Content creation can be a grueling task.
Especially if you're like me: full of ideas but not that quick at putting those ideas into words.
That's why it can be really tempting to outsource content writing and be done with it.
Content marketing is a many faceted skill that a lot of people have trouble getting spot on. Whether it's coming up with good initial ideas, finding your audience's pain points, or promoting your content once it's published, most people do have difficulty at some point along the way.
Well you don't have to do it all yourself!
With a fraction of the overall time input, you can get amazing results by outsourcing specific processes to highly efficient freelancers.
This post focuses on just one aspect of the content marketing - writing articles, blog posts, guides, any text based content.
Well actually, getting someone else to write it for you, and getting great results.
Follow this guide on how to outsource content writing and you'll never waste time or money getting content back that just doesn't meet your expectations.
1. Know what you want
It may sound obvious, but if you're going to make the effort to outsource content writing and spend money on it, you want results.
To get anything like decent content written, you need to already have a fairly good idea of what you want the final piece to be. I'd go as far as pretty much knowing exactly what it should be, before even thinking about hiring a writer.
That means, thinking of a (working) title, sections and headers, what the overall feeling of the post should be, even beginner sentences. That way you're just getting someone with more knowledge in the area to fill in the gaps with expert writing.
Do keyword research to see what's already out there. If you're creating content to help your organic traffic then you need to make sure that what you're producing isn't just going to be a diluted version of something else that's already out there.
That's right, don't just recreate something that already exists.
If you're going to use the same concept, theme, or idea as an existing piece of content, then make sure you're going to blow that content out of the water. If you love the idea of 10 Tips to Grow a Perfect Beard, but it already exists, go for 101 Tips.
2. Before you outsource: do the research!
Even though you're going to hire an expert to write the content, and their expertise will be higher level than yours (hopefully), you should still do extensive research into the topic. This will, of course, be added to by the writer, but you should know a good amount about your specific piece in order to know if your finished content is valuable enough.
Include links to sources for your information so that your writer can look up the appropriate points and add them to the content.
3. Use a framework
I love using content frameworks, they make the whole process of creating high-quality content so much quicker and easier.
What do I mean by content framework?
The framework is how you package your content. It's a tried and tested format for your post. Using a powerful framework means you're packaging your content in a format that you know has a high chance at success.
What's more, when you outsource your content writing, you can easily show the freelancer the kind of work you expect to get back.
What types of content frameworks work well?
These are one of my favorite content frameworks, especially for newer websites and brands, as they allow you to showcase your expertise in a way that is useful to your audience, and they tend to get a lot of backlinks.
They're also perfect for outsourcing to a content writer.
What you need to do here is pick a topic that people are having trouble with, such as Facebook Sales Funnels, or Broken Linkbuilding, and create a long and detailed resource that helps people overcome their problems.
Think of as many specific processes, strategies, and techniques as you can for that very specific problem. The more detailed you can get, the better. Use screenshots, links to high-quality resources, and explanations.
Step by Step Guides
Like the Ultimate Guide framework, Step by Step Guides go into minute detail on a topic, but tend to only address a single issue, with a single process.
This process needs to show the reader exactly how to overcome their problem. So break it down into steps that can easily be followed, include screenshots wherever you can, and make it easy to follow.
The trick here is not to dumb-down your content, but to 'learn up' so that you make it easy to follow whilst explaining a complicated concept.
Whilst the Crowdsourced Manual is somewhat over used as a content framework these days, it can still be done in a new and interesting way. Think titles like 29 content marketers reveal their secrets to building rapport with influencers, and you'll understand the crowdsourced manual.
It's unlikely you'll really need to outsource the writing for a crowdsourced manual, as it's crowdsourced, so you're really just putting together what they tell you in a list, with an introduction and conclusion, and maybe a few Key Takeaways from the advice your experts give you.
These can be great for getting links and social shares, as the experts you speak to usually want to promote the content themselves.
If you're going to use this framework, however, please try to come up with something original and actually useful. There are so many crowdsourced manuals these days that they're losing their value.
Brian Dean's Skyscraper Technique is a great way to create content specifically to earn high-quality backlinks.
