What is content outsourcing and how does it work?
Content marketers and SEO specialists often need to publish a lot of content every week in order to be successful with their marketing strategies and achieving it with just an in-house team can be near impossible because:
hiring in-house writers can take a lot of time
the cost of salary + benefits is relatively high
in-house writers get bored by the same topics and experience writer’s block just like everyone else
hard to scale content velocity very quickly
… that’s where content outsourcing comes in.
Content outsourcing means ordering web content (usually blog articles) for your business from outside sources like:
independent freelance writers
content ordering platforms
content marketing agencies
How does content outsourcing work?
Typically you need to have a clear understanding of your content strategy and outsourcing needs before you start doing it. You’ll need to provide the writers/platforms:
the topics you wish the outsourced writers would cover
general guidelines they need to know in order to do a good job (word count, keywords to target, etc)
overview of your business objectives, value proposition, competitive advantage, and some industry insights
You’ll need to negotiate the price with the freelance writers directly or evaluate the pricing structure of the content outsourcing services that you’re going to use.
In general, you outsourcing content writing like this:
pick a content outsourcing platform or find individual freelance writers
submit a content brief
agree on price and delivery time
receive the first draft, evaluate it, and…
accept the first version
ask for a rewrite or minor edits to it
publish the finished article on your business’ blog
Types of content creation services
Content outsourcing platforms
The easiest way to outsource content writing is to use a content outsourcing platform for it. These sites usually have thousands of different writers plugged in and ready to write any content piece that comes their way.
The pros of outsourcing your content writing via these platforms include:
quick and easy onboarding process – you can start to outsource content writing in less than an hour
no long-term commitment with the writers
easy to scale the content velocity up and down
The cons of using these content writing services:
can’t expect to get high-quality content every time
usually, you can’t keep working with your favorite writers but are assigned a new random writer with each new content outsourcing request
can get expensive quickly
Freelancing platforms like Upwork, Fiverr, and a few others are popular choices if you find writers who can consistently produce content for you without you hiring them to be part of your in-house team. This is a perfect choice if you want to have a closer relationship with your writers without the need to figure out how to do the invoicing and payments directly.
The pros of using freelancing platforms for outsourcing content writing:
you can build a roster of freelance writers who consistently write for you
the writers will become more familiar with your business, your industry, and your specific needs and goals when it comes to writing content
you can ask for more than just writing from the freelancers, you can require them to
create and add relevant graphs and other images to the articles they write
format the articles directly in your WordPress admin and add relevant links to your other articles before publishing
have their individual author bio added to the articles for building trust
add text snippets that can be used in social media when promoting these new content pieces
the payments and invoicing are handled by the platforms
The cons of using freelance platforms for outsourcing content writing:
takes time to vet the writers and their portfolios
can be more expensive than using the content outsourcing platforms
Online communities for writers
You can also outsource content writing by looking for writers from online communities. Some of them include:
This is the wild-wild-west of outsourcing your content. If you know how to do it right, you could find amazing content writers, but for most newbies, this is not a good place to start your content outsourcing journey.
The pros of using online communities to outsource your content writing:
you can find writers that are specifically educated in your industry/field and can add a lot of insider knowledge to the outsourced content
you can find good writers for very affordable prices because there are no middle-men taking a cut from each content order
you can build an unofficial team of freelance writers you find from these communities and keep working with them for a long time
The cons of using online communities to outsource content writing:
vetting the writers takes a lot of time
each deal/content order has to be negotiated separately with each writer
payments and invoicing preferences of freelance writers differ and it adds complexity to your content outsourcing operation
Content marketing agencies are a bit different from all the other options mentioned above. these agencies usually offer very different services and the scope of these outsourcing projects depends on your specific needs and business goals. If you have a big budget and don’t want to get your hands dirty, these agencies could be the perfect solution for you.
The pros of using agencies to outsource content creation:
you can be very hands-off with the whole process: from content strategy creation to the promotion of newly published content pieces
relatively easy to scale up the content velocity if the agency has resources for handling it
The cons of using agencies to outsource content creation:
usually very expensive compared to the other content creation options
How much does it cost to outsource content creation?
As you just learned, you can outsource your content writing efforts in many different ways and the costs of these different options vary greatly. Here are some rough estimates about the costs though.
