Content teams

How to Outsource Content Creation For Your Business in a Way that Doesn’t Suck

Fact: Outsourcing content teams are more cost-effective, low-risk, and flexible than building internal teams.

Fiction: It's easy. Outsourcing is an absolute shout if you're looking to save on costs, drastically reduce onboarding timeframes, and keep your content marketing strategy flowing like hot gossip at a high school reunion.

In my years, I've been on both sides of the coin: outsourcing content marketing as an internal head of content. Being hired for creating content by content managers. In this article, I'll share my learning over the years, and help you outsource your content creation process in a way that doesn't suckbecause it can!

Let's go!

Why is content creation important?

High-quality content can help your business in growth—i.e lead acquisition, brand awareness, and direct sales. Content for this type of growth is typically for SMBs. However, content creation doesn’t stop at content marketing.

Content creation can also be a crutch for sales enablement, internal process building and tracking (business operations) in-app messaging (UX writing = retention), and much more. A business needs content across the board; and it’s something we’re trying to cater to here at dslx.

However, you’re most likely here as you’re looking at content creation for growth, so let’s stick to watering the marketing garden for now.

Average world wide media consumption is 455 minutes per day—that’s over seven hours of screen time! It’s an insane statistic that, unfortunately, is our reality. Let’s dive a level deeper into Millennials: who in the US alone hold a spending power of USD 2.5 trillion.

20% of Millenials spend 20+ hours a week consuming online content—they’re chowing through it like birthday cake. And with 53% of businesses getting their web traffic from organic search (search engine optimization efforts) it’s leaving a huge opportunity on the table for brands to reach people where they’re at—without forking out traditional advertising costs, which could be skyward of $500,000!

So, what’s everyone doing to jump on the more effective, targetted, and cost-efficient content train? SemRush surveyed 1,700 marketers and business owners to build a State of Content Marketing: 2023 Global Report. It’s a great resource that I’m not going to make you troll through. Here are the highlights:

➡️ The top three reasons businesses are using content marketing are to: attract more traffic to the site, increase brand awareness, and generate leads.

➡️ 69% of businesses said their content marketing budget will increase in 2023

➡️ 17% of businesses are spending between $5,000-$10,000 per month on content

With good reason, investment is happening, content is innovating, and businesses are seeing an ROI that’s outweighing the lot.

Let's get into these benefits, shall we?

Benefits of outsourcing content creation

Yes, I’m going to be (a little) biased here. But, let’s remember, I’ve been on both sides of the coin, and the grass really isn’t greener trying to hire in-house. Let’s jump through some of these benefits to outsourcing your content creation efforts and I’ll try to align my personal experience with each.

Reduced overhead costs—like, drastically

Let’s add it all up. If you’re serious about running a healthy blog (I'm not even going to get into the other areas of content for the sake of keeping this article on track) you’ll need the following roles. I’ve gone ahead and researched how much these roles will cost you (per month) with PayScale.

🚣 Content Manager: $5,400

🚣 Content Writer:  $4,300

🚣 SEO Manager: $6,300

🚣 Graphic Designer: $4,100

This is the bare bones of a content team, but I want to give more of an insight into the numbers behind the output. The above would be costing your business: $20,100 per month. I’m not even going to get into the HR time, tax costs, benefits costs, and insurance costs that surround hiring these people as well.

An in-house team is going to be a massive investment. It was for us during my time at EBS. We started with an internship program spanning across 12 markets, and I was responsible for the lot. But, interns are temporary and they’re a huge time investment. If you’re not keeping that talent at the end of the program (for whatever reason) then you’re back to first base, and need to start all over again.

To be even more transparent, our minimum contract at dslx is $3,500 per month, which gives clients access to: account managers, professional writers, editors, graphic designers, SEO specialists, and web specialists. That’s not even one of the above salaries.

Time efficiency—agencies are hyper agile

I know I can speak on behalf of dslx, agencies are agile. We have a “get sh*t done* mentality that means you’ll often see results that much faster than if you’re trying to build an in-house team. Looking back at my first role at a social media marketing agency, we had the same mentality there. It’s a typical agency culture that tastes like Marmite—you either love it or you hate it.

It’s one thing that frustrated me a lot when working in-house. Having to jump through hoops, and get sign-offs from every manager and their mother in order to progress a project.

However, agencies are often measured by their output, not their input, so you’ll see the time it takes for them to onboard and start creating work is drastically less than in-house teams.