You start by finding content in your niche that has a good number of backlinks, then you create a piece on the same topic that completely blows away the original. Finally, you reach out to the people who linked to the original piece and ask them for a link.
Easy, right? Well actually yes, it is. Well, apart from creating the content.
This is one of the most popular techniques used in SEO, and is somewhat future proof too, as you're actively creating the best content available, which Google loves. Just go over to UpWork and you'll see loads of people already specifically looking to outsource writing of their Skyscraper content.
4. Create a VERY specific brief
If you're going to outsource your writing, you want results. To get the results you're looking for (and are paying for), make sure you're ultra specific in what you want the writer to write about.
The overall point of the piece
You want your writer to have a good understanding of what it is you're trying to achieve with the content. If you're writing The Ultimate Guide to Healthy Dog Treats (I created this one once), you need the writer to know that you're aiming to produce the most comprehensive and data filled guide to dog treats anywhere on the internet.
Total word count
I tend to give a specific word count I want, and allow for +/- 10%. So if I ask for 2000 words, 1800-2200 is acceptable. Of course quality > quantity, so it's ok to give a little leeway here. You'll end up editing quite a bit anyway, so you can add or remove words as required later on.
I find freelance writers almost always stick to the word count you've requested, so as long as you pick a good freelancer and are specific in your instructions, you should be fine.
I actually write all the headings I know should be included (from keyword and topic research), which gives the writer a good indication of what the section should be about.
These don't need to be your final headings, but should be specific enough so that your freelancer will write what you want them to.
Details for each section
For each heading, write a couple of paragraphs that explain what should be included, and how it should be written, e.g.
"2-3 paragraphs on x, introduce the topic in 50-100 words .
Explain why it's important to do such and such, include details of x, y, z. Use https://example.com as a reference".
The more details you give here, the better the result will be.
Links to sources
As mentioned before, include links to information you think is valuable to the content. Add a references section at the TOP of the page so your writer sees it before they even start.
Add anything you find useful, especially if it's original research that you can reference as a source to back up your claims.
If you're creating Skyscraper content, include a link to the original piece and tell the writer that you're aiming to make something similar, but far better. Make sure they know that you're not looking to just spin the original!
5. Find the right person for the job
This might seem obvious, but when you're creating your UpWork, Freelancer, etc. job, make sure you're very clear that you want an expert in the field that your content will cover.
I usually won't hire a 'professional content writer' who tells me they can research and write about any topic - I could do that myself. I'm looking for an experienced, certified, professional who actually works in the industry that the content will be about.
You're likely to get a lot of trash applications, and a few good ones, so make sure you read through their portfolios and see if they've written for quality websites in the past.
For the Healthy Dog Treats guide I mentioned earlier, I managed to find a vetinary surgeon who had an excellent portfolio of articles about canine nutrition - perfect!
When you're reading through the proposals to your ad, bear this in mind: Does this person have the expert knowledge required to write something really useful for other professionals in this industry? If not, move on to the next applicant.
Where to find freelance writers
UpWork - This is my go-to freelancer platform. There are literally millions of freelancers, with a wide variety of skills, so you do have to do a fair bit of vetting, but I've had excellent results here. Each freelancer's profile has feedback from previous clients, portfolio, earnings, and job success score. It's free to post an ad/ hire, but freelancers are charged 20% on each job, so many will add this onto their usual rate.
Freelancer - Like UpWork, Freelancer has a LOT of freelancers. Again, the freelancer pays a fee on any work they do. As a client, you can also pay to upgrade your ad to be featured, or urgent etc.
PeoplePerHour - As well as simple jobs posting, PeoplePerHour also has 'packages' offered by freelancers, i.e. a certain number of words on a topic for $x. With these packages, though, it's less likely that you're getting a professional in the field, and more likely that they'll be a general content writer.
Scripted - A freelancer portal specifically focused on content marketing. Monthly fee required from clients, on top of freelancer payments.
Writer Access - Only US based writers, editors, content marketers, etc. Various pricing options that start at $39/ month, so if you're just looking for occasional writers to produce big pieces of content, then it's probably best to look elsewhere.
