By Ann Meany published June 19, 2012

Outsourcing Your Content? How to Get the Best Work from Your Freelancer

outsourcing your content to freelance writers, CMIMost marketers would agree that one of their biggest challenges is creating and maintaining enough relevant content day after day. Feeding the insatiable appetites of a weekly blog, Facebook, Twitter, enewsletters, Google+ and other outlets isn’t easy.

And it’s not enough to have a lot of content; it has to be high-quality content. Marketing professionals ranked professional-level writing and truly custom content as the top two attributes they look for in outsourced content, according to a recent survey by Brandpoint and CMI.

So how do you get quality plus quantity? If you decide to outsource (which Sunil Rajaraman recently discussed), you need to find trusted contractors who can reliably deliver content that speaks in your voice and captures your goals.

Here are a few suggestions for how you can make sure you get the best possible work from the freelance writers you choose to work with when outsourcing your content.

Be prepared

A good writer will ask a lot of questions and may ask you to complete a content questionnaire. Provide her with some background information about the project in advance and set aside time for a meaningful conversation. Be ready to supply information not only about your product or service, but also about:

  • Your overall goals
  • Your brand’s style and personality
  • Your preferred voice
  • Previous campaigns that have worked well for you and relevant elements of your current campaign

First-rate freelancers want to write knowledgeably and have enough context so they can produce content from your perspective that fits with the rest of your marketing plan.

Identify your audience

Good freelancers should ask you about your audience. You can’t write an effective piece of content until you know whom you are writing for. Be prepared to give them specific details about the kinds of readers — customers, clients, potential clients — you want to speak to. The result will be targeted content that resonates with your key constituencies.

Allow your writer access to important sources of information

This one may sound obvious, but if freelancers don’t work in your industry, they may not be aware of certain blogs or websites that are mandatory sources of information. Letting them know who your important competitors are, providing a list of significant websites, the names of thought leaders in your industry, and perhaps some specific, relevant articles related to the topic could be a tremendous help to an outside writer. You don’t need to provide all the research — a good contractor will do some of their own exploration. But if you give them solid resources at the very beginning, they can more quickly and accurately deliver better, more informed content that doesn’t sound generic.

Get outside your assumptions

Working with someone outside the company provides you with a golden opportunity to get an “outside-in” perspective on your message. Some of the ideas that you and your colleagues take for granted may be confusing for an outsider, including potential customers.

For instance, a garden products company may assume that its readers have a basic level of knowledge about how to care for a lawn, when in fact, they may not. Writing blogs with elementary step-by-step instructions might seem too rudimentary to the professionals, but these posts could be very popular with general readers. Let your freelancer help you identify where you can refine your message and make it more clear and compelling for your intended audience.

Treat your freelancer like a valued colleague

Contractors deal with a lot: last-minute deadlines, multiple rounds of edits, sudden changes of direction, and conflicting messages from different staff members. The basic interactions that happen among colleagues often are forgotten when it comes to freelancers. Keep the lines of communication open:

  • Acknowledge receipt of drafts quickly
  • Get back to a writer with specific feedback in a timely manner
  • Include them in important meetings, if possible

Respect and courtesy will cultivate a loyal relationship. Your freelancer will work harder, and go out of the way for you if they believe they are an appreciated and integral part of your team.

Good relationships with your freelancers will save you time in the long run; once a writer gets to know you and your brand, he or she can take your ideas and run with them, and provide good ones also. This has the wonderful double benefit of reducing your workload and making you look good at the same time.

Want more content marketing inspiration? Download our ultimate eBook with 100 content marketing examples.

Author: Ann Meany

Ann Meany is managing editor at Brandpoint, a content-based marketing solutions company that helps build exposure, credibility and awareness for brands. Ann has more than a decade of experience in digital media and marketing and leads a talented team of multi-channel content creators who produce engaging, relevant content for Brandpoint’s clients. You can follow Ann on Twitter @annkmeany or join the Brandpoint community @brandcontent and Facebook.

Other posts by Ann Meany

  • http://www.usbmemorydirect.com/ Vincent from USB Memory Direct

    These are excellent tips! I really like that you recommended giving some trusted resources to your freelancer. Sure, we can and will do our own research, but you already know who the leaders are in your industry and whose style you most want to emulate, so to keep everyone happy let’s combine forces and get an extra jump start!

    • http://twitter.com/annkmeany Ann Meany

      Thanks Vincent. Agreed!

  • http://www.writespark.com Janice King

    Thanks for providing this good advice for clients. One tip I’d add is to be a referee when SMEs make conflicting comments on drafts or when they start to take the project off course. A good freelancer should alert you when these issues come up, but shouldn’t be expected to know how to resolve the politics or strategic decisions involved.

    • http://twitter.com/annkmeany Ann Meany

      Janice,

      Good addition. Thanks!

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com/ Nick Stamoulis

    Outsourced content is only going to be good if you provide direction.  A content writer is not an expert in your field.  It’s important to provide them with important bullet points that need to be included along with explanations of anything technical. 

    • http://twitter.com/annkmeany Ann Meany

      Nick,
      Yes, it’s so important to remember that. Thanks!

  • http://twitter.com/kent_ong Kent

    Before doing anything above, make sure to get referral and portfolio.

  • Rachel Pfiffer

    Hi Ann, thanks for these tips. I agree with treating a freelancer like a VALUED colleague. That’s when you gain long term relationship, loyalty, not to mention great quality output from your freelancer. I have been outsourcing from the Philippines since 2010 and have had great experiences. They are extremely great at English and great at following instructions. I got them from staff.com and onlinejobs.ph by the way.