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It’s the next question you’ll have to ask right after answering “Should I outsource my content at all?” Most brands adapt a mix of creating content in-house and sourcing the skills of experts when the need arises.
To compete with the most successful brands, a talented team of content creators should be at your beck and call whether you have a tiny budget or millions to play with. On average,
Most brands adapt a mix of creating content in-house and sourcing the skills of experts when the need arises. To compete with the most successful brands, a talented team of content creators should be at your beck and call whether you have a tiny budget or millions to play with.
On average, large organizations outsource 63% of the content creation and design while 69% of smaller companies outsource it. Even though most people are outsourcing multiple aspects of content marketing, the investment spread isn’t the same.
With writing and design accounting for 44% and 41% of the outsourced content respectively. If we’re to believe the data, those are two of the most important pieces of the content pie.
Instead of spending your time managing and growing your business, you’ll be spending it learning the dozens of skills necessary to create unique and compelling content week after week.
To compete with the 91% of successful business bloggers which create content weekly or more often, you’ll need a team or learn the delicate art of outsourcing.
According to a report by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, 60% of respondents said the top challenge in content marketing is producing engaging content. This challenge was followed closely by producing content consistently.
On the other end of the spectrum, customers appreciate custom content.
Good relationships create good vibes and good vibes create repeat sales.
I think it’s pretty clear by now the question isn’t whether or not you should be creating content. Rather, it should be “what strengths do you have in-house” and “what aspects of the process do you need to outsource?”
We’re going to look at how you can decide what portions of your content marketing you need to outsource, what to look for in an agency when outsourcing, and what to look for in a freelancer when outsourcing.
Your budget, whether you like it or not, is one of the first things you’ll consider when you dive into content marketing. Yes, it’s less expensive than traditional marketing, but that doesn’t mean it’s cheap, especially when you’re trying to get the best of the best.
To make a dent with content, you need to not only make content much better than your competition, you need to make it better by a factor of ten. Some people call this 10x content while other people call it Skyscraper content.
Whatever you call it, the fact remains, it costs a little bit of cash to make stellar content.
In a study published last year, the average B2C marketer spends 32% of their budget on content marketing.
Your best efforts can be railroaded if you don’t plan and allocate the best resources to your content marketing
Below are the average salaries of just a few of the people you’ll need on your content marketing team.
A Writers/editors salary in the United States is $30,00-$80,000
Graphic Designer’s salary is $30,000-$59,000
Videographer salary is between $29,000-$60,000
Web Developer salary is $36,000-$83,000
As you can clearly see, if we take the averages of all these positions and add it together then you’re looking at about $200,000 per annum.
As a rule of thumb, a dedicated agency will need a commitment of a few thousand dollars every month before they’ll take you on. Any less than that and you should be worried about the quality of work the agency is offering.
Conversely, you can manage a great team of freelancers for about a thousand dollars (or a little less) a month and be sure of the quality you’re going to receive.
All things considered, your starting budget will have a huge impact on the choice you make here.
The most important thing you can do is get the highest quality you can while staying within your budget. After you start to reap the benefits of content marketing, you can scale it exponentially.
35% of people feel they don’t have the budget to create amazing content in house.
As much as we’d all like to say we’re part of the cool kid crowd and write awesome case studies of our results, let’s be realistic. Not everyone is going to get triple digit traffic increases in 60 days.
Different people want different things in their businesses and because of that; there are different levels of quality floating around the internet.
This is a marketing blog, one of many on the internet and my audience is generally well educated so five hundred word posts just aren’t going to cut it. On the contrary, you may be in the pet care industry and your audience doesn’t need a mind blowing treatise on the proper way to wash their dog.
To answer the question “quantity or quality”, you need to understand what’s currently available in your market, how much it will take to do something better, and what your budget is.
As I already said, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel or create every type of content out there.
If you have the resources to only publish some really spectacular blog posts, then do that. It’s by no means a must for you to make videos, infographics, and articles in one go.
If you don’t have the resources to promote and grow an audience across LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and Pinterest at the same time, then why are you wasting your time trying?
