“Content writing isn’t just something that I do on the side. It is a core component of what I preach and practice every day of my life. Content is that important.” – Neil Patel
There is no denying the importance of high-quality content and what it can do for a brand. In fact, a small business with a consistently updated blog will see an average of 126% more leads than a small business without a blog. Website landing pages, email marketing, e-books, and newsletters also boost your brand reach and promote customer trust.
So, who’s going to write all of this attention-getting, trust-building, lead-generating content for you and your clients? A talented content writer, of course. Or better yet, a cohesive, seamlesscontent writing team to ensure you never experience a resource gap between the content you need and your ability to generate it. An unshakable writing team means you have go-to freelancers who are thrilled to be the voice of your agency and clients because you have a productive, mutually respectful relationship.
Before we look at how exactly to put together a rockstar writing team, let’s look briefly at what not to do:
Be Wary of the Status Quo
The hiring process for content writers is often approached in a haphazard or rushed manner, or as an emergency stopgap when in-house writers are unavailable. You need a last-minute press release and no one in the office quite remembers how to write one. Or you know your blog hasn’t been updated in months, meaning it’s doing exactly zilch to support your internal marketing strategy. So, you hire a random freelancer to write a few posts and then forget to follow-up once the posts go live and their invoice is paid.
This approach doesn’t lend itself to building strong relationships with your writers. And it doesn’t do much for your brand, either. Without setting clear expectations and building solid connections with your writers, you will deal with all sorts of headaches, including constant turnover as the freelancers you’ve worked with move on to other clients who provide steadier work or clearer instructions, forging a better, more consistent working relationship.
You may end up settling for less experienced or skilled writers just because they are available last-minute. This can create a mismatch between the voice you were hoping for and what you actually get, and lead to unproductive rounds of editing that could have been avoided. Outsourcing your content writing is supposed to be a time-saver, but it sure doesn’t feel like it when you’re completely overhauling a blog post from a new freelancer at 10 PM on a Friday night.
Even agencies can fall into common pitfalls when assembling a team of freelance content writers. Failing to provide a straightforward style guide, forgetting to give clear feedback on submitted pieces, hurrying or not asking the right questions during the onboarding process, or setting misleading expectations when it comes to research time are all preventable problems that can cause friction with your writers.
A more mindful approach allows you to create a situation where a few reliable writers happily capture your brand’s voice. Best of all, they will do so in a consistent, engaging way that leads to a reliable ROI. Let’s be honest: this requires a bit of upfront work. It requires creating somewhat of an onboarding process just like you implement for in-house employees. It requires clear, two-way, effective communication channels. But this upfront effort pays off in countless ways, and it pays off quickly.
Here are a few of the most effective ways to create a strong, cohesive, consistent writing team for yourself as an agency and your clients right out of the gate:
Tip 1: Set clear expectations.
Spending a bit more time upfront via onboarding to clarify exactly what you’re hoping to receive from your writers does so many great things for your content strategy. When you set clear expectations from the get-go, you:
- Get your writers up to speed more quickly
- Eliminate misunderstandings
- Ensure the correct style and tone by client
- Weed out the wrong writers efficiently so you can move on to better writers
- Save untold time on dreaded (by both parties!) edits and revisions
Remember, writers only know what you expect from you or your clients’ content if you explicitly tell them. Your writer needs to know the voice you are going for, your target audience, and your strategic goals. An introductory phone call with new writers is always a good idea, but be sure to follow up by email so they can refer back to your guidelines in writing until they know them by heart.
A good freelance writer will want to spend time perusing your client’s website, reading over any customer personas you’ve sketched out, and checking out links to other blogs that you love to get a better idea of the voice you’re interested in capturing.
One of the most efficient ways to capture these details for your writer is to create an internal style guide. While some agencies have their own complex, proprietary style guides, a simple checklist or outline can be just as helpful.
This outline created by our own writer and Verblio (formerly BlogMutt) Complete Account Manager Katy Palmer has proved very helpful for clients and writers alike:
- Blog goals
- What’s in it for the customer?
