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How to Get the Most Out of Your Outsource Content Writer

By Laura Ramsay,
ATC Account Manager

Now that you’ve decided to find freelance writers and outsource your content to them, it’s time to get serious: how can you use them so that you get exactly what you want?

First of all, providing them with a well-written brief is the first priority. Just put yourself in the shoes of the writer: they’re remote from you, they’re working with numerous clients, probably from their home and without any background information or a general overview of why this content is needed.

However, writing a brief is just one part of the relationship. It’s what to include in it that matters most.

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What Your Outsource Content Writers Need to Know

1. Direction

One thing that is quite common is that clients want to be ‘wowed’, often without clear direction or knowledge of tone, or style, or what they should say (or even what being ‘wowed’ would take). They often like to leave it up to the outsource content writer to decide what to include, and I’ve personally heard the phrase ‘let’s see what you come up with’ quite a lot with ATC’s own clients.

But, having years of experience of writing for all different kinds of clients and from different industries doesn’t mean that any outsource content writer is going to automatically become a mindreader!

Now, this ‘let’s see what they do’-approach is okay if the subject is specific enough – if you’re trying to sell a particular product for example. But if a client wants a ‘thought leadership’ blog post in the CEO’s voice on ‘how to grow your brand’, your outsource content writer might miss the mark slightly, as they don’t have any real relationship with the CEO, or knowing what their tone of voice is actually like (and will often not even have met or spoken to them).

The number of times I’ve heard that ‘the CEO wouldn’t say that’, or ‘it doesn’t really sound like us’ – could be radically cut down if a client would just explain what they would say, which can then be included in the piece.

2. The Target Audience

Seems obvious right? Well, sometimes it’s not… because the client themselves isn’t so clear on who they’re trying to target, or, they don’t have an idea who their target market is.

Knowing this information is key for an outsource content writer to adjust their tone of writing, for example – are they targeting professionals who will understand the technical terms, or do they need to use low-tech terms for non-savvy customers? Perhaps writing in a more feminine style if most of their customers are women, or using colloquial language for a particular region, if they know where a lot of their customers are based.

It can help outsource content writers massively even to know some words locals use, the age range they’re writing for and what socioeconomic background they are from. Even just using US English over British English can have dramatic effects on the success of the content.

3. The Marketing Funnel

Where exactly will readers see this content? At what stage of the marketing funnel will readers come across this? Is this piece part of a series of blog posts for marketing purposes? An email campaign for cold customers, existing customers, to be used on a client’s website, is it a landing page, a Facebook ad, a banner on Google, or something else?

It’s imperative to know where readers will see what your outsource content writer is producing,  so they can imagine the journey of the reader to where the client wants them to go. Will the CTA, ‘Buy Now’ actually take them to a page where they can buy, for example?

4. What’s the Message?

What do you actually want to say with this copy or content? What’s the story behind the content request?

Again, this seems obvious but think about what the actual aim of the final piece is – is it to tell people about what Antivirus apps are available, or which one they should buy?

You would be shocked at how many times a client neglects to mention the ultimate goal of the content piece, or the number of times a outsource content writer just isn’t told this necessary information.

4. Word Count

This should always be included so you don’t waste anyone’s time. Too often clients don’t know the parameters of the character limits of ads, or word counts for optimising their blogs. You can write some great copy or even the best blog post you’ve ever written and it can be too long, too short, or just doesn’t cover the topics in enough detail.

5. Keywords

What are the keywords that you want to include in your content? Providing an outsource content writer with this will really help them with the direction and message of the piece.

Be sure to include words and terms and even the headers that you want. The more guidance here, the better.

6. Which Content/Websites Do You Like, or Don’t You Like?

For writers, having something to refer to really helps to understand what style you are going for. If you can, give examples of what you think is good copy, or even of the blog posts you’ve read that you’ve liked.

Provide links to sites, videos, go nuts – it’s all useful information for an outsource content writer to gauge your opinion and inspiration.

Similarly, tell them what you don’t like, hate in fact. Do you hate stating the obvious, or ‘fluff’? Then tell the writer what you consider ‘obvious’ to be.

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7. Deadline

You want new content and you wanted it ‘yesterday’, well, unfortunately, this is not possible, however, good outsource content writers should be able to turn around good content within a reasonable time frame.

Depending on if it’s editing existing copy, which takes less time, or writing completely new content, please be fair and give outsource content writers a realistic due date.

If they are available and not working on something else at the time, you can usually expect a thousand-word blog post to be submitted in up to three days. That’s not to say it can take some writers less time, and other writers more, but really, this is the average time you can expect it to be done by.

The Bottom Line

Details, details and more details. The more details you give your outsource content writer, the more they have to work with. And that’s it until you think of something else, that is!

One final thought from me: something that will always, always delay a writer is adding or changing the brief after you’ve given it to them. Try and think about this beforehand, of course, some edits are expected but one thing is a given: if you’re not clear from the beginning about what you want, then your outsource content writer is unlikely to write content that meets your expectations.