So, you want to start scaling your content creation team, but you want to make sure that your writers are capable of speaking with authority to your ideal customers?
Hiring writers can be tricky. Content production is the biggest challenge for 44% of marketers. In some ways, hiring freelance writers is not unlike hiring any other creative freelance talent. You have to have the right hiring processes in place to vet them for quality and fit within your strategy. You’ll need some initial training prepared to get them up to speed and ensure they can deliver the level of quality you require.
However, hiring writers does differ from hiring other creative talents in several ways. In some industries, you can’t create content that genuinely speaks to your core audience without the writer having a background in that industry. They must have familiarity with industry hot topics and use industry terms and jargon in a way that rings true with the audience. Other creative positions don’t have those same concerns.
A writer who has a track record of creating high-quality B2B content might be a great writer, but that doesn’t mean that he or she is the right choice for a company in a complex industry. For example, if you were hiring a writer to create content for an insurance claim management software product, you’d need someone who has experience in that industry and knows the inner-workings of insurance claims to produce content that conveyed authority. There’s a certain level of experience that’s required to write about that subject persuasively.
With that said, it’s probably difficult for a company that makes insurance claim management software to find freelancers writers that specialize in their industry. The pool simply isn’t as big as it would be for more general B2B content. They’re out there—you’ll have to use some specialized tactics to recruit them.
As you begin to scale your content creation operation, one of the first choices you’ll have to make is whether to seek out freelancers or to hire full-time, in-house writers. In most companies, a healthy content creation operation makes use of both—and knowing where each fits into your strategy is key.
Freelance vs. In-House Writers
Deciding whether to hire freelance writers or bring someone in-house is a big decision. Each has their benefits and drawbacks to consider, and ultimately the choice you make depends on how you run your content creation operation.
In most cases, the best course of action is a mixture of the two. Certain types of content are best left to in-house writers, while freelancers can reliably handle other types. The kind of writer you choose to hire will depend on the type of content you’re looking to scale.
Benefits and Downsides of Hiring In-House Writers
Companies in less-complex industries may choose to hire in-house writers to handle their content production. This makes sense, but they can also get away with freelancers. All of their writers will require some time to get up to speed, but this shouldn’t take too long for either freelancers or in-house because of the nature of their less-complex field.
On the other hand, companies that operate in more complex industries don’t have as much freedom. They need their writers to dedicate time to understanding their industry in full so that they can speak authentically on the industry’s most important topics. That’s more easily achieved with an in-house writer rather than a freelancer.
Internal writers are typically the better choice for high-level, core thematic messaging. They can dedicate themselves to understanding your brand and the message you want to deliver to your audience. They also get to work closely with your marketing teams to define a consistent message throughout all of your communications. The same can’t be said for freelancers, who may dedicate time to research but will never be fully dedicated to your brand.
This dedication comes at a cost. Great content writers are costly and are only becoming more expensive as the space gets more competitive. To stand out to your audience, you need truly inspiring content that connects. Even with the added costs of hiring in-house, their content generates over three times as many leads as outbound marketing and costs 62% less. So, it may well be worth the expense to keep a portion of your writing team internal.
Bringing a writer onto your in-house team is a commitment. You can let freelancers go if things don’t work out, but it isn’t that simple when dealing with an employee. You’ll dedicate many hours to getting them up to speed, but you’ll have to start the process over again if you choose to move in a different direction.
Benefits and Downsides of Hiring Freelance Writers
Freelancers have their place in any content creation team that puts together a large amount of content. According to TopRankBlog, 64% of B2B marketers outsource writing.
It can be unreasonable to expect all of your work to be completed by in-house hired writers. Freelancers provide the flexibility and scalability that content teams need to compete in an increasingly competitive content landscape.
Freelancers are extremely cost-effective. Hiring an in-house writer means that you’ill have to pay for their ongoing training as well as provide an hourly wage and benefits. With freelancers—even the most expensive—your costs will be much lower and more predictable. Most freelance writers work on fixed-price or per-word agreements, which helps marketing teams to manage budgets and get more content for the cost.
Freelancers are perfect for creating top-of-the-funnel content that can tap into popular and widely appealing ideas. Topics and concepts that have a lot of public information available are the perfect assignments to send to freelancers who can work closely with your marketing teams to refine their style over time.
Freelance teams are also scalable. As your content needs grow, you can bring in more freelance writers to produce more content. It takes a lot of time to onboard in-house writers, and that dampens the scalability, but freelancers can be brought in, quickly trained, and can begin turning around content pieces within a few days.
Building a lineup of freelance writers is a valuable asset for companies that are investing heavily in content. The more on-call talent you can amass, the more quickly you can scale your operations and deliver new content to your audience.