Immediate access to specialized knowledge and skills

I can guarantee you that if an agency doesn’t currently have the skillset you’re looking for, they’ll find it. Agencies often partner with other agencies to fill in the blanks they’re missing and deliver a more holistic product for clients. You’ll get access to hyper-specialized roles on any project, and this simply won’t be the case with an in-house person. You’ll need to hire again.

Get yourself enhanced quality

This one is still up for debate in my books. Many believe that by working with an agency you’ll see an increase in the quality of your work. However, as much as it pains me to say it, I’ve seen work from agencies in the past that’s delivering the bare minimum on the agreed output contract, and isn’t dedicating to the success of that output.

Honestly, it’s a crying shame, and I understand why so many in-house content managers have agency trauma that we’re trying to conquer every day at dslx.

Ability to scale content production as needed

This one could not be more true. When you onboard an agency, or a team of freelancers, the flexibility of your outputs becomes that of an olympic gymnast. An internal hire can only produce so much before you’ll need to start looking to hire again, onboard, train, the process is tiring.

Then, what happens if things aren’t going so great? In the worst situation (Q1 of 2023 in tech) you’ll need to let that person go. This is an awful experience for your employee, and can be exceptionally costly for your company—depending on where you are in the world.

However, an agency is able to scale up (or scale down) with the ebb and flow of your business and its budget.

For example, for one client at dslx, we started with four pieces of content a month for one client. Within two months, we’d won a larger budget from C-suit and scaled up to a whopping 25 pieces of content for them. What did their content manager have to do to get this done? Ping us a Slack message.

Improved SEO and audience engagement

Unless you’ve got a fully fledged in-house SEO team, then there’s a high chance your in-house SEOs and writers will be focusing on new content to meet your immediate business needs. Which is fair enough, right? There’s a ton of things changing all the time, and it’s crucial that businesses stay relevant to pop culture, to tech, and to their evolving product.

However, (I know, you saw it coming) outsourcing content creation will either free up time for your inhouse team to work on on-page (live) content, or you’ll be able to offload this task to a freelancer or content agency. On-page optimizations can drive a drastic increase in audience engagement, and more holistic SEO goals.

For example, the dslx team helped Bonsai rewrite over 100 unique pages, which resulted in a 27% increase in leads in under six months.

Hopefully, you found the above section useful. Guess what though, that was just the bread to our bocadillo. Step this way, as I explore how you can outsource your content creation successfully; and have your outsourced team be a banger, not a burden.  

How to outsource content creation so you’re all winners

I was listening to a Content, Briefly episode featuring Sonja Jacob and Mahu Sims of Meta recently. Believe it or not, even teams as big as Meta’s outsource agencies and freelancers for work. They used a term that hit the nail on the head when it came to working with them: agency enablement. They spoke of the time they invested in onboarding and enabling their partners to do great work and fewer iterations.

Of course, this is still much less time than you’d spend onboarding a new member of staff, but the message rang true.

It’s on you, as the hiring manager, to enable your outsourced team. Don’t get groggy at them if they fail to deliver based on the back of a thrown together brief and a two-year-old competitor analysis.

With me? Let’s get to these steps for successfully outsourcing great content teams. ⬇️

1. Define your content requirements and lock in budget 💰

First up, figure out what it is you need outsourcing. If you can’t figure exactly what it is, then identify the content area and ask your service provider to provide a (paid) in-depth audit. Use the audit to identify and prioritize what you could do and what you need to do.

Figured that out? Now go and secure your budget! There’s no use even scoping out content providers if you don’t know the budget you’re working with. Build a business case if you need to, and use the content audit as a valuable resource in doing so.

Ask potential providers for case studies in similar fields, and use these case studies to shine a light on the potential ROI for your working partnership.

Once you’ve got your budget in place, and understand the content you need to strategize or create, you’re ready to move on to step number two.  

2. Find reputable content creators or agencies 🤙

This could be an entire blog in itself. There are plenty of ways to find content creators or content agencies. And, 100% I’ll recommend SERPs. If an agency has managed to get a relevant article to rank on the first page of Google, they know what they’re doing. If you enjoy the read, then they definitely know what they’re doing and should be up for consideration.

