Outsourcing Content Writing: How To Do It + Best Practices

12 min read
SEO/Content Marketing
By: Ammar Qazi

If you want to stay top of mind with customers, creating great content that answers their questions, resolves their problems, and offers insights on the latest market trends is one of the best ways forward.

And the best way to do so? Content outsourcing. In fact, the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) shares that 57% of the top content marketing performers rely on content outsourcing.

However, that’s only one part of the picture. The CMI also shared that 65% of B2B marketers struggle to find partners with adequate topical expertise.

In other words, outsourced content writing works, but it comes with its own set of challenges.

So, what’s the solution? Better screening and better onboarding.

Let’s figure out how to do all that by diving deeper into how to outsource content writing and the associated best practices while onboarding content partners.

How To Outsource Content Writing

In a 2021 Semrush report on the state of content operations and outsourcing, 42% of marketers considered content quality a major challenge when outsourcing content creation. They complained about having to edit the outsourced pieces to get them up to their required quality standards.

Getting outsourcing wrong introduces barriers to the overall workflow instead of helping you improve the content creation process.

The good news is you can avoid that by defining your content requirements well and making the correct decisions while choosing content partners. Let’s dig in to see how to do so.

1. Define Your Requirements

Scanning Fiverr for freelancers offering content writing services at the lowest price isn’t the best way to start. Instead, first discuss the specifics of the content outsourcing project with your team.

Here are some of the essential aspects you should cover in your requirements.

Content Frequency and Volume

How many articles or blogs do you need? Your content frequency needs may vary depending on your goals.

For instance, if you’re aiming to increase brand awareness, HubSpot recommends pushing out one to four blogs a week, depending on your size — you may need a higher content frequency if you serve a general niche to ensure coverage for relevant topic clusters and trending niches.

In contrast, if driving traffic is your goal, HubSpot recommends scaling up your content creation efforts to publish three to five blogs per week.  

Bloggers who publish frequently get strong results.

In general, we recommend getting out more than two blogs a week since website owners who publish 2–6 blogs weekly are 50% more likely to report strong results according to their goals.

And there’s a question of the word count as well. Should you aim for 1,000 words or 5,000 words? As with everything search-engine related, it depends — typically on the topic.

Pro tip: The Blogsmith uses tools like Clearscope and Frase to determine the recommended word count. These tools scan the SERPs to determine the appropriate word count to address the search query and position your content among the top competing SERPs.

But if you’re deciding between types of content, long-form content goes, ahem, the long way. Pun intended. In fact, 60% of marketers find long-form content the most impactful, according to GrowthBar.

Tone of Voice Requirements

Should you hire anybody who can form basic sentences? Or do you have specific tone requirements?

For instance, if you want your brand personality to come across as witty and easy-going, you might need a writer who’s comfortable sprinkling humor into their writing. On the other hand, you might want content partners who have intimate familiarity with relevant jargon if you’re speaking to a specific enterprise audience.

Subject Expertise

Any writer worth their salt might be able to provide adequate content on time management, productivity tips, and popular movies.

But go deeper into the world of PHP errors, compliance standards, and employment laws, and you might need a specialized writer.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

To drive traffic via your content, you need an SEO strategy to rank higher in relevant search engine result pages (SERPs). But who’ll handle that? Your in-house marketing team or the outsourced content writing team?

It’s an essential distinction since many solo content writers don’t have specialized SEO experience, and most essential SEO tools are too costly for a solo freelancer to justify.

Instead, you’ll need an SEO content agency if you’re looking to outsource your SEO tasks. Agencies have dedicated SEO experts and access to much-needed SEO tools to help you negotiate with search crawlers.

Content Accessories

Types of optional content accessories when deciding on outsourcing content writing.

Most solo freelancers won’t provide anything other than text since designing effective graphics requires a set of skills distinctly different from those required to write persuasive copy — there’s a slim chance you’ll find both skills in the same person.

In other words, you’ll be without the images that 63.6% of marketers found critical to their content strategy.

Marketers’ opinion of visual content in a marketing strategy.

See if your industry requires images and tables. If the answer is yes, you might need a content partner who can handle the images and graphics on their end.

Last, you’ll also need an effective process to upload blogs to your CMS. Do you have a team member who can handle that responsibility, or do you need to outsource that too?

2. Determine Your Budget

You’ll have to settle on a realistic budget depending on your requirements. As a rule of thumb, the more the requirements, the higher the budget.

For example, Ashley R. Cummings surveyed 344 freelance writers and found that 69% of them charged below $.35 per word. However, those with experience? Most of them charged above $.75 or even $1 per word.

Similarly, if you require specific subject expertise, you may need to accommodate that too. For example, if you’re writing for a regulated industry like finance, you’ll need to uphold certain quality standards and may need assistance from a subject matter expert.

Besides that, if you want help with landing pages or web copy, you’ll have to loosen your grip on the piggy bank further.

Copywriters typically charge higher than comparable content writers since their persuasive pens require blood sacrificesjust waking you up — more time and effort due to back-and-forth collaboration. 