There are downsides to using freelance teams. They’ll never be able to work as closely with your teams and dedicate as much time to your brand and messaging as an internal writer would. Additionally, there’s some risk in working with freelancers as their attention is often split between a number of different projects at any given time. Freelancers often have higher turnover rates, placing your marketing teams on the treadmill of recruiting, training, and managing freelance talent.
Hiring Industry-Specific Freelance Writers
Believe it or not, 87% of B2B marketers struggle to produce content that engages their buyers. For your content to speak to your core audience in a genuine way, you have to work with writers who have experience in your industry. They have to know the lingo, the ways of thinking, and the critical pain points that drive your customers. This is especially true in complex industries where a certain level of expertise is necessary to produce content that is genuinely authoritative.
For example, if you sell healthcare industry software, you wouldn’t hire a generalist writer to write a think-piece on HIPAA compliance and the future of the industry. Your customers would see right through a generalist. Further, you probably don’t have the time or budget to pay them for the dozens of hours of research that they would need to conduct to get themselves up to speed.
Instead, you should look for writers with a wealth of industry experience. While your pool of freelance talent will undoubtedly be smaller, you’ll spend a lot less time churning through writers to find ones that meet your needs.
Finding freelance writers with experience specific to your industry can be difficult, but there are a few steps you can take to identify and secure relationships with writers that meet your standards:
Post Ultra-Specific Job Postings
You’ll never get what you want if you don’t ask for it. Whether you’re posting a job ad on your company website, writing job board, Craigslist, or freelance marketplace, be specific about the type of experience they need to bring to the table. Not only will this filter out a lot of unqualified candidates who would otherwise waste your time, but it will give you a nice list of potential freelancers that you could work with down the road.
When you post your job, target freelancers with industry-specific experience by being specific with your job titles.
You don’t want a “copywriter” or “content writer.” You want a “health insurance industry long-form content writer.” In that example, you’d not only stipulate the specialization you require but also the type of content that they’ll produce. This will help you to attract applicants that have experience creating the exact type of content your strategy calls for.
Also, consider only asking for industry-specific examples.
Most freelance writers have examples of their work that span many industries. When they apply for a job, they may provide samples from several industries in an attempt to show they’re flexible and have a range in the style they use and subjects they cover. While they might be great writers, work from another industry doesn’t prove they can help you. Instead, only accept applicants that provide examples specific to the type of content you’d like to create.
Giving specific instructions in your job posting also allows you to evaluate how well applicants follow directions. A prospect who only submits samples that meet your guidelines may be more detail-oriented than ones who include samples from other industries.
Seek out Writers from Prominent Industry Blogs
If you want to take a shortcut in your freelance writer acquisition, turn to other industry publications to find talent. Scout industry blogs to find freelance writers who have delivered impressive articles about the subjects you would like to cover. You know these writers already have the expertise you require, which means they can produce a higher quality level from the start.
Most freelance writers will have their Twitter bio or a link to their website available in their author bio. Reach out and ask if they would be interested in writing for you. This is an excellent way to find freelance talent because you know that your competitors have already vetted them and they have a track record of producing high-quality content within your industry.
Ask for Referrals from Others In Your Industry
You can also reach out to competitors or adjacently related businesses to ask for writer referrals. Companies that produce a significant amount of content are likely to have worked with many writers over time and can point you in the direction of writers who meet your specifications.
Sometimes, just being willing to ask for help is all you need to connect with top-tier talent. With this tactic, you’ll save a lot of time that you would have otherwise spent evaluating writers and sorting through applicants from a job board.
Hire and Train a Freelance Writer
If you’re having trouble finding a freelance writer that specializes in your industry, you can choose to train one. Finding someone with an excellent track record that works as a generalist or specializes in other industries and working with them to understand your company and industry can be a great way to not only build a relationship but also find a great writer at a reasonable price.
If you do decide to go this route, you’ll have to pay them for their time spent learning and researching. While that does mean higher up-front costs, similar to those you would encounter if you hired a writer internally, you’ll also build a long-term relationship with a reliable writer who you can count on. In complex industries, it may take them a few weeks to get up to speed, but at that point, they’ll be more likely to stick around.
Scaling A Content Team Requires Patience
Whether you choose to hire freelance writers with industry experience or bring someone on as a full employee, you’ll need patience. There are a lot of writers out there vying for a limited number of positions, but being specific in your requirements can help you to filter and vet talent.
If you post a job ad on a public board, expect hundreds of replies. Many of them won’t have any verifiable industry experience, regardless of what your job posting asks for. Taking your time and using creative avenues to discover talented writers in your industry will deliver better long-term results than quickly hiring writers and churning them until you find someone that suits your vision.