Thinking About Outsourcing Your Content? Read This First

March 6, 2014

Today’s post is courtesy of our friends at Scripted, a company that matches businesses with expert writers to produce high-quality content. Eric MacColl, Scripted’s Senior Marketing Manager, and Nicole Karlis, Scripted’s Content Manager, teamed up to share their insights on choosing whether or not to outsource your content and how to get started. 

Leading a content marketing strategy requires more from an individual or team than simply writing and editing. A successful content strategy includes many moving parts: content planning, content creation, content promotion, measuring your content’s performance and optimizing for success. Each component is equally as important to your content strategy. However, at the core of every strategy is creation — and for written content, that’s writing. Here at Scripted.com, we see many businesses outsource content for a variety of reasons, but mostly because our clients lack resources and time. If you’re considering outsourcing content, but have a few questions you need answered first, keep reading because they just might be below.

1. When is the “right time” to outsource content?

The right time to outsource content depends on what content you need to create and what resources you have available. If you’re a small content marketing team, outsourcing is a great way to keep a consistent publishing schedule and launch a content strategy without hiring a staff of in-house writers. If you’re a big content marketing team, it’s a great way to create content at scale while still maintaining your team structure. No matter how big (or small) your team is, outsourcing content allows you to focus on business priorities, saves you valuable time, and allows you to scale your content initiatives.

Content team size and resources aside though, there are set criteria that should be in place before moving forward with outsourcing: a content plan with concrete goals. A general rule of thumb for outsourcing content is to do it when you have a plan that’s ready for execution.

First determine your publishing frequency. How often do you want to reach your audience? It doesn’t matter if you publish an article once a week or multiple times a day, it’s just important to stay consistent with your publishing schedule and maintain the quality in your content.

Once you determine your publishing frequency you can start building out your editorial calendar by determining what to outsource and what to keep in-house. At Scripted.com, we outsource about 70 percent of our own blog’s content because we’re a small marketing team (currently, it’s just two of us). We publish every day during the workweek. This allows us to focus more on high-level goals and strategy. Additionally, we’re very focused on having content prepared weeks – or even a month – in advance. Each month we order a month’s worth of posts after we meet to talk about our editorial calendar for the following month (we establish monthly themes to keep us organized).

Additionally, once you know what you’re going to outsource it’s important to have a clear outline. If you have a company style guide, share that with the company (or individual) you’re outsourcing to – and the same goes for an example. You should also be clear about your expectations for tone and voice. We have a guide to tones that can help you determine how you’re going to speak to your audience.

2. How much content should I produce and outsource?

So what’s the 70 percent of this you can outsource and the remaining 30 percent you can keep in-house? When determining what to outsource and what to keep in-house, we follow our own pyramid of written content.

The pyramid of written content is in order of value priority (lowest at the bottom, highest at the top) to help put into perspective just how much of what you should create and outsource.

Evergreen content at the bottom is something that you can easily outsource — and fortunately, it’s the bulk of your content production.

Newsworthy/trend content keeps your brand engaged in industry conversation; this can be a response or an opinion piece. If you’re commenting on industry news you can outsource the generic information of an article so you can respond to the breaking news right away.  For example, order a post or two on the history of Google’s algorithm changes, so the next time there’s a change you just have to write what the changes are and how that relates to your audience.

Long-form content — such as white papers and eBooks — can also be outsourced, but they require internal research that the marketing/communications teams should conduct. Whether that includes customer interviews or a data analysis, as long as the research is finished and neatly packaged the final writing part of it can be outsourced.

Finally, thought-leadership pieces (articles written by your CEO, stories based on company data and/or webinars) should mostly be done internally. Similar to long-form content, the final product can be outsourced if the research is done internally and a very detailed outline is provided.

3. I’m ready to outsource. What should I take into account when looking for the right company or individual?

The first thing is budget.  How much money are you willing to spend on outsourcing content? This is probably the first factor to take into account since it will widen or narrow down your options.

Once you’re set on a budget, the second factor is volume. If you have a high demand for content, going with a company with a large network of freelance writers is better than outsourcing to an individual to write 100 or more blog posts for a new product launch. Companies who have a network of writers have the capacity to produce a high volumes of content in a short amount of time.

Another factor is reliability. Ask potential outsourcers how seriously they take deadlines and the quality of the content they outsource. If you’re going with an agency or company, make sure you have a thorough understanding of how their writers are vetted.

Finally, you want to make sure the quality is there. Don’t be afraid to ask for samples from the company/writer. Also, expertise in a specific industry can be very helpful. It’s easier to work with a writer who’s familiar with your space to write content for you.

Do you have more questions? Share them with us in the comments section below.

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About the Author

Scripted is an online marketplace that allows businesses to hire freelance writers for blogs, articles, and bulk social media posts.

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