Per word vs per hour costs of content creation
The rule of thumb is to always use cost-per-word pricing when outsourcing content creation. The reason for it is simple – better writers take a lot less time to come up with a new article for you and they are not motivated by per-hour pricing for their work. Average and poor writers would probably prefer to price their work per hour, but this makes content outsourcing very unpredictable and I would recommend you avoid it.
Cost of content outsourcing
A 2000-word article can cost anywhere between $70 – $400+ when ordered through content writing platforms.
good freelance writers can charge anywhere between $0.05 to $1.5 per word for their work and if you find them on platforms like Upwork or Fiverr, the offered rates also include 5-20% of platform service fees.
agencies will usually offer custom pricing for your project and it can go from $5000/month to $100 000+/month.
How to outsource content writing step-by-step:
Here’s a quick and easy guide on how to outsource your content writing in a successful way.
Step 1. Define your goals and available resources
Don’t underestimate the need for a good content strategy and it all starts with defining what you need to achieve.
Define your business goals and marketing strategy
Good business goals that can drive your marketing strategy are connected to generating more revenue by increasing the number of leads you bring in each month.
Example of a good business goal for a content marketing team:
increase the number of signups coming from new blog articles by 40% by the end of the year
Once you have a good business goal in place, you’ll need to figure out what’s the correct marketing strategy that will most likely help you achieve it. A good content marketing strategy is realistic in terms of scope, resources, and timeline.
Example of a good content marketing strategy for the given business goal:
create a list of topics/keywords that are relevant to our ideal target group:
topics/keywords that indicate a buying intent
topics/keywords with enough search volume
create high-quality content that targets all of these topics, offers valuable information for the reader, and nudges them to our sales funnel
scale up content publishing velocity and use some budget to promote all the new content on social media
Evaluate your resources: time and budget
SEO and content marketing takes a lot of time and consistent effort to show results, but once these results start showing up, they tend to compound over time. You need to be realistic with your time and resources.
A good time commitment to put on a content marketing strategy is at least 1 year but ideally 5+ years and you have to be ready to consistently publish new content each week or month.
You also need to know your budget restrictions and figure out the best channels for outsourcing your content based on this. A good practice is to commit to a publishing frequency that is relatively high and motivates you to push the boundaries of what you can currently do.
Example of a process goal for scaling up content production:
if you used to publish 4 blog posts per month, aim to consistently publish 10 articles per month for 3-month in a row and then increase that number.
What is the purpose of the content?
While you scale up content velocity, you should always keep a very high standard for the quality of the content. You should be very clear about what your expectations for every new content piece are, communicate it well to the freelance writers, and follow up on it after each new article is submitted to you.
Example list of good expectations for your content writing:
outsourced content must be relevant to our target audience
offers new information
solves a problem, etc
outsourced content must have a contextually relevant way to nudge readers into our marketing funnels
relevant in-text links to the product pages
linking to other relevant articles that get them closer to the buying decision
lead magnets that give them some added value in return for submitting their email address, etc
outsourced content must be following all the latest SEO best practices
How many articles do you need per month?
It depends on your goals, the competition for each topic/keyword you’re targeting, Google’s algorithm updates and so much more. It’s hard to give a specific number but based on my experience with consulting over a hundred B2B SaaS founders over the years, you need more than you think in order to outgrow your competitors.
Well-funded tech companies are publishing over 30 high-quality content pieces each month and they become almost invincible with this tactic. You probably don’t have the resources to keep up with that type of volume, so I would recommend getting your publishing velocity up to 10-15 content pieces per month if you want to outperform your competitors that are probably doing 4 new posts per month without a clear strategy behind it.
How long should an average article be?
1500-2500 word articles are the general norm. There are exceptions to this, but in general, you won’t see almost any articles on Google’s first page that are below this word count.
The exact word count you should have for a specific content piece depends on the search result page and the average word count of the current top-ranking articles for the keyword you’re targeting there.
Step 2. Create a content plan
You want to have a solid content plan in place before you even start thinking of how to outsource content writing. You can do it in-house (if you have the expertise for it) or get a consultant to help you out with that (hint-hint: I can help you).
