Editor’s Note: This post is co-written by Kali Greff, Verblio’s (formerly BlogMutt) marketing manager and Molly Krumholz, Verblios head of freelance content writers on specific content writing. We teamed up on this because we have, together, a unique perspective and lots of experience on what makes up a successful freelance writer relationship with particularly niche or specific industries both within Verblio and beyond.
First off, we at Verblio don’t consider any industries “boring” or any niche “too niche” when it comes to writing specific content. Unsexy? Maybe. Challenging? Sure. An opportunity to showcase our content marketing chops? Definitely.
That said, many prospective customers still come knocking at our door and open with questions like (and feel free to treat this as a table of contents and skip straight to your most top-of-mind question):
- “I’m in a very niche industry that won’t probably be interesting to your writers. Will writers really be interested in writing for my niche? What if they aren’t and I don’t get any content?”
- “How can you write as me for my technical topics without being me, or at the very least, a subject-matter expert?”
- “I require the writers covering my topics possess expert-level knowledge in [insert hyper-specific industry here]. Do you have writers that can do that or are licensed in the area?”
- “How can your freelance writers cover product-specific, thought leadership posts if they aren’t actually my employees?”
- a) “I don’t want my posts to just be a mash-up of uninformed internet research from sources I don’t trust (especially not Wikipedia!), or b) I work in a highly sensitive area of law or have a compliance team I need to align with in terms of marketing our product. How do you control the research for topics?”
- “How much information and/or how many resources do I have to provide to writers to get what I’m looking for?”
- “Can I find writers on your platform who are technical AND can write well AND can write content for digital marketing?”
- “What if a piece of content isn’t 100% perfect when I first read it?”
These are all excellent, fair questions. And really smart ones to ask before you onboard writer(s) whom you’ve never met to be an extension of your specific content development team.
We get that.
Something we know to be true, too, though—our dynamic, intelligent, experienced network of 3,000+ writers is deeply talented. Our writers manage to surprise our internal Verblio team all the time with just how much they know.
Some recent über-niche topics that our writers have written on very successfully that blew our collective mind:
- ISO standards and certification services
- Emerging membrane materials and technologies
- Squid ink as a potential solution in dental care
- How to engage patients with an effective healthcare CRM
- Whether blow-molded gas tanks are safer than steel tanks
- Decentralized data networks
- Best practices related to “branchless” banking
- Multi-level decks for sloped backyards
- The most remarkable bus systems worldwide
- How to take an active investment approach for retirement as a 30-something
I’ve been working in sales for Verblio since 2014, and while I feel that we can write for nearly any industry out there (yes, I’m serious), I am still floored when I see customers raving about our work in the areas of building materials, incident management, bus features, vexillology (before you look it up, it’s the scientific study of flags and related emblems), commercial spray equipment, automation tools for IT managers, and injection molding. (And that’s just scratching the surface of specific content requested by our 1,400+ global customers every month.)
Let’s address these very common questions and concerns for those weighing outsourcing specific content for even the niche-iest of niches, one by one.
Got an FAQ of your own we didn’t touch on here? Ask us.
1. “I’m in a very niche industry that won’t probably be interesting to your writers. Will writers really be interested in writing specific content for my niche? What if they aren’t and I don’t get any content?”
This is absolutely a concern if you think of a content service as a matter of browsing and choosing between pre-written, generic content. Similarly, if writers are “shopping” for writing opportunities; a seemingly less-than-interesting industry would naturally be passed over, while those exciting industries like superhero boutiques and movie-reviewing sites will be swimming in writer interest and specific content submissions to match.
But Verblio isn’t a matter of sifting and filtering through generic posts that already have been written—each and every piece you receive as a Verblio customer has been individually crafted, catered specifically to your company and in accordance with a topic you need to be covered. And it’s true: it may take just a little bit longer for us to find the perfect writers for customers in more niche fields. However, we will most certainly get you posts every month. Yes, even if you are a lead-based paint treatment shop or an HVAC professional.
And more often than not, we actually see a counterintuitive effect occur more often than not for niche customers: writers with offbeat, hyper-specific experience are MORE eager to cover less glamorous companies/topics because, if done well, they have an improved opportunity to earn a dedicated, loyal customer through being selected as a “preferred” writer. They are also likely to sell their posts much more quickly if they find a niche that suits them, rather than writing for customers in highly competitive industries for our site (think: real estate, fashion, or fitness & wellness). Plus, how else would a software gamification expert be able to share his unique expertise as a professional writer?
It’s noteworthy that across all industries, customers with better, more thorough topics get more posts quicker than customers who don’t put enough information in to get Verblio writers on the same page from the get-go. This counts twice for customers in niche industries—as a niche customer, it’s especially important that ample information is provided for writers to understand what you want. Great topic descriptions are your best friend. You certainly don’t want to scare writers off with bare-bones prompts to start, because, spoiler alert: writers hate playing guessing games.