That said, the expenses described are only limited to these rates if you or your company handles the other facets involved in creating quality content. Additional services, like CMS upload and visual content, might carry more costs when working with experienced freelancers.

Alternatively, you can opt for content marketing agencies with specialized teams to benefit from these additional perks without paying an arm and a leg.

In fact, if you require high content volume, content agencies might make more sense cost and management-wise as you benefit from economies of scale. Instead of paying hefty prices, such as $50 per image the freelancer adds, you get all the content accessories included in a retainer plan.

The bottom line is to decide on a budget that gets you the appropriate talent and resources to meet your requirements.

3. Look for Content Partners

Once you have the requirements and budget, it’s time to look for content partners. Depending on the specifics, you have a multitude of options.

Decision-making framework for getting outside help with your content marketing strategy.

Freelancing Platforms

If you have a one-off project and have limited requirements, you can try popular freelance platforms, such as:

  • Upwork: Upwork offers a large talent pool of writers, from beginners to experts. You can create a job posting and receive proposals from interested freelance writers.
  • Fiverr: Fiverr helps you connect with a diverse set of freelancers. You can search for content writers, browse their profiles, and review their portfolios to narrow your choices.
  • Freelancer: If you’re working with a low budget, you can try Freelancer, as its competitive bidding might help you get content services at meager costs.

Writing Job Boards

While freelancing platforms help, seasoned freelance writers switch away from them over time due to their fee structures — which typically take away up to 20% of their income.

That’s why if you’re looking for experienced content writers, you might need to look towards online job boards writers frequent.

Popular writing job boards include:

  • ProBlogger
  • Peak Freelance
  • Best Writing
  • Smart Blogger
  • BloggingPro
  • Write Jobs

Social Media

If vetting applications from freelancing platforms or writing job boards overwhelms you, social media gives you an easier way out.

Create a post on LinkedIn or Twitter and let your network do the work for you. You might get to connect with content creators your friends or acquaintances have success with.

And if that doesn’t work, play around with hashtags and keywords to get the word out. For example, on Twitter, you can use #hiring and keywords like “content writer,” “freelance writer,” or “[Expertise] writer” in your post. 

A Twitter post using #hiring and freelance content writers to outsource content writing.

Content Marketing Agencies

Fiverr might help you find freelancers for one-off projects, and other channels would get you one or two long-term freelancers for your content needs.

But if you’re looking for scalability and an all-in-one package that ticks off all your requirements without any major compromises, you should opt for a marketing agency instead of freelancers.

Digital marketing agencies typically have a well-rounded team with vetted content writers, editors, SEO experts, content strategists, and graphic designers to ensure all your content needs are covered under one roof.

Not to mention, they have writers with relevant industry experience and knowledge, so you don’t have to chase the experts yourself. And they often have connections to lean on for subject matter expertise (SME), too, if required.

The Blogsmith’s writers cover everything B2B related, from WordPress to SaaS, web hosting to SEO, and taxation to finance.

4. Shortlist Candidates

Depending on where you look for content partners, you’ll receive anywhere from 20 to 1,000+ applications. And unfortunately, about half of those applications will be from writers who are not qualified — or AI-generated, sad noises.

So what’s the solution? Freelancing platforms offer you filters to reduce the noise. But with job boards, you might be on your own unless you invest in recruiting software.

That said, if you’re hiring multiple candidates with strict requirements, it can be a severe time sink to review every application.

Instead, you may be better off opting for a relevant content agency — for instance, The Blogsmith serves B2B technology companies — since they’ve vetted writers who’re experts in your field.

5. Do a Test Run

Whether you shortlist a few freelancers from Fiverr or are in contact with a couple of content marketing agencies, doing a test run is the way forward.

So, decide on a topic, share your requirements, and let the fight begin.

To ensure the test run returns the best results, follow these recommendations:

  • Share detailed requirements with the freelancers or the content agencies so they understand what you’re looking for.
  • Select a topic that captures the essence of what you’re looking for from a content partner — in terms of expertise and writing style.
  • Give detailed feedback to the content writer on the first draft and let them edit it to see how they apply your feedback.

One thing worth noting is to pay the writer for the test run. Otherwise, you might struggle to find decent writers since they don’t want to work for free.

Similarly, if you’re vetting a content agency, start with a short-term paid project to assess how they do content audits, prepare keyword research, and handle your specific brand needs.

Finalize the content partners that impress you the most. Consider their writing style, subject expertise, research skills, and feedback edits.

6. Onboard Your Chosen Writing Partners

How to onboard content partners when outsourcing content writing.

While content partners are an extension of your content marketing team, they’re a part nonetheless. So, bring them on board with your company’s marketing efforts by sharing all the relevant information.

For example, add them to your knowledge base, share your style guide with them, or make them workspace members (in Slack or Trello).

And if you decide to partner with a marketing agency, start with a call with their content manager to ensure there’s no disconnect in the content efforts.