Asides from that, there are a couple of third-party platforms that are a good fit for finding freelancers. Although, these aren’t necessarily the be-all-and-end-all of freelance talent. They require a huge lift from freelancers, a lot of haggling, and many freelancers don’t feel recognized on the platforms. Plus, they’re almost impossible for new starters to catch a gig on.

Lastly, put the feelers out among your network. Don’t underestimate the power of a tweet o(if we’re still calling them that after the X rebrand?) or an update to your LinkedIn status. Your community—and theirs—are always more than happy to help.

In the past, we’ve also managed to source talent in Reddit forums, Slack communities, diversity-focussed job boards, newsletters, and by going directly to Universities!  

What kind of a founder would I be if I didn’t plug dslx here? If you don’t want to bother with the search, then get in touch!

3. Define project scope, contract length, and payment terms 🪗

At this point in the process, you’ll want to be starting to put together a contract and scope of work (SOW). This will protect you, and the contractor. No matter how well you trust each other, whether someone comes from a referral or not, it’s just simply best practice to do this. So, please don’t take offense if a contractor asks to put one in place.

At the same time, these contracts don’t need to be overly complicated, or even pages long. Actually Bonsai is perfect for helping you put together fair, freelancer-focussed contracts.

A few things both parties need to align on for content creation contracts:

🔬 Project scope: identify what’s within scope and what’s out of scope for your project—with a hyper focus on what’s out of scope. I had one occasion in which a client thought I was implementing (designing, developing, and publishing) all of the web pages I was writing for them (30+ pages)—it was a very awkward call when we discovered this miscommunication.

📅 Project length: clear up how long you expect this partnership to go on for. Perhaps, you’d like it to be ongoing? Perhaps you’re outsourcing for an interim step? Perhaps, you’ve just got a backlog of tasks that you need extra support wading through.

Whatever it is, ensure that your outsourced talent is aware of this. It helps them manage their time and workload better.

🏁 Freelancer/agency deliverables and timeframes: freelancers and agencies are often measured by their output, so define what those outputs look like and when you expect them to be delivered by.

A huge mistake we’ve made at dslx in the past is not giving enough runway to onboard a new project; ensure your month one focuses on fewer deliverables and allows for more onboarding time.

🏁 Client deliverables and timeframes: at the same time, to move any project forward, you (as the client) will be expected to input a certain amount into the project. This will often be feedback, but may also be onboarding documents, or sharing other docs in order for the freelancer to do their work.

Agree on your own timeframes. Perhaps you need three days to provide feedback on work. Figure out what this is and stick to it. It’s unfair to ask your freelancer not to invoice because a project hasn’t been completed when your feedback is the very thing that held it back.

⏰ Minimum length of contract: many agencies and freelancers have a minimum contract length. At dslx, ours is three months—which is on the smaller end of things. Ensure you understand the minimum contract length working with anyone.

This is typically put in place so that the agency or service provider has enough time to prove their value and iron out any road bumps you may encounter working together for the first time. It also allows them to manage their books and their talent better.

❌ Contract cancellation terms: a biggie! I’ve seen many inhouse content managers get burned by contract cancellation terms. The smallest you’ll get on the market will be  two weeks, the longest I’ve heard of on the market is three months—which, to me, is a bit ridiculous. If a content manager doesn’t want to work with you any more then why tie them to you? One month is usually a happy middle ground for all parties.

💸 Payment terms: get your billing process simple for your external talent, agree to your payment terms, and stick to them. One thing I will say here is be clear on which country the external talent is billing from.

dslx has run into difficulties sometimes making and receiving payments in different countries and with different currencies. Talking of currencies, decide on yours, and figure out a fixed exchange rate that both parties are happy with each quarter.

👻 Ghostwriting terms: there is nothing more heartbreaking for a writer than expecting to see their name and byline on an article, only for the client to publish it as their own work. At the same time, we know your CEO isn’t going to have time to be publishing 3 articles a week—you’re not fooling anyone!

Give writers the credit they’re due where you can, and agree to a ghostwriting clause if you’d like the article to be published under another name.