Choose one and work to create a killer brand there.
So should you choose the cheapest and get the most quantity or should you choose the most expensive and get the best quality?
I say it depends on your goals, brand, and competition. Make the best quality content you can in one format and work to grow a loyal following on one platform and you’ll do very fine.
Finding all the people you need in house isn’t as easy as it seems. In fact, 42% of companies feel they don’t have the expertise to do content marketing it in house.
Let’s get one thing straight, content marketing isn’t as easy as you may have been lead to believe.
Good, let’s keep moving.
To answer this question, you need to do a little soul searching and trust the people you have around you. Even though you may have hired someone as a grunt, they may actually be a killer writer.
Oftentimes, for a smaller pay bump than hiring brand new talent, you can bring them on as your in house writer.
There are a few positions you need to fill if you’re going to have a successful content marketing campaign.
This one seems to be a no brainer, you’re creating content and a major staple of that content are high quality articles. Although anyone can be taught to write, when you’re first starting out, you need someone on your team that can pump out articles on demand.
A jack of all trades is not your friend in this particular situation. You need a person that knows what they’re talking about so you don’t have to constantly edit their work for accuracy and relevance. Another perk of someone who’s already an expert is being able to take their own initiative and create content that you would’ve otherwise missed.
The ability to network is very important when it comes to content marketing. Can you build relationships with the right people, can you identify where certain content performs the best, and can you create meaningful experiences with your audience? It’s all a part of being a people person and networking effectively.
Long story short, do you have these skills on your team? If not, you’ll need to find them either through an agency or a freelancer.
It may seem strange, but 50% of marketers don’t have a documented content marketing strategy.
Without a well-defined strategy, you can’t have well defined goals either. Without well-defined goals, you’re just throwing money down the drain.
In the chart below, the number one goal of content marketing is loyalty from the audience consuming it followed closely by engagement, brand awareness, and of course sales.
Content marketing, unfortunately, isn’t a magic bullet. You need to have clear goals for anyone you’re working with. Whether that person is in house or not is irrelevant. Without goals, everyone will get frustrated by the entire process and you’ll find people jumping ship as soon as they get aboard.
Every organization is different and will have different goals with their marketing. Here are a few that are universal can help you choose the right person for the job and make the experience much more enjoyable.
Before someone can buy from you, they need to know who you are and what you stand for. That’s where brand awareness comes into play. Your content is the first thing people see and interact with. Whether it’s on social media or your website, it should leave people asking,” who the hell wrote this, I need more.”
This may seem odd, but it’s uber important. People who understand exactly what you’re offering will have the right expectations of your service or product. If you do your job correctly, you’ll drastically cut down on the number of people calling you back for a return. Fortunately, content marketing was built to educate potential customers. A simple way to start the educational process is to write down questions you commonly get from customers and convert the answers into in depth blog posts.
Well, we’re all in business to make money, so it’s only natural that you’d want to make a few sales as a direct result of content marketing. I want you to understand that the process is compounding. If you just started a blog yesterday, don’t expect it to start making millions of dollars for you tomorrow. Create realistic expectations of what you want from your content marketing and communicate that to your team.
This is one of my favorite uses of the content I create. Since most of your website visitor leave after consuming a piece of content or two, it’s in your best interest to actively encourage them to sign up to your newsletter or drop a phone number so you can continue the process of education and marketing.
There you have it, use the four questions I’ve outlined to determine if you really need to outsource all or some of your content creation and promotion. If you decide that it’s in your best interest to bring in outside help then keep reading.
In the next few sections, we’re going to look at how to choose the right agency or the right freelancer for your business.
A few years ago, choosing an agency was simple. If you needed a design made then you would go to a creative agency, if you needed SEO services then you’d go to an SEO agency.
Unfortunately, with the rise of content marketing, many agencies have undergone a rebranding and claim to be good at everything. While this may be the case, it’s important you equip yourself with the right information to make an informed decision.
Hiring an agency is a big investment in time, resources, and energy. Before you start talking about how much you’re going to be paying them every month, a good agency will be doing some due diligence of their own.