Keyword research & topic clusters
Figure out the key topics that are relevant for your target group and are closely related to your value proposition. In order to gain topical authority, you need to find all the relevant topic clusters that need to get covered with your content and map them out.
When you have your topic clusters mapped out, you want to do some keyword research and find all the relevant keywords connected to these clusters that are not too competitive to target and have enough search volume each month to be worth the effort. Make a list of keywords and upload them to a keyword rank tracking tool. Aim to gather at least 100-300 relevant keywords in there.
Pick a keyword/topic cluster you want to target first and create a content brief for the writer. Use Google’s first-page search results for that keyword to research all the relevant information like:
average word count
content-type based on search intent
sub-topics that need to get covered
the potential added value that can elevate your content
…. or use tools like SurferSEO to speed up this research.
Add your business information and give insights about your industry, value proposition, and competitive advantage. Explain the goal of each content piece and be clear about your expectations for the content.
Step 3. Pick your preferred content outsourcing platforms and services
Now it’s time to pick a place where you find content writers. These are the things you want to consider when making the choice:
Evaluate the pricing against your budget and see what makes sense for you. You can try out different services with different pricing options and see what works best for you. If you want to see the prices per 2000-word article on different content outsourcing platforms, check out this article I wrote.
Ask your peers about their experiences with outsourcing content – which platforms and services worked for them and which ones were a total waste of time and money.
Content ordering process
Evaluate the ease of the content ordering process when choosing the platform or service to work with. They all work in unique ways and you need to figure out which workflows suit you best.
Editing, ordering rewrites and giving feedback to the content writers
Evaluate how easy it is to give feedback to writers and what are the rules on ordering edits and rewrites on submitted content.
Admin work: payments, communication channels, etc
See what type of pricing structure is used and if it makes sense for you. Some platforms offer recurring subscriptions, some work on one-off order basis and some combine both.
Step 4. Submit several content outsourcing orders
Finding the right content writers to work with on a consistent basis is a big job and needs some experimentation to get right.
Experiment with multiple content writing services
My best advice is to lower your expectations of getting it right the first time and try out different services when you start. You can even use the same content brief and topic to evaluate the workflows of different platforms, although I personally would give each a different topic that I could then publish on my site.
Evaluate the ease of outsourcing content on each platform
Content quality can be a hit-and-miss on every platform – no matter the price, so evaluate the platforms in terms of the workflows they are offering. See how easy it is to handle bad writing, how’s the brief submitting process, etc.
Step 5.1. If you received really low-quality content
Ok, so what to do if the inevitable happens and you receive a really crappy piece of content from one of these platforms?
Request a free rewrite or a refund
Don’t try to start fixing the piece by rewriting it yourself. If it’s really bad, ask the platform to assign a new writer to the same brief and rewrite it from scratch or request a refund.
Update your content brief
Double-check your content brief template and see if you can add something valuable there based on this experience of receiving this horrible article that you asked to get rewritten. Every failure is an opportunity for learning.
Evaluate your content strategy
It might also make sense to check your content strategy and see if the topics you’ve picked for outsourcing are suitable for freelance writers or maybe some of them need more in-house knowledge than can be expected from these writers.
Step 5.2. If you received “so-so” content
What it means – the content is technically following the brief but is full of fluff that fills the pages with words but doesn’t provide any real value to the reader.
Request a free rewrite
Ask the same writer or a new writer to rewrite the content piece in a way that actually provides some value to the reader. Be specific with your request and show examples.
Update your content brief
Add better requirements to your content brief template. Even a sentence that says “no fluff please” with an example works great.
Evaluate your content strategy
Again, it doesn’t hurt to double-check your content strategy and see if the articles you’ve selected for outsourcing are a good fit for it.
Step 5.3. If you receive good enough content
What it means – the writer has followed your content brief and there’s some research that has gone into it. The content you received is good, but not great – some sentences might be too long, some too confusing, and some typos here and there.
Update the content piece in-house and publish
Back-and-forward with the writer or with the platform’s support person usually isn’t worth the effort. If the edits that are needed are small enough, do them in-house and publish the article as soon as possible. Be sure to give the writer feedback about it though, so they could improve their writing next time.
Review your content brief
Again, see if adding some clarity to your content brief template would potentially avoid these mistakes in the future with new writers.
