editing and article review time into your calendar.
I’ve noticed a trend with online sources recently. For an additional fee, you can pay to not only have your content written but added to your website. I’ve also found offerings for content calendar creation. These added services also fall into the “you get what you pay for” category most of the time. There is much more that goes into adding blog content to your website than simply loading a post.
In the age of AI, you also risk paying for unintentionally plagiarized content. The freelance business is often one of volume. The more content produced, the more money earned. It’s vital to take time to run the content through Grammarly or another plagiarism checker to ensure you’re paying for unique or property-cited content. This means you’ll need to include a content review as part of your project management.
Marketing Agencies are Your Advocates
While it might sound appealing to have someone write content and add it to your website for you at a reduced cost, this process removes a significant asset from the equation. When a marketing agency hires a freelancer on your behalf, they are still working for you and are your advocate.
Not only will your digital marketing agency do all the research to develop a strategic content calendar, but they will hold the freelancer to the standard you expect. A great content manager is not just an additional set of eyes to proof an article. They will work to ensure your blog articles represent your voice consistently and ensure SEO best practices are executed.
By taking time to select a freelancer carefully, clearly explaining expectations and edits, and being timely with assignments, you will find that you can effectively manage your freelancers without losing your mind. You’ll need to keep the lines of communication open with your writer just as you do every other team member. However, the longer you work together, the more content will meet your standards.
Remember, onboarding is often a time-consuming process that can be unique for every company. It typically includes introducing the corporate culture, getting to know coworkers, and integrating into the job itself. By taking the time to select a freelancer carefully, clearly explaining expectations and edits, and being timely with assignments, you will find that you can effectively manage your freelancers without losing your mind.
The SMA team works hard to develop analytics-backed content calendars for all our clients. Contact us to learn more.