- What’s in it for you?
- About your company
- What do you do?
- Who do you do it for?
- Why do you do it?
- Preferred writing style
- 1st person? 3rd person?
- Thoughts on your preferred style
- Formatting requirements
- Date/time formatting preference
- Acronym/location abbreviations or not?
- Location/language preferences (If your customer base is outside the U.S.)
- Other formatting requirements
- Writer persona (Who will the writer be writing as?)
- Customer persona (Who will the writer be writing for?)
- 3 Adjectives to describe your blog’s tone
- Favorite pieces of writing
- Link to favorite piece 1
- Link to favorite piece 2
- Link to favorite piece 3
- Other notes
Be sure these expectations are communicated clearly and concisely. Freelancers don’t typically get paid extra for time spent re-reading your buyer personas because they were written in a hurry and don’t quite make sense. Respect their time by being clear and straightforward, and you will be rewarded with unique content that feels like it was tailor-made just for you . . . because it was!
Tip 2: Give your writers the tools they need to succeed.
Your relationship with your writing team should be one of collaboration and mutual respect. This means avoiding misunderstandings and conflict whenever possible, and the best way to do that is to set your writers up with the tools for success right from the jump. Here are a few examples:
- Set reasonable deadlines whenever possible. Remember, your writers are most likely juggling multiple assignments from multiple clients on any given week. Give them enough of a head’s up that they can effortlessly work your article or blog post into their schedule with minimal stress.
- Pay them quickly and predictably. Obviously, if you use a content service like Verblio we handle that part for you. If your expectations for research and other time-intensive aspects of writing grow over time, be sure to adjust the writers’ pay accordingly!
- Create a brief or outline for each assignment. This should contain all relevant information, including suggested title, estimated word count, internal and external links you’d like included, keywords to target, and any specific subheadings you have in mind. It shouldn’t be too long-winded or dense with detail, however, or your writer may feel overwhelmed and like they don’t have the freedom to craft the piece in the way that organically works best.
Tip 3: Keep communication flowing in your writing team.
This may be the most important tip of all. Just imagine what your relationships with your coworkers, significant other, or kids would be like if you didn’t make an effort to communicate regularly. Productive and satisfying? Or more like rife with misunderstandings and frustration?
Your freelance writers probably don’t need as much communication as your full-time staff (and certainly not as much as your spouse), but you can’t just “set it and forget it” either. Communicating often means knowing you are on the same page. It gives you a chance to show your appreciation for your hard-working writers, which in turn makes them more likely to keep writing for you. Freelancing can be a bit isolating, and sometimes the simple act of a client checking in to touch base goes a long way toward building a stronger feeling of connection.
So, take the time to leave a glowing comment on a blog post you loved. Let your freelancers know if you’re going to be taking a break from blogging for a few weeks while you revamp your content strategy, so they know to focus on other clients and can manage their schedules more easily.
Make sure your writing team has easy ways to communicate back and forth with you, whether it’s email, monthly phone check-ins, project management software like Asana or Trello, or a Slack channel (or any of the helpful tools we mention in this post on communicating remotely). Strive to foster an environment where they can be honest about touchy subjects like pay. If something in their writing style isn’t quite working, tell them (diplomatically!) so they have a chance to fix it. Encourage them to ask questions as they write if anything is unclear. When in doubt, taking a moment to send even a brief note is usually better than letting communication fall to the wayside.
There you have it: a few of the best, most effective ways to create the writing team of your dreams. And of course, if all of this sounds like more up-front time and effort than you can spare, you can always count on Verblio to do the hard stuff for you, providing an agile, customizable content solution that hooks you up with reliable writers from a diverse range of industry backgrounds. Just check out this recent case study from our client and industry expert SocialSEO to get an idea of the massive time savings potential.
Looking to diversify your writing team, train up and vet multiple writers at once, and scale your content offering? Check out your writer options with by downloading this ebook.