In retrospect, this was dumb. Here’s my story and what I learned:
I was hired as a content writer for a massive global technology company. I had built up a freelance writing portfolio while teaching high school English. So, I was now prepared to engage in a full-time writing career.
Content marketing was a new bag for my company. As soon as folks got wind of there being a writer on board, the assignments began pouring in. Content was immediately needed for a mobile app, a new product launch, an email marketing campaign, plus internal communication demands from the CEO and executive team and social media and digital ad copy — it was great to be needed, but it was intense.
Great news for writers and content marketers:
This trend is not slowing down. The Content Marketing Institute recently reported that blogs, email newsletters, and social media content will lead the B2B marketing charge in 2017. Content marketing will primarily be responsible for lead generation and brand awareness, two things every business needs.
I write a lot, ideas come quickly, and I type over 90 words per minute. I can get a lot done well in a short amount of time, but we needed more. We wanted user-generated content, and we wanted our executives to write insightful pieces about leadership and productivity. Managing these deadlines and editing took time away from my own writing, so I was drowning in a sea of words with no commas to catch my breath in sight.
It took some coaching from a consultant far more experienced than I for me to give up the dream of doing it all. We began by testing out a marketing agency…
Marketing Agencies vs. In-House Writers vs. Freelance Writers
Spoiler alert: freelance writers win.
We worked hard to come prepared for our first agency meeting with writing guidelines (word count, tonality, structure). We knew what we wanted, a customized style to target a very specific audience, but after multiple editing sessions, the agency continued to push its own voice and format. Sooooo… we fired them. PS: They also charged a whopping $300 for 200-300 word posts (more on payment structure later).
I’m now going to make two bold statements. As a veteran content manager, I’m confident to write…
Bold statement #1: Freelance and in-house writers add far more value than agencies.
Agencies, by their very nature, require additional overhead costs. They often come with their own agendas and have writers working on various projects, thus leaving you without the necessary attention and tailored customization required for your unique business.
Bold statement #2: Freelance writers are stronger than in-house, full-time writers.
I’ve personally been on both sides of this page, if you will, and don’t want to shun my full-time writer brethren. But, while it’s true that in-house writers have access to in-house executives and the like and that they may be privy to new company developments faster, a single writer is limited by their single perspective.
Consider hiring a variety of freelance writers for the price of one in-house writer to gain multiple perspectives, insights, and greater access to outside influencers.
From Full-time Content Writer to Content Manager
Managing a team of freelance writers, like any job, has its quirks and challenges, but the results achieved exceeded expectations by making it – by far – the right decision.
Here’s what I learned:
Writer specialization counts.
Yes, a good writer can write about a variety of topics to a variety of audiences, but specialization matters when you’re tasked with deep diving into niche industry topics, in our case, technology. We hired writers who were already experts in digital design, WordPress, and SEO (search engine optimization). This saved us countless hours of training. I could call on a specific writer to wrap up assignments fast and count on them to send me pitches for new content based on current news and industry events. There was no way one person (me) could track all of what was happening across the world of tech, and having writers out there every day on the front lines proved invaluable.
Freelance writers are less expensive.
We paid an average of $50 and $200 per post, keeping our top writers on monthly retainers so they could be counted on for last-minute copywriting, headline brainstorming, or social media assistance. These writers earned an average of $1000 to $1500 per month. Yes, ours was a large corporation with a heavy budget, but even if yours is a smaller business, hiring two top-tier freelance writers for under $50,000 a year isn’t very much, given the flip side of potential business content marketing is proven to deliver.* Good freelance writers are hungry for consistent, well-paying work where they can showcase their abilities. They tend to stick around if you treat them well, making your investment worth it.
Creative pitches from multiple people and perspectives should be the golden rule.
I quickly learned that I wasn’t the smartest writer in the world. Duh. A little humility goes a long way. And it turns out that writers from other walks of life and career experiences had incredible insights and access to specialized research platforms. Many of them even had influential contacts they were happy to share.
Freelance writers give your influencer network a HUGE boost.
More people means access to a greater network. Our writers scored us interviews with Marcus Lemonis, The Points Guy, Danny Meyer (founder of Shake Shack), and countless other celebrity-status masters of tech and business far beyond the realm of my personal and professional network, let alone time constraints. My favorite writers were those who continually sent solid pitches and who engaged with our company brand via social media networks.
Pro tip: Each freelance writer comes complete with their own group of contacts (read: potential business leads). Work it wherever you can!
The takeaway: Get yourself some freelance writers (I recommend nDash) and win at content marketing.
*Not sure about the proof part? Here are some quick stats to settle the content marketing score.
- Companies that published over 16 blog posts monthly got about 4.5 times more leads than companies that published 0-4 monthly blog posts. (Source HubSpot)
- Content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates about 3 times as many leads. (Source: Demand Metric)
- Conversion rates are nearly 6 times higher for content marketing adopters than non-adopters (2.9% vs 0.5%). (Source: Aberdeen Group via Kapost)
- Seth Godin says so. Seriously, the marketing genius and multiple best-selling book author says, “Content marketing is all the marketing that’s left.” (Source: Content Marketing Institute)
Melanie is a freelance writer, editor, and digital marketing consultant living in Boston. That’s where she also works as a full-time content manager at a global technology company. Melanie is passionate about helping businesses of all sizes grow using the power of words. When not creating content, you might find Melanie singing dive bar karaoke or watching reruns of Star Trek. For more info, visit Melanie’s nDash profile.