2. “How can you write as me for my technical topics without being me, or at the very least, being a subject-matter expert?”
Well, our writers can’t be you. We both know that going in. Verblio’s system doesn’t assign writers to certain topics/customers or give them a minimum quota of pieces to complete, so at the end of the day (and this is something we have always felt passionately about), our writers have the choice of whether or not they want to write for you.
What does this mean for you? You’re getting specific content from writers who have the expertise or particular passion in your area and genuinely believe they can do a great job in writing for you. It’s as simple as that. Verblio has maintained from the beginning that a curious mind and keen ability to research are at the core of every successful writer (not unlike a journalist), not necessarily just their experience in nonprofit accounting mistakes or single-ply roof insulation.
The key to getting what you want, according to Verblio’s head of writers Molly Krumholz, is clarity and transparency.
If you can convey a really deep understanding of your buyer persona(s), objectives and what you’re hoping to get from the content, and chime in with any other style or tone concerns right away, this can help the writers determine for themselves whether they can write well for you. Clear communication is everything.
It’s through your topics and topic descriptions where you can convey your subject-matter expertise in quotes and outlines, and leave the fleshing out, structuring, flow, and polishing to your professional content writer.
But, that all being said, in many instances, we actually DO have subject-matter experts in our writer network, which brings me to…
3. “I require the writers covering my topics possess expert-level knowledge in [insert hyper-specific industry here]. Do you have writers that can do that or are licensed in the area?”
In most instances, yes!
Take the construction and building materials industries, for example. We have worked with Mark from Whizard Strategy and his clients in this industry for over three years. Like any great marketing consultant, after enduring years of the slog of content creation and sunk time hearing gripes and trading edits with clients, he was intrigued to outsource to Verblio and signed up. He dove right in and started working with writers, asking for topics concerning the benefits of open-joint cladding and Texas building codes.
Recently, we decided to formally survey the Verblio writers about this industry in particular. What we found shocked us. A whopping 88 active writers rated themselves a 7 or above (out of 10, with 10 being 20+ years experience) in building materials, construction, architecture, building engineering, or related industries. Mark quickly found that his crowd of trusted Verblio writers who’d matched and self-selected to write for his projects just so happened to include multiple licensed architects and general contractors, a stone mason/bricklayer, a field engineer in nuclear power construction with emphasis in structural, piping, electrical and fire systems, a retired IT project manager for a Fortune 500 company, real estate investors of commercial properties, electricians, and advanced DIY-ers.
The best news about this is three-fold: 1) the Verblio system is designed to connect you to those writers, 2) you don’t have to accept any content in the system until you find writers you like and trust, and 3) once you find them, we make it easy for you to continue working with them for you specific content.
4. “How can your freelance writers cover product-specific, thought leadership posts if they aren’t actually my employees?”
We are happy to conduct our own research on your product, as long as it’s out on the internet already (think reviews, product pages, non-gated scientific studies, etc.), but if you have additional materials to provide that aren’t published, like interview transcripts with your team of experts or specific opinions to spin on current events in your industry, tell us those things! It’s easy (and not to mention smart) to craft posts or other pieces of specific content from past presentations you’ve given, webinars you’ve hosted, or white papers you’ve written. These can be repurposed for different channels without compromising the base thought-leadership you leveraged to organize the main event.
This is all to say that we do great top- (company awareness-type, general industry) and middle-of-funnel (content focused on the consideration process before buying, comparative research). We can do bottom-of-funnel posts (more product-specific, case studies) but will need a little more guidance for those from you and your team of experts to knock it out of the park. Mark from Whizard Strategy (and the example above) always leads with the example of how he wouldn’t expect us to write an in-depth piece on how composite patio components are constructed (bottom-of-funnel), but we help him build new prospects with very top-of-funnel content, with topics like “top 5 uses for a new patio” or “pros and cons of composite patios across different climates.”
We find that the nuts-and-bolts, bottom-of-the-funnel product posts or pages are almost always best written by someone on your internal team. They’re really important marketing assets to get right and we certainly understand that.
5a. “I don’t want my posts to just be a mash-up of uninformed internet research from sources I don’t trust.”
Of course you don’t! We wouldn’t want that, either. Some tips to make sure our writers jump off from the right points for their research:
- If you only trust statistics, quotes, or links for your posts from certain sources, bring our writers in on it in the form of a “starting resources list.” For example, more than a few of our customers ask for links from .org or .gov websites only or ask that our writers never use Wikipedia to research their topics. What we don’t know, we don’t know. So make sure to keep us apprised on these things that are most important to you.
- If you require a specific citation style, tell the writers!
- If you want to ensure that NONE of your competitors are included in links from your site, tell us who they are and we will add them to the blacklist.