Step 5.4. If you receive great content
Publish the content
Upload, format, add links and PUBLISH! Quick and easy. This is how it should be.
Try to get more content from the same writer
Some content writing platforms offer the option to add your favorite writers to a “wishlist” and you might be able to get more content from the in the future. If that’s an option, try to take advantage of these features.
Step 6. Format and edit the outsourced content
There’s always some editing and formatting that needs to get done in-house before the outsourced articles get published. Here are some common elements you should focus on:
Add relevant links – external and internal
External links should add authority and trust to what the content is claiming and the internal links should offer additional information and get people to browse your site with curiosity to learn more about the broader topic.
Add original graphs, authentic stock photos
Original graphs that explain key concepts of the text can turn into valuable SEO resources as well as make the content more valuable to the readers. Authentic images make your content easily digestible and add value. You should always add these before a content piece goes live.
Format text to make it easier to read
Use bullet points, small paragraphs, text in bold, etc to make it easier for the readers to go through your content without getting tired. People can’t read walls of text, they skim your articles to find the most valuable information. Make it easy for them.
Step 7. Promote the published content
Even though your content strategy might be solely focused on gaining organic search traffic, it’s still supposed to serve real people with real questions and problems that your content aims to solve, so you should promote the content to give it a good head start on social media (which also gives Google algorithms valuable signals about how useful the readers are finding your content).
Owned social media channels
The easiest and quickest way is to use compelling text snippets from the articles and publish them along with the blog post link on your business’s social media channels. In order to get more reach to these posts, consider using a small ad budget.
If the article you’ve just published has the potential to convert lots of new customers, consider promoting it with a paid social media campaign or even using Google Ads.
Quora, Reddit, and other relevant niche sites
If the topic is relevant for people who often ask similar advice on Reddit and Quora and similar platforms, take some time to share it organically on them too.
Link from your own web resources
Figure out which older product pages, blog posts, support articles, etc are connected to the topic that you just got covered with the new blog post and add links to it.
The benefits of outsourcing content creation
Why even bother with it? Here’s why…
Increasing content velocity
The most obvious reason for outsourcing content writing is that you’re then able to scale up your content publishing frequency. Doing it with just an in-house team often takes too much time to start up and isn’t sustainable in the long term.
You can use your in-house marketing team for tasks that add more value now. Your in-house content writer can now become a content editor who evaluates the outsourced content, gives feedback to the writers, and makes final edits before publishing.
Accurate ROI measurement
You can evaluate how the costs of new content have paid off in terms of new signups and revenue. This ROI calculation needs some time though. Give your new content strategy some time to show results before you start measuring the ROI.
Different formats and types of content
Once you’re comfortable outsourcing blog articles, you can start looking for freelancers who specialize in infographics, video content, whitepapers, etc.
Various points of view
In-house writers get tired of writing about the same topics and they tend to have just their own unique point of view. Using different freelance writers will add more nuance and new points of view to your content.
Risks of outsourcing content writing and how to overcome them
It’s very easy to become a freelance writer and start selling your services without being very good at it, so ending up with poor writing or dealing with unreliable writers is unfortunately a common occurrence.
You deal with it by keeping things moving. Ask for a refund or a rewrite when you receive port writing. Don’t use the same writer anymore, try out new writers and platforms, and always keep updating your content brief template.
Different points of view can be great for your business blog, but an inconsistent voice can turn people off from spending more time with your content.
You can deal with it by being very clear in your content brief template about the style of writing you’re expecting. Informal vs formal? Friendly, silly, or strictly informative style? Talking in first person or not? Make it all crystal clear.
Less dedication to your brand
Freelance writers can’t be expected to know the ins and outs of your industry or your product. You should give them some context in your brief but it’s a good idea to always put some time aside to add brand and product-related paragraphs to your content after it has been submitted by the freelance writers.
So hopefully you’re now more confident about outsourcing your content writing and feel motivated enough to give it a go. Being a good content outsourcer is a great skill to learn and it takes some time to get it right. Have some patience and expect things to get worse before they get better.
Ultimately, you want to approach content outsourcing as a process that needs improving and perfecting each day and not as a silver-bullet marketing tactic that “just works”.