They’ll want to know what your internal processes look like, what kind of assets you have in place, who your ideal customer is, and a slew of other things. If they don’t have a clear understanding of who you are as an organization, they can never meet your expectations.
Your content marketing agency should understand the big picture of your business and how they’ll be able to assist you in reaching those goals.
Since you’re going to be leaning on your agency pretty heavily, it’s ideal that they should have expertise in your specific industry. If you’re a doctor, it’ll be much more convenient for you if they’ve either worked with doctors in the past or cater specifically to doctors.
Your needs will be different than those of a financial institution and a barber shop. Keep an open mind though. If you’re in more of a niche market like World of Warcraft, they may not know that a LVL 52 magician is supposed to have the firestorm ability, but they should know the best way to communicate with gamers.
The most important thing is that you don’t want to have to educate them about everything happening in your market before you get started.
With specific expertise also come connections in that industry. It’s always a plus when your agency has already built relationships with key influencers to amplify the content they’ll be creating for you.
Duh, you want to know the things they’re going to be measuring to achieve success. This goes beyond just traffic to your website, while that’s good, you want to know how they’ll integrate their tools and workflow into your current strategy.
Going beyond that, you want to make sure that they’re going to use data to drive the decisions they’ll be making on your behalf. Are you getting most of your leads and engagement from Google+? Then double down on that avenue.
Work to get a clear understanding of the KPI’s (key performance indicators) they’re using and if those are in line with your content marketing goals. The only way to do that is to be direct and ask for what you want.
Lastly, make sure they have a culture of always looking for areas of improvement. Best practices get better and cutting edge gets dull after a while.
Everyone has to start from somewhere and if the agency is a new one it’s OK, just make sure they cross the T’s on everything else.
In every other case, you should politely ask for a few references that you can talk to. People they’ve worked with in the past or are currently working with.
Since the rebranding most agencies have gone through, it may be difficult to get a clear understanding of what they actually specialize in (their core competencies).
To get around this challenge, you can and should ask for a list of clients they’ve worked with in the past.
When talking to these clients, focus on what the process of the agency is like and how they helped the company achieve their goals.
This’ll yield invaluable insights that the agency can’t or won’t tell you before you hire them.
At this point, you’ve gathered a large amount of data on multiple content marketing agencies. Now how do you distill the raw information in order to make the best decision for yourself and your organization?
It’s easy to talk a big game, but it’s not so easy to back those up with results. Everything they tell you should be verified by you or someone on your team.
Determine your most important criteria
Naturally, there are some things in a content marketing agency that you’ll find more important than others.
Maybe, you’re keen on creating a series of videos and need an agency that has a proven track record in that regard. Maybe you find high quality articles the most important aspect of your marketing push and need your agency to bring their A-game
As you interview the different agencies, make notes on the areas that they did well and the ones where they dropped the ball.
Make sure you get your team involved as they’ll probably notice some things you didn’t and vice versa.
Make the Choice
We live in an imperfect world and there’s only so much due diligence you can do. Eventually, you’ll have to make the choice of whether or not you’re going to pull the trigger and hire an agency for your business.
There are myriad benefits to hiring an outside group to help you achieve your business goals. They’re not limited by your organizational politics and can help you unravel challenges with an unbiased view.
Even though there are many benefits, always remember it’s not a match made in heaven and many things can go wrong in the process. It’s up to you to keep your agency accountable at all times.
There’s an insane amount of freelancers wandering the world wide web and you can just as easily find a great one as you can a horrible one.
When looking for the right freelancer to take your business to the next level, you come across a different set of challenges entirely.
Instead of wondering if your team will like their team, if they have enough available content creators for you, and other things you think of when hiring an agency, you’re exposed to a different set of concerns.
Let’s look at the things you should have in mind when choosing a freelancer.
If you’ve ever taken a chance on an unknown freelancer, you can understand how frustrating it can be to repeat your instructions over and over again and not get any real return for it.
To avoid this problem at the beginning, you have two options.
You can look through their portfolio (assuming they have an updated one) or you can commission a small piece of work to test the waters.
