The biggest hurdle of content marketing is one of sheer volume. No matter how brilliant your strategy or how full your editorial calendar, at the end of the day it’s tough to actually get the articles written both on time and up to standards. According to Content Marketing Institute’s 2013 Benchmark Report, producing enough content is the number one challenge faced by content marketers.
In-house writers and outside agencies are go-to options for content production, but they’re not necessarily a logistical or budgetary reality for every organization. If you’re in a crunch to produce more content, freelance help is another viable option. After all, they say freelance is the future of work in America.
Before handing over the reigns to outside help, there are a few important quality control considerations and processes to cover.
Get your strategy straight
Goals, format, frequency and style guides should all be determined long before you even think about bringing freelancers into the picture. You don’t want to waste money producing content if your engagement cycle and story arc are up in the air, so think of freelancers as the fuel that helps your machine run, not as the machine itself.
Find freelance talent
First and foremost, you’ll want to tap into your personal network. Shoot out emails and social media messages to see if any of your connections have tried and trusted freelancers to refer you to.
If that’s a fruitless endeavor, there are several other platforms you can turn to. Contently is a platform that connects journalists and brands to create content, and more traditional freelance boards can also be of value — just be sure to carefully vet any candidates you find on oDesk, Elance or Craigslist.
Vet freelance writers
Speaking of vetting candidates, there are a few things you should look for from freelancers right off the cuff. You’ll definitely want to see previous examples of their work, and if possible, clips that resemble the kind of content you’re looking for, be it blogs, white papers, video content or what have you. As you’re reviewing this work, look for signs of quality (careful proofreading, readability, compelling storytelling) as well as social success (number of shares and comments).
If you’re happy with the writing samples, consider chatting with the candidate in a quick phone or video interview. An actual conversation can help you understand their work style and expectations, and is a chance to share your content marketing vision. After this phase, you might want to consider a trial run, in which you offer a flat fee to review work that the candidate produced specifically for your organization.
Set freelance expectations
Once you hire on a freelancer, you’ll want to be up front about expectations. It’s best to have policies, style guides and deadlines not just discussed, but formally written out. Be sure to explicitly pass these along before your candidate completes her first assignment.
As an editor, it’s easy to just make changes to a freelancer’s work and move on. If you want to develop a long term relationship, though, it can be valuable to review changes together. That way you’re more likely to see future content that suits your expectations on the first pass.
Are you on the freelance side of the equation? For tips on getting the most out of your freelance career, check out this interview with Contently founder Shane Snow.