- If you have an internal content asset that you’d like the writer to be well read on prior to writing a topic for you, include it in the topic description, i.e. “Please read this e-book before writing this and ensure that the language is mirrored and link to it as a CTA at the end”.
5b. “I work in a highly sensitive area of law or have a compliance team I need to align with in terms of marketing our product. How do you control the research for topics?”
The short answer is that you control the research for your topics.
Take, for instance, a Canadian lawyer who signed up. Writing posts that were informative and of highest accuracy in terms of Canadian law was obviously his top priority. Which left us in an interesting situation… how would we bring our 100% U.S.-based writers up to speed on the finer points of Canadian law, knowing that we had many, many lawyers and legal paraprofessionals in our network already? We left it to the expert himself and asked for not only a starting resource list for the writers, but also links to a few blogs or other sites he wanted to emulate with his own. That, in and of itself, unified the vision for the blog immediately.
The bottom line—we don’t charge extra for research, and since we were founded by a journalist, we’ve attracted writers who are in it for the intellectual curiosity of the writing opportunities. Writers like Tom Schwing, who, despite his extensive background of 30 years in industrial construction and small business ownership (not to mention submarine missile tech, among many others), enjoys the process of researching new areas for Verblio clients most.
At 57 I’ve traded in my steel-toed boots and hardhat for Chuck Taylors and a Cardinals cap and now the only time I work a 13-hour shift is when I lose track of time because I’m totally immersed in writing…I’ve always been an avid reader, so I’m still working on the research vs. writing balance. I tend to get caught up in the reading when I should be on the other side of the pen, so to speak.
6. “How much information and/or how many resources do I have to provide to writers to get what I’m looking for?”
A good, general rule is that the more complex your industry, the more input you’ll require to get exactly the specific content you need. (And if you’re picky, multiply that by 10.) Think of it as teaching a man to fish by frontloading the work at the beginning, arming your writers to the fullest extent possible through a solid onboarding, all with the promise of then getting better, more consistent results back.
We make this as mindless and painless as possible by guiding you through what information to provide in our signup process. Usually this takes the form of a brief on your company & brand vision, objectives for the blog, other blogs you’d like to emulate, and a list of reputable resources (much like the “starting resources list” from #5a) where writers can go to source and check back on for the best information.
7. “Can I find writers on your platform who are technical AND can write well AND can write specific content for digital marketing?”
Our writers run the gamut, and we accept less than 5% of applicants into the writer pool. So that covers the ‘can I find writers who can write well?’ component right off the bat. If you can’t write, you can’t write for Verblio. Period.
Beyond that, the chances are good that writers you encounter in the system either have the technical chops you’d require, or the business/marketing savvy. And the chances are good that you’ll get both. 🙂
What does it take to be a successful digital content writer? We’ve written at length about it in this e-book—I’m sure you’ll find it helpful as you vet writers for your niche.
It probably won’t be. Any piece of outsourced content will likely entail at least a few edits, no matter where you source it from—whether that be through a platform or via an individual freelancer.
Do keep in mind that editing is always possible, either by trading edits with the writer in-app or offline on your own. As a general rule of thumb, if you only need a couple of things to change in order for the post to be great for you, submit for edit requests from the writer. Our tips? Be specific, but don’t go overboard. If it’s more than a couple of things, decline the post. That’s a healthy part of the Verblio system.
Another thing to keep in your back pocket—you can always edit the post to your heart’s content after purchase. After you claim a post in the system, you’ll own the rights to it 100% and can tweak as necessary. In most instances, a post will come back to you from a Verblio writer 85% of the way, and your edits, considered perspective, and careful touches will take it to 100%.
To stay apprised of all walks of life of our customer base, we’ve instituted a recurring, weekly “segment” to our team’s all-hands meeting so our community manager Molly Krumholz can share her weekly readings—it’s lovingly dubbed Molly’s Corner. We’re still journalists at heart and cannot get enough snippets about our fascinating customer base from her. This post is an over-sized Molly’s Corner, to be sure.
According to Molly,
I have a fun job. I come across topics that are so out-there while reviewing posts by our writers. [Molly’s Corner] started out as a way for me to share my findings from these reviews with the team and to share who our customers are—we didn’t know about them in very concrete terms beforehand. It’s evolved into my opportunity take our customers and customer experience out of abstract terms and to share that with my whole team. (It has also enabled me to learn a ton about some wildly specific content topics and go down weird Wikipedia rabbit holes about things like Fabergé eggs and cockroach milk.)
Other awesome current Verblio customers that Molly dug up for this post run the gamut. They include a seawall construction company, farm legacy consultants, motivational speakers, a school for Chinese medicine, an antler chandelier builder, a debate-themed nonprofit, a funeral home, and an e-commerce store for luxe mink eyelashes.
There’s nothing we won’t write, people. Interested to see how we would write for your niche? Submit the form below with a couple of topic ideas of posts you’d like written for you, and we’ll talk.