With the first option, it’s important to note a freelancer with a steady stream of work may not have the time to update their website with all of their latest projects. Don’t worry, you can always ask them to send you a more recent sampling of their projects.
More than likely, they have a folder on their desktop brimming with great projects they’ve worked on.
The second option, commissioning a small job, may not work for every project, but for things like articles and a little custom design work it’s the perfect way to test the waters.
I’m sure you’re well aware of what it means to know how to do a little of everything. You don’t do any one very well.
If your prospective freelancer is doing SEO, article writing, graphic design, and web design it may be a warning sign that most of the services are going to be average or below average.
Instead of trying to get a freelancer that can do it all in order to cut down on management time you’ve got to spend. It’ll be better for you to find individual freelancers that are experts in one thing.
Find a good writer
Find a good web designer
Find a good marketer
Let the freelancer know what you’re looking for right off the bat and request samples of that type of work so you can make an informed decision.
You’ll get a better return on your investment by hiring specialists rather than generalists.
The thing about having a freelancer on your team is that they have a very limited amount of time and resources.
Unlike an agency, they can’t allocate more staff members to our account if they start falling behind. At best, they’ll burn the midnight oil to catch up.
The better a freelancer is and the more work they complete successfully, the less time they have in their schedule.
Make sure the freelancer you’re considering is able to find time for you.
Before you get into the really difficult talks, make your deadlines clear so they can tell you if they’ll be able to meet up with your schedule.
Even if the freelancer you’re keen on hiring isn’t available due to one thing or another, you can just as easily ask them to give you a recommendation. Freelancers who work in the same area tend to network with each other pretty frequently and you can find a few good ones by tapping into their community.
A rule of thumb here is not to rely on the same person for all of your work, it’s ideal to have at least 2-3 freelancers on call for every aspect of your content marketing.
That way, you’ll have a solid team and be able to really reap the benefits of a well-executed content marketing initiative.
A good relationship is built on great communication. When hiring a freelancer this is a crucial element to get right. Nothing makes a relationship fall apart faster than when you’re unable to get in touch with the other party or vice versa.
Everyone has their preferred method of communication. I like email above all else, but if I’m pressed I’ll jump on a Skype chat or call.
If your freelancer usually communicates through email, they’ll likely be willing to communicate through another avenue if you make it worth their while. Just ask, if you don’t, you’ll never know.
Conversely, don’t force anyone to communicate with you via a channel they don’t like. For example, you’d have a hard time convincing me to carry out our business conversations via Whatsapp.
Keep an open mind about how you’re going to be communicating with your freelancers. If you want to use an avenue they’re not familiar with, just make sure you make it worth their time.
The freelancing world has huge extremes when it comes to pricing. You can find a complete novice that’ll charge you $2 for an article of 500 words, while an expert can charge you hundreds.
To put it simply, the best price is what you’re willing to pay.
Let your prospective freelancer know up front exactly what you’re willing to pay for their services, this way you won’t waste your time or theirs.
For smaller projects, don’t be afraid to pay upfront. For larger projects it’s not uncommon for you to make a deposit before the work starts.
Trust is a big aspect of freelancing and it’s one of the main reasons platforms like Upwork were created.
Be wary if the freelancer wants a large amount of money upfront because it’s not common practice. All things being equal, a great working relationship is built on trust. Without it, you can’t get very far.
If you want your freelancers to trust you then you should do everything in your power to earn that trust.
Freelancers can be a great way to accomplish your businesses goals without shelling out the cash that an agency would require.
Just make sure you do your due diligence and apply the principles I’ve outlined here and you should be fine.
When it comes down to it, the freelancer vs agency debate can only be settled by you on a case by case basis.
You need to take into consideration your budget, current skill levels, and the amount of assistance you’re looking for.
When you can answer the key questions outlined in this article, then you’ll be well on your way to making the right decision for yourself and your business.
We’ve developed a unique solution for organizations who want to take advantage of the skills of an agency at the price point of a freelancer with our Growth Jobs.
All things considered, as long as you know what you want and what your goals are you’ll be fine.
Let me know what you think in the comments and don’t forget to share.
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