6. Pay an appropriate amount
Don't be stingy, you're not just paying someone for their time, but for their expertise, so pay a fair amount. This doesn't mean you have to go overboard, but $50 for 2000 words just isn't enough. If you want to get someone good, offer more.
Obviously take this on a case-by-case basis, but if you're looking for 2000 words of well written, expertly researched, content from a professional, then think $200 (10c/ word) and up.
7. Don't buy the bells or whistles
I always get suspicious when someone starts offering all sorts of extras along with the writing. Especially if it's things that could potentially harm your brand, such as linkbuilding, submission to sites, etc.
Linkbuilding is related to, but separate from, content creation. If it's being added as a bonus, then it probably won't be high quality, and the thing about linkbuilding is that it should always be high quality or it's just pointless and potentially damaging to your site.
The thing is, if I'm advertising a one off writing job, I don't want all the extras, I can do those myself, or hire a specialist. It may be the person who wrote the piece, but it may not, I'll decide that later and post a new job.
It's up to you if you want them to find images for your content. Depending on your budget, you might have a graphic designer who can create the images, otherwise you'll need to get appropriately licensed images, or rely on the writer.
The thing with this is that the writer won't necessarily be that interested in finding good images, or even royalty free ones, so you could end up paying them to search out very generic images of clouds, hands pointing to inspiring words, etc.
8. Do the on-page SEO yourself
SEO - do this yourself if you know how to, or hire an expert to do it for you. Writing and SEO are not the same thing. Of course someone could be good at both, but remember that you're hiring a professional in the field. If your content is actually about SEO, then hire someone who is a professional at SEO, but remember - it's YOUR content.
You can do the keyword research!
You're going to edit anyway, so it's not necessary for the writer to do SEO.
Good on-page SEO is more subtle than it was five years ago. There's no longer any need to keep repeating your focus keyword, for example, or write a whole page for each long-tail keyword you want to target.
Google's Hummingbird algorithm is used by the search engine to understand the intent behind a search, as well as the meaning of the words on a page.
So if someone promises you an 'SEO Optimized article on the subject of your choice', then they probably mean they'll spin something that already exists, and stuff keywords into the title, headers, first paragraph, and a few times throughout.
Just don't bother with those people - do the on-page SEO yourself.
9. Expect to edit
Now, once you get your article back from the writer, you're going to have to do some editing. Most freelance writers will offer a couple of revisions, adding extra details here and there if you need them, but often the issue will be more of the tone of the writing.
Occasionally you'll work with a writer who just knows what it is you're after, and gets it spot on, but more often than not, you're going to need to change the wording of some sections to clarify your position, or add further explanation to a complicated point.
Of course, since you hired a professional who has expertise in the subject matter, there's a good chance that they will have explained most things pretty well, but that doesn't mean you won't need to edit.
I generally spend several hours going through the writing to make sure it's exactly how I imagined it.
I see outsourcing writing to freelancers as a way to save time thinking about the specific details that need to go into the content. I'm not the fastest writer (This post has taken me days already), so getting help from a freelancer is a great way to save time, although I'm well aware that I will need to heavily edit the finished product before hitting publish and moving onto promotion.
10. For God's sake, proofread!
Proofread! Then Proofread again! Then send it over to a team member/ friend and ask them to proofread!
There's nothing that highlights low quality content as quickly as poor grammar and spelling.
Feel free to use a tool such as Grammarly, but never rely on tools entirely, they don't get everything right every time. Nothing can beat a human reader carefully going through the page.
Of course, people can miss things too, so proofread a couple of times, have a break, proofread again, send it to a friend to proofread, proofread their proofreading, and so on.
This will also help you weed out any weird sentences that just don't sound right, or miss the context of the rest of the piece.
And that's it
If you follow the principles explained above, you should have no trouble getting high quality content written for a reasonable price, by a certified expert in the field.
Creating high-quality content isn't easy, and it requires you to put in the work. But once you've mastered the process of outsourcing your content writing, you'll have a lot more time to work onyour content strategy, linkbuilding, and of course, running your business.
Got any useful tips to share? Drop a comment below!