The Do's and Don'ts of Outsourcing Content Creation

Outsourcing ContentWe’ve told you once or twice the importance of having online presence, not only social media, but also an eye-catching website that’s updated regularly. And while you’re as brilliant as we thought and took our advice, that whole “keeping it updated” thing may have fallen by the wayside. Because you run a small business so “extra time” isn’t really a concept.

But you can’t have a website with content from six months ago.

“For a small business, who might not have much of an ad budget, you’re depending on traffic and search hits to drive people to your business,” says Brette Bennett, who runs her own content outsourcing firm in New York. “And when you have fresh content, from an SEO standpoint, that’s what’s going to drive traffic.”

So what does a time-strapped small business owner do? Outsource, not only to save time, but to get an outside perspective on your business and another creative mind to get things moving.

Deciding What’s Right For You

Much like with any plan for your business, you need to figure out what exactly it is you’re trying to get out of the content. Even with something as simple as menu copy for your restaurant, you need to determine what criteria you are going to use to see if it’s been worth it. Are you doing this to increase website traffic or social media followers? Or is it being designed to generate client leads or positive public feedback?

Once you’ve figured out where you’re going and what you want, now you need to find someone to do it. And you have two options: Agencies and freelancers.

Entire agencies exist devoted to outsourcing content, with networks of writers that will fit what you’re looking for. Agencies, though, tend to be a little more expensive and don’t have the time-sensitive, last-minute capabilities that a freelancer might.

Freelancers, on the other hand, may come a little cheaper and, if you build a good enough relationship with them, can give you consistent output that works for your business. Bennett suggests Craigslist, believe it or not, as a good place to start looking for good freelancers. But there are also entire websites like Elance, oDesk and People Per Hour that can be a pretty good resource.

Just remember, like anything in life, you get what you pay for. So if you see a freelancer offering to do 500 words for $5, well, you’re gonna get a $5 piece of content.

Giving Instructions

You could hire Charles Dickens himself (you know, if he were alive) to write your content, but if you didn’t make it clear what you wanted from him, it would still come out terrible. So the most important step in creating the right content for your business? It comes from you.

Your instructions need to be concise, but at the same time comprehensive. And if you’re not the best at writing that way, this can be difficult. Just think about the fewest words possible you can use to express length, what you want covered, and the appropriate tone for your business. For instance:

    • Bad Instructions: Write a description of our company for the main page of the website


    • Good Instructions: Write a 150-word description of our business that discusses each of the services we offer, what sets us apart, and what our credentials are. Use a light, professional tone so that it’s readable, but still serious.

Both concise. But while the second one could probably be understood by an 8th grader, the first one might net you a 1000 word piece that focuses on your history or the building you’re in.

Finding the Right People

Obviously, you’re going to ask for writing samples. But if the agencies or freelancers you work with have zero experience with your industry, or the style you want for your content, they may not be right for you. So, how do you figure this out?

Try some people out. Give sample assignments to several people (and, really, you should pay them) and see who fits you best. Remember, without those concise, comprehensive instructions, you’re going to end up walking away, shaking your head, and saying “Can ANYBODY write anymore?”

Getting What You Want

Once you’ve got the people in place, and have told them exactly what you’re looking for, you need to educate them a little on your business so they can really capture what you’re about.

“The first thing you need to do is have a conversation about your business’ goals,” Bennett says. “The goals are always going to be more revenue and more customers, but you need to dig a little deeper. Are there specific areas? What’s important to you?”

For instance, if your goal is web traffic and an SEO-driven title is the most important thing in a piece, let a writer know that. Or if the content is more of a sales tool once people are already on your site or blog, they need to know that too. The importance is communication, and even though that’s what you’re paying content creators to do, it’s YOUR communication that will ultimately drive how successful this is.
Image courtesy of ponsuwan /

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