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Content Creation: How to Build a Successful Outsourced Team

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In this article you'll learn that...

  • Your can outsource content that is high-quality and cost-efficient and delivers results.
  • A true team effort is needed, including efficient systems, management time on your end, and client engagement, to make the process work.
  • You can achieve growth and success when you view your freelance writers as long-term partners and an extension of your in-house team.

Editor's note: Although this article specifically addresses agencies' efforts at content creation for clients, much of the guidance it provides can apply to client-side marketers as well.

Marketers far and wide, including those on the agency side, know the value of content marketing—as its own service offering and as the foundation for integrated campaigns.

Agencies confront clear operational challenges, however, in delivering a high volume of quality content that is also profitable and efficient for the business and serves the full range of clients' niche business areas.

Agencies therefore need to ask themselves:

  • Do we have the ability to hire professional copywriters in-house?
  • Should we task our account team members with producing content on behalf of their clients?
  • How do we price content to be reasonable and within client budgets and also profitable for the agency?

Often, to address these issues, agencies turn to freelance networks and specialized writing partners to either supplement internal resources or serve as a fully functioning content team.

Results begin and end with relationships

As a writer, and having seen content marketing from all corners of the business, I've learned that results start with solid relationships behind the content.

When outsourcing, you can employ the best technologies, platforms, and channels, but as an agency leader you need to approach content as a true team effort, engaging your account leaders, clients, and partner writers.

If you don't focus on your people management skills as well as spend the time needed to guide the process and provide strategic and editorial direction, disconnects will arise between the delivered work and the desired end goals, including traffic, lead conversions, thought leadership, and community building,.

Look at the process as a convergence of business, freelancers, and clients, making your writers an extension of your business and building long-term partnerships that can scale with your needs.

That sort of fusion won't happen overnight, but if you're willing to put in the time to build the systems that work for your agency, you'll build long-term success that brings future opportunities in content marketing.

1. Set up your agency for success

If your current editorial management process is built around a spreadsheet, you need to move toward more collaborative and efficient systems.

A dedicated project management software platform can serve as the key communication hub to manage your writers, projects, and publishing calendar. Take the time needed to identify the tools and maximize all of the features. Also, make sure you can add your own in-house writers and manage outside talent within a writer marketplace, all from the same system.

Don't be afraid to spend more time up front evaluating systems, training yourself and your account teams, and building an infrastructure to support the volume of content your agency will be managing.

The more confidence you have behind your people and processes, the more comfortable your clients will be with the idea of outsourcing their writing. By being transparent, you demonstrate that you have your clients' best interests in mind and the ability to change your outside writing partners as needs change—all while keeping your client-satisfaction levels high.

Using whatever management system works for you, work closely with your client to deliver content projects in the way that works with their schedules and budgets.

2. Connect with the right talent for your clients

Take the opportunity to sample writers you think could be the right fit for your agency and for individual clients' style and industry. Get to know writers on a personal level, review and compare rates, and check out writing samples.

Also, understand the cost sensitivities from both sides: the clients looking to maximize their content budgets and the writers building their writing business and earning income. Refuse to compromise on delivering original, quality content that makes an impact in the quantity and pricing that keeps you competitive. You can find balance if you do your homework up front.

Typically, higher rates will yield a higher quality of writing, but if you create a more efficient process that saves time and efforts, you might be surprised at the quality of content you can receive at lower price points.

Always keep in mind that successful content begets more content opportunities. By outsourcing, you can scale your deliverables without dramatically increasing your overhead.

3. Take responsibility for results

Accountability is the key to successful collaboration. Responsibility falls to your agency to achieve end results and to make all the time and efforts worthwhile.

To forge the best writing partnerships for your agency and clients, look at early works from writers as "works in progress." When working with smaller client budgets, plan for agency time for strategic direction, content review and editing, and revision rounds with your client.

If you like a writer's style or niche focus but you are not fully satisfied with early posts, use the opportunity to create a partnership via open communication, and refine the content by adding insight, client knowledge, and marketing savvy.

Your agency bridges the gap between written copy and results-driven marketing by setting goals and building the mechanisms to measure the success of your content. Content that drives business results is a win-win-win for clients, writers, and your agency.

The fate of the game is in your hands.

How do you manage outsourced content?

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Steve Lazuka is the founder of Interact Media, the software development firm behind the Zerys Content Marketplace and question-and-answer website YoExpert. Reach him via Twitter: @SteveLazuka.

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  • by Dave Young Fri Aug 31, 2012 via web

    Often overlooked, is whether the content needs to come from the experts inside the organization or whether it is suitable for good researchers/writers outside the client organization.

    When the client IS the expert, it can be pretty frustrating to saddle them with a ghost writer who will need to spend many, many hours just trying to get up to speed on the topics.

    We've had success using interviewers instead of writers for the source content. Let the client come up with a list of suitable topics...adjusted for SEO and link value (ie...substitute jargon with words being used by searchers). Most of these topics can be addressed by the client with little or no research. A good interviewer can pull the content out of the mouth of the client in about 5-10 minutes. Transcribe it and then hand it over to a good copy editor. It saves time for everyone.

    We built a company around the concept...if you want to outsource it.

  • by Nick Stamoulis Fri Aug 31, 2012 via web

    "Responsibility falls to your agency to achieve end results and to make all the time and efforts worthwhile."

    No matter who wrote it you are responsible for it, for better or for worse. That's why it's important you know exactly who you are outsourcing the work too. At the end of the day it's your name on it, not theirs.

  • by Leila Zogby Fri Aug 31, 2012 via web

    You speak truth when you say you get what you pay for. A fee of 20 cents a word, the top price I see your service offers writers, is hardly a living wage. You do a disservice to our industry by not honoring the work of professional writers. I'd like to see you feed your family on 20 cents a word.

  • by Prozen Consulting Sun Sep 9, 2012 via web

    It is essential that the content created is of high quality and is reviewed for purpose by internal stakeholders as you will own it. Once you find the outsourced content of good quality, subsequent assignments should involve less hassle and will generate higher confidence leading to higher long term value.


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