Whether you’re an independent contractor or a business owner with your own brand, you’re limited by the number of hours in your day. Content outsourcing will help you maintain sustainable remote growth, but then you risk a dip in quality since you won’t be hands-on in all aspects anymore.
To maintain quality as you outsource, you need to switch mindsets from subject matter expert to project manager, and then eventually to strategic mastermind.
Here’s an overview of what that progression looks like for the content marketing side of SaaS, eCommerce, and B2B tech businesses.
- Subject matter expert: Where you’re learning the trade
- Project manager/editor: Where you’re learning to manage others
- Strategic mastermind: Where you focus on results with a bird’s eye view
Let’s take a closer look at each.
1. Subject matter expert (SME)
Most content experts start out boots-on-the-ground in the trenches of content creation. When you first begin your remote career, you’ll be learning all about the editorial process (from the writers’ side), SEO, how to structure articles differently for different audiences, keyword research, topic research (a lot of research), and general remote work best practices for productivity.
If you’re reading this article, it’s likely you’re at this stage now. Either you’re a remote worker who is looking to expand, or you’re a business owner who just doesn’t have time to create all the content for your brand anymore.
2. Editor/project manager (PM)
The next step down the line of content outsourcing success is to change your mindset. You are no longer responsible for deliverable creation, just delivering quality work on time. Find freelance writers you can rely on, and move into more of an editor/project manager (PM) role.
In my experience, things run the most smoothly with 2 freelance writers per active brand. This means a blog post every week (at minimum), a few guest posts a month, and the occasional one-off timely announcement. If you have a semi-active brand, and only write when a good topic comes up, you can make due with 1 freelance writer, but keep up your relationship with other good writers you can tap if something comes up.
For a remote worker with multiple clients, I recommend having a rotation of 3-4 freelance writers you work with. Get to know their writing styles and send plenty of feedback (even if it takes more time than just “fixing” the article yourself). The longer you work with talented writers, the less feedback you’ll need to send each time.
Here are some questions I ask every writer I start working with;
- How many articles/words are you available to do per month?
- What are some of your favorite topics to write about?
- Do you prefer writing long-form or short-form content?
- Anything else I should know?
Add to this as you see fit. For example, if you need white-label content, ask if they are comfortable creating articles that will have someone else in the byline.
Creating a uniform experience
When it comes to managing your clients, you’ll need to adapt your process as well.
Now that you have multiple different writers and voices all contributing to various clients, you need a way to unify every moving piece.
- Making sure every writer is equipped with the same information.
- Aligning the goals and priorities of different writers against different clients.
- Ensuring every writer knows the process, how the system works with multiple moving parts, and what they are accountable for.
To help you start, here’s a content project brief you can send to new clients or use in larger projects to keep everyone on the same page.
The skills you should have as a PM/editor
Here are some of the skills and traits you should bring to the table. Talented writers won’t work with sub-par project managers.
As you switch into the PM role, you’ll need to get your editing process down to keep things clear for your writers.
I add all my freelancers to separate Trello boards where I assign an article/card, and move it down columns labeled To-Do, Outline Needed, Being Written, Ready for Review, Edits Needed, and Approved.
You can edit the columns based on your writer (for example, I have a writer that rarely needs edits, so I removed the Edits Needed column).
Give your writers autonomy to write the best article possible for the project. No one likes micro-managers, and if you pick your writers well you should be able to trust them to do great work.
Eye for detail
Bring everything you learned about writing great articles as a SME to your role as a PM. That means you need an eye for detail when it comes to grammar, spelling, comprehension, and overall quality. You’ll be able to spot poor structure, unclear thought process, and whether an article needs to cite more sources.
Unless you’ve been working together for years and your writers can finish your sentences as you type them, you’ll need to learn how to send clear project briefs and feedback. (See my project brief template)
Communication is especially important if you want to groom one or two of your writers to take over on the PM side, as you switch to the next step…
3. Strategic mastermind
Now we’ve hit the point where you are almost completely hands-off when it comes to day-to-day deliverables. You should still make sure the ship is heading in the right direction, but you don’t have to man the oars.
When your writers rarely need additional guidance or edits, and they’ve learned the processes you implemented for delivering great work, ask if they would like to move on board to manage the content creation process (either with themselves acting as SMEs, or if you want to hire additional freelancers).
With your operations running smoothly, and the day-to-day work outsourced to reliable SMEs, you can start focusing on your business versus being stuck working in it.
What’s your biggest content outsourcing challenge?
- Originally published June 14, 2018
- Updated December 4, 2019