It’s May 1st, and that means it’s time to kick off the Summer Lovin blog series!
All this month I’ll be talking about HOT content ideas for your blog. So, you may be wondering, why do I start with a defeatist “just hire someone” post? Well, that’s because it’s a question I get almost every week. And, for some business owners, hiring it out is a good idea.
If you plan on doing all of your own content, much of this advice still applies – so keep reading and pretend you are hiring yourself. 😉
You may know, but my first freelance work was contract writing. And I still do a lot of writing today (click here if you want to talk to me about that). I also run the site Plum Deluxe, where we feature a paid contributor every single day. Let me tell you, that is a lot of work; I now even have a person that does nothing but manage the communications for all of those writers.
As you can imagine, I have a few things to say on the topic.
1. You must start with a strategy, or understanding of what you hope to achieve. Writers are smart folk, but can’t read your mind, so you need to know what you are trying to do with all this content. Some of the things that content marketing can do for you:
Ok, I’m not here to sell the idea of content to you, but you get the idea. Making sure your writer(s) have a clear idea of the goals will help them to give you ideas on the best content to do the job – and yes, let them help you come up with great ideas!
2. Set your budget and communicate it. One thing I’ve noticed about writers is that they’re not very good about pricing their work, and to be honest, every situation is different; some verticals and niches demand a higher price point due to the need for specific knowledge (say, a high-tech science blog). Do some research and decide what your budget is — per article, white paper, or eBook is a good way to price. Set it and run with it. After a couple of months, you’ll know whether it is too high (not attracting the talent you want, or your budget is disappearing rapidly) or too low (quality is not there).
3. Great writers are closer than you think. This is where lots of business owners get tripped up, because there are so many job boards and writing blogs out there, not to mention sites like eLance or oDesk where writers around the world will bid for the pleasure of your business. The problem is not finding a writer, but finding the right writer. You might want to start with your own community; what better writer to have than one who is already a raving fan! If you must post somewhere like a job board or Craigslist, be sure to put your company name and URL (good writers rarely respond to anonymous ads) and communicate those budget and goal expectations.
Another tip: Do ask writers for example work when putting the word out, but do not ask writers for what is called ‘spec work’ – e.g. writing for your for free to see if they can do the job. If you can’t judge the quality of their work by their examples, then declare it not a fit and move on.
4. ABC: Always be communicating. Now that you’ve hired your writer, ramp up those communication skills. The best way to show a writer what you want is to give them an example (e.g. “here’s a blog post I wrote. As you can see, my writing is not great, but you can get a feel for the topic and style I am going for”). But if someone’s style isn’t working for you, or if they missed the memo on something important, tell them. They might be an idiot, or maybe they just genuinely didn’t know. Don’t hesitate to ask for edits, especially in the beginning, though if you are always asking for a major re-writes, maybe it’s time to discuss why that is the case.
5. For problem areas, operate on a two strike policy. This is my personal preference; like any of my advice, you can take it or leave it. After 7 years of working with freelance writers, I’ve found that across the board, they are flaky. Even credentialed and experienced writers can all of a sudden drop the ball, and drop it in a big way. $h!t happens, as they say, so I give everyone the benefit of the doubt once – especially if a prompt alert and apology is received. But if a writer ever misses a deadline without communicating (the typical goof, but there are others) twice, I will likely not work with them again. I repeat, this is my own policy – you’ll find that larger magazines and blog editors have a zero-strike policy – so decide what works for you.
6. Work ahead, plan ahead, stay ahead. Content is, in my experience, like a steamroller; if you set the bar high and don’t have a plan, it can easily roll right over and flatten you. You must have an editorial calendar in place (let me know if you need help with that), and it is best to set your schedule so you are ahead of it. Thus, writers turn in pieces before they’re due, and you’re batching work so articles, white papers, eBooks, etc. are ready to go before your publish date. Trust me, this advice will save you one day.
7. Build relationships with writers you can trust. My final recommendation is that you final a small group of writers that you know, like, and can trust with your content needs. Maybe your needs ebb and flow depending on the seasons, or maybe you have some local writers that work well for one thing and remote writers that handle another; it’s all about finding the best mix, and when you have a good relationship, you can really lean on your writers to support you.
DON’T FORGET THE MAY VIP BONUS:
Leave a comment on any of the summer lovin’ series articles and get a free 45 minute brainstorming session with any consulting packages you book during the month of May. Click here to learn more about what I do and get the conversation started.