Besides that, if you’ve any marketing-related docs or videos, share them with content partners — whether solo freelancers or content agencies — to make their efforts a success.

Working With an Outsourced Writing Team: Best Practices

While the above process would help find decent and qualified content partners, you’ll need a process adjustment to succeed in content outsourcing.

Here’re a few best practices you can adopt to start on the right foot when outsourcing content writing.

Create Content Briefs

Writers can read your knowledge docs, but not minds. So, explicitly state what you require from them using a content brief if you want high-quality content. For instance, you may use it to convey information on target audience, keyword strategy, and deadlines.

Essential elements of a content brief include:

  • Topic: Share what you want the writers to cover.
  • Target audience: The target audience of an article dictates the content of an article. For instance, you may not want to define what profit means if you’re talking to seasoned finance experts. Change the audience to beginners, and explaining it might just make sense.
  • Tone of voice: Depending on how you want the readers to perceive you, you may have a specific brand voice. You can convey those directions to the writers using the four dimensions of tone of voice.
    • Funny vs. serious
    • Formal vs. casual
    • Respectful vs. irreverent
    • Enthusiastic vs. matter-of-fact
The four dimensions of the tone of voice.
  • Deadline: Share the date the first draft (and outline, if applicable) is due.
  • Keyword information: If you’re doing SEO in-house, share the keyword information applicable to the topic. Otherwise, lean on a content & SEO agency like The Blogsmith to do the heavy lifting.
  • Call to action: Mention which product or service you want to highlight. And if it’s not self-explanatory, add a line or two to help the writers connect the dots.
  • (Optional) Link to relevant docs: If you’re discussing a niche topic (for example, if you want the writer to discuss how your platform solves a particular challenge in its dashboard), you may have to link relevant documentation the writer can explore to find answers to common questions.
  • (Optional) Share the contact of an in-house SME: If you’re creating explanatory content about your product or service, share the contact information of an in-house team member the content partners can interview to get the required details.

While that sounds a bit too much — and it is — freelancers don’t know the ins and outs of your company like your in-house marketing team. So, they need all this information to create content that reflects your brand.

That said, if you opt for a marketing agency, they’ll likely have an intake form to get this information from you, so you won’t have to piece things together for them. And if you’re short on data, they can also help with a competitive analysis to do the rest of the work.

Provide Detailed Feedback

There’s always a getting-to-know-you period, regardless of who you partner with, and it takes some back and forth to get things going sometimes.

The secret sauce to navigate that period? Provide detailed and consistent feedback.

Review the drafts and share what you like and what you’d prefer to change. I particularly stress highlighting what you like because it lets the content partner replicate those ideas or thoughts in other sections.

Similarly, you can share your preferences regarding content, tone of voice, or visual content via examples.

For instance, you can say something along these lines:

“Hi, I liked this blog from brand A [link source] where the writer discussed exactly when a reader should opt for X and when they should opt for Y. I would like it if we could replicate the same in this blog. Maybe, we can also offer deep insights to spice up the differences like brand B (link source).”

That way, the content partner will better understand your preferences and create content that aligns with what you had in mind.

For instance, at The Blogsmith, we really listen to feedback and develop internal documentation to ensure everyone involved in the content creation process is on the same page with the client.

Establish Clear Communication

Unlike your in-house writers, you won’t bump into your content partners in the cafeteria and strike up a conversation. Instead, you’ll need communication channels to exchange information.

So, to start, decide on a couple of communication channels. Email is the most popular. However, you must also prioritize immediate communication channels to resolve bottlenecks that might get in the way of delivering things on time. For instance, you can invite the partner to your workplace in Trello or Slack.

Besides that, make an effort to communicate changes to internal guidelines and products when working with a partner long-term so they can update their strategy accordingly.

Last but not least, assign a specific person content partners can turn to whenever they have questions. And if the topic is too muddy, ask the content partner to rephrase what they inferred so you don’t run into issues later on.

Be Thoughtful With Deadlines

When working with freelance writers, try to work with conservative deadlines if the content is timely. For example, if you need to publish a specific piece of content a week before Black Friday, start planning several months in advance.

Freelance writers often fit multiple clients into their schedules. Not to mention, they usually have to manage invoicing, accounting, and taxation themselves, too. So, they can and do miss deadlines on and off.

If time is of the essence, try out a content marketing agency since an agency has a team where everyone plans around every element to ensure deadlines are met.

Final Thoughts: How To Outsource Content Writing

While it takes effort, you can find professional writers to outsource content creation if you define your requirements well and pay them right.

Still, one or two excellent content writers might not do the trick if you need to scale up your content production and seek more than just content. For instance, you can’t always rely on content writers to provide you with supporting images and do keyword research for you.

Instead, you might be better off with a content marketing agency that offers everything freelance writers do and more. The Blogsmith, for instance, does keyword research, provides expert-level content, creates on-brand support images, and much more.

Check out our case studies to see how we’ve helped other similar businesses.  

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