As most marketers know, adding automation to a bad marketing pipeline isn’t going to magically improve it. The same goes for adding freelancers to your content marketing strategy.
The use of freelance writers has exploded in the last few years. According to Content Marketing Institute, 47% of organizations now outsource content creation. However, not all of them are doing it effectively.
If you don’t have the right resources and organization to use freelance writers properly, you won’t see the full benefits that you could. When used effectively, freelancers can help you scale up your content creation, leverage industry experts, and come up with great, innovative content ideas. Here are the things your marketing team needs to make that happen:
This may seem like an obvious one. If you’re looking to create any type of content, whether it is in-house or with freelancers, you need a content marketing strategy for that content to fit into.
Despite this, only 37% of organizations have a documented content marketing strategy.
Make sure your freelance writers understand the objective of your content marketing strategy and how their content will fit in. This will especially help them pitch your content ideas that fit with your existing strategy.
Content Guidelines for Freelancers
One of the most important things your content should have is consistency. Consistency in quality is a given, but you should also look for a consistent tone and style. To achieve this, give your freelance writers as much guidance as possible.
- Tone: Is your content fun and lighthearted or more professional and academic? How casual and conversational can your writers be?
- Target Audience: Explain your audience and their pain points. If you have buyer personas (and you should), share those with your writers.
- Keywords: List the keywords you are looking to rank for.
- Sources: What sources are good, and which should be avoided? How would you like sources to be cited?
- Writing Samples: Include a few examples of good articles. You can even provide files that are marked up with what specific elements of the samples you like.
Continuously add to your content guidelines as new things come up. If you’re constantly fixing formatting errors or changing a writer’s tone, add these issues to your content guidelines to help future writers in your community.
How often has an industry event or a company milestone come up, and only then did you realize this would have been a good thing to create a piece of content around?
Benjamin Franklin, who famously scheduled out his days down to the hour, once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
An editorial calendar is how you prepare your content to succeed. Without a calendar to track and coordinate upcoming content, you won’t just miss important opportunities. The content you do put out will be rushed and uncoordinated. A good editorial calendar should:
- Include Key Dates: Keep in mind any product releases, conferences, webinars, or other major dates or content pieces that you’ll want to build content around. Sharing this with your freelancers allows them to pitch you content ideas to support events or your larger gated content.
- Plan For The Whole Workflow: If you need to publish a piece of content on a certain date, your calendar should include the date you need the first draft from your freelancer, when the final draft is due, and when any graphics or other design needs to be completed.
- Be Flexible: As much as you need to plan, be prepared for things to come up that force you to change those plans.
An editorial calendar is an important internal document for organizing your content, but that doesn’t mean you should hide it from your freelance writers. The more information they have, the better they can plan content deliverables, pitch ideas, and understand your content demands.
Content Creation Workflow
While your content creation workflow should be included in your editorial calendar, it really deserves its own section. Unfortunately, it’s an area many businesses struggle with. Only 36% rate project management flow during the content creation process as excellent or very good.
The biggest reason for this is a lack of a clearly defined workflow. From content strategy all the way to publishing and promotion, everyone involved in content creation should understand timelines and responsibilities.
For some organizations, a managing editor oversees a team of editors, in-house writers, and freelance writers. For many more businesses, there is only one person managing content with the help of a team of freelancers.
If you’re part of the latter, one-man-army group, you may not see a defined workflow as important. Actually, it is even more important for you. If a piece arrives late or something falls through the cracks, there is no one else to pick up the slack. You’re the one who ends up pulling an all-nighter to fix it.
Project Management Software
The best way to keep your freelance community organized is through project management software. Despite their issues managing workflows, only 22% of organizations use content collaboration or workflow software, and only 11% use content planning and creation software.
On the freelance writer side, nDash allows you to keep all of your writers, assignments, and pitches organized so you can easily manage deliverables. For managing your internal flow, tools like Basecamp or Asana are popular. Our favorite is Trello, which makes it easy to move an assignment or card through different stages of the content creation workflow and gives a great visual look at where everything is in the process.
Final Thoughts on Working With Freelancers
Working with freelancers is a great way to leverage expert writers and scale up your content creation – if you’re using them effectively. If you’ve had issues working with freelancers in the past, hopefully, these five tips will get you on track!
Editor’s Note: This post is by nDash community member Tim Ludy, a content marketer with a focus on inbound marketing for B2B tech industries. To learn more about Tim, or to have him write for your brand, check out his nDash profile page.