Quality content is quickly becoming a brand differentiator for businesses trying to compete for online visibility. Companies able to maintain a steady stream of great content can capture larger online audiences, earn higher search engine results rankings, position themselves as thought leaders and strengthen the overall performance of their marketing funnel.
The question for contractors, then, isn’t whether they need a content writer but rather how they should go about working with one. Hiring a full-time writer (or a stable of writers) as part of your in-house marketing team is one option while outsourcing the work to various creative agencies or freelancers is another option. Some businesses also choose a mixture between the two.
Deciding which route to go for your own content marketing needs depends completely on your unique goals, how you want to portray your brand online, and how those requirements might shift as time goes on.
To help you come to a conclusion, consider the following pros and cons of outsourced content writing compared to developing your own in-house team. The information can provide food for thought as you develop your own content writing strategy and whose shoulders the responsibility will ultimately fall upon.
Having your own writer or writing team as part of your staff provides you with embedded talent that is always available to fulfill your needs. You can have them oversee and contribute to many different project types, and you can also use their expertise in a consulting capacity to review any copy created by anyone else.
Think of it as having someone who is intimately familiar with your brand and your processes on retainer. Rather than worrying about billing costs or scheduling for each individual project, they can take on as much as their bandwidth can carry.
Developing talent in-house also ensures that you have total ownership over your brand voice. A freelancer you develop a great relationship could cut and run, leaving you struggling to find a replacement.
Some brands go even so far as to have an entire department dedicated to content writing, copywriting, PR and similar projects. Cisco embraces this approach as a type of corporate newsroom, where brand-focused journalism is always available on tap and content is produced in substantial volumes on a consistent basis.
Despite the convenience of having someone in the office handle all your writing needs, there are also many limitations.
The most obvious limiting factor is money. Not only do you have to pay a writer a 30k – 60k or more salary, but you must also pay for their worker’s comp insurance and their employment taxes as well as any benefits you offer. They will likely get sick days, annual leave, family insurance coverage and other add-on overhead that ends up not directly translating to work performed.
Speaking of work, even the most productive full-time writers only have so much time in the day. If you have a huge project coming up, you may need to onboard even more talent or resort to outsourcing to other freelance writers and agencies.
On the reverse side, if you have a lack of writing-heavy projects on the calendar, your employee still gets their regular salary.
In addition to the problem of fixed capacity, in-house talent can sometimes end up getting overexposed to brand messaging. Their approach may end up sounding biased or too salesy. By comparison, a freelancer will share your projects with many other diverse client projects, helping keep them objective and focused on their audience, not just your brand.
Finally, some companies have difficulty retaining writers. They end up investing time and money onboarding and then developing them only to have them jump ship later on.
Outsourcing content marketing allows you to have predictable costs on a fixed per-project or ongoing package basis. You also gain access to content production capabilities at scale — presuming, of course, that multiple writers are capable of producing the level of quality you need.
Flexible capacity also means that you can have a highly variable workload. If you outsource a large project to a content team, then you don’t have to worry about them twiddling their thumbs when the project ends. You can also decide to skip your regular content output for a period without having a sunk employee cost associated.
Another benefit to outsourcing is convenience. You don’t have to add to the complexity of your organization with new departments, managers and case loads for HR to handle. Instead, you have one source of billing, one line of correspondence for content needs, and a relationship with a cohesive group rather than individual employees.
Ultimately, outsourcing content marketing provides flexibility, convenience, and the ability to adapt the type of content you produce as your company grows and changes.
The biggest risk with using an outside writer for your content needs is that they can end up controlling your brand voice. Unless you offer strict guidelines on voice, formatting, and the overall writing approach to your content, then each writing task will leave a lot open to interpretation.
Problems arise not just when someone comes up with a bad interpretation but also a really good one. Suddenly, you are dependent on someone not within your organization for your digital marketing success.
Even if your content quality isn’t beholden to one person, both freelancers and agencies contract on an at-will basis. They can suddenly decide they don’t have the capacity to work on your projects or demand a higher rate. You must then weigh your options, which can be nearly as time-consuming and costly as onboarding an actual employee.
All that said, most of these risks are completely hypothetical. If you are able to locate a good outside content writing source and develop a relationship with them, then you can receive all of the benefits described above with none of the associated drawbacks.
An alternative to a 100% in-house or 100% outsourced content writing solution is to share duties between the two.
For example, you can have a copywriting and content production team that occasionally outsources projects when they hit their capacity or want to embark on a large project.
Or, you can have someone in a marketing leadership position who happens to be a talented writer. They can perform small projects and lend their writing expertise to any tasks they share with others.
When it comes time to outsource, you have someone with experience and craft knowledge to shape the requirements of your content projects. They can also edit the projects as they come in to ensure they match your brand voice.
In both situations, your team has ownership and control over the quality and aesthetics of the content you create. They can have a strong say when it comes to vetting and selecting an outsource partner.
At the same time, you have the capability to scale the quantity of content created on a flexible basis. Essentially, it’s a win-win.
Ultimately, the decision for how to arrange your content writing responsibilities rests on your own shoulders. By taking your current needs into account, predicting your future needs and weighing the pros and cons of your options, you can arrive at a smart decision.