📥 In-article (content-specific) deliverables: content writing agencies can often provide extras alongside any article to help it succeed. Ask your agency exactly what’s included in and with every article, and what’s at an extra cost. Here’s our breakdown at dslx:

Included with every article:

✅ Expert insights

✅ 2 rounds of edits

✅ Canva-made graphics

✅ Stock images

✅ Social media posts publishing copy  

Additional cost:

👉 Video interviews

👉 Rewrites

👉 Unique graphic from a graphic designer

👉 Premium images

👉 Social media publish and community management

🐕 Ownership of work: dslx got a little burned when a client we’d been working with for a long time refused to allow us to build a case study on the results we’d achieved for them, refused to give a testimonial, and said we couldn’t mention their name in any of our sales material. Surprise surprise, they also taught me to build out a ghostwriting clause. Please get clear on the ownership of work and where your freelance writers can and can’t use your work to help promote their business.

🤫 Confidentiality agreements: In light of the above, you’ll probably want to establish some kind of confidentiality agreement if you want all of the work to seemingly be from your inhouse team.

🏃 NDAs and Non-competes: last but not least, it’s not uncommon to create a non-disclosure agreement with an agency or freelance writer if you’re sharing company-sensitive information with them: client interviews, earnings, in-app or on-page metrics etc.

At the same time, a non-compete will occasionally be put on the table when content outsourcing. However, just keep in mind that it’s not a given, and a contract has every right to work with one of your competitors, either in the past, present, or future.

Non-competes will usually be costing you quite a lot if you don’t want the agency to work with a competitor for a certain amount of time.

4. Establish effective communication channels & onboard well

Communication is key. At dslx we like to say we communicate with cupcakes: little bite-size pieces of joy.

However, that’s just us and probably because I wrote the account manager training before lunch. What’s important is that you identify how you’re going to communicate: Email, Slack, Airtable, in-doc, or another project management tool? And, what types of communications are appropriate for which channels?

Talking of communication, I want to thread the importance of a solid onboarding flow into this step. Onboard your agency well and you’ll only need to do it once: agency enablement. One of the best onboardings we had at dslx included the following:

  • POCs, roles, responsibilities, and preferred channels of communication: everything from the business owner to fellow inhouse writers
  • Communication and growth tools
  • Workflows
  • Guidelines: writing style, quality, design, editing checklist, and CTA guidelines
  • Steps on how to feature SMEs
  • Positioning and personas
  • Target audience & user personas
  • Product feature lingo
  • Internal linking strategy
  • SEO strategy & goals
  • Content & learning resources
  • Previous content marketing efforts, failures, and learnings

There’s a lot, and it’s often best delivered and followed up with a call for any questions or concerns.

5. Review & refine your processes at the end of month one

Lastly, once your onboarding is complete, you’re ready to start working together and get to some successful content marketing! Whoop. If you’ve done the heavy lifting up front, then this should be smooth sail—think again!

This is not going to be a run in the park. Your first month, and maybe two, are still going to be a teething period. You’ll probably want to run through everything with a fine-tooth comb, and ensure there’s no misunderstandings.

Try to give green lights as quickly as you can, so that writers can get on with the bulk of the work.

What’s important is that you make a note of anything that you think didn’t work so well, or can be done better. At the end of month one, bring those notes up on a review call and figure out how, as a team, you can streamline your processes working together, learn from each other, and build a healthier, happier working relationship.

What are you waiting for? Go outsource your content marketing!

More, you want more!? I can’t, I’m done. I need a break! That’s your lot. Go and outsource your content marketing strategy. Weigh up everything I’ve mentioned above, bookmark this article, use it as a resource throughout the entirely process.

You don’t need me anymore. I’m kicking you out of the nest. 🦶🏻🐣

Content creation outsourcing FAQs

Where would we be if we didn't close up with some FAQs to help you produce higher-quality content with your outsourced content team.

What to consider when outsourcing content creation?

Outsourcing content marketing means you'll need to consider your budget and content requirements, project scope and length, communications and onboarding flows, and your end goal. It's also not a bad idea to consider your own content that's already live and its potential to perform better. Create new, while recycling the old.

What are the potential risks of outsourcing content creation?

A few risks of outsourcing your content marketing strategy are misunderstandings due to poor onboarding or communication, being tied into lengthy notice periods, not owning your content, losing a freelancer and having to find and recruit another.

What criteria should I consider when evaluating content providers?

Your content creation process needs to serve your business and its specific goals. Things to consider when screening candidates are: referrals & reviews, past relevant work, agility, availability, cost, and scope of the project.

Can all types of content be outsourced?

You can outsource content creation and strategy in most cases. Whether you're looking at creating content for marketing growth, internal operations, sales, or another area of the business; a good agency onboarding will enable the team to deliver any type of content you need.

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