Here’s something we all know so well that nobody needs to say it anymore: content is king.
We know it because we’ve been hit over the head with the phrase more times than you can shake a page view at. There’s no getting away from it: producing high-quality, engaging content and unique copy is vital for SEO, brand awareness, and affinity.
There will be few digital marketers out there who are not painfully aware of the challenge. When resources, time, and money are (more likely than not) limiting factors, how do you produce large amounts of content to a high enough standard to be effective?
This can be especially true if you or your client is a business with many different product lines, or in multiple locations around the world. The potential topics are infinite, red tape acts as a bottleneck, and copywriters can be overworked and expensive.
The good news is that with the rising popularity of remote working and digital nomads, partnered with a solid strategy and process, you don’t have to make the impossible choice of quality or quantity.
Use a network of freelancers
Perhaps you have a short-term project in the pipeline, or your client suddenly wants to dramatically increase the amount of content in production. What do you do? Hiring a team of copywriters is expensive.
The freelance market, however, is competitive, and these days you don’t have to compromise quality for the sake of cost. Digital nomads are highly-skilled, maybe even multi-lingual, and are likely to be based in countries where the cost of living is low.
Of course, this might not work for you if you need writers based in your market, in which case you could use your international freelancers for other means. Have you got a killer strategist on your books, or someone who speaks four languages who could translate and localize your copy using their knowledge of your markets? Make use of their skills.
It goes without saying that good communication is central to making it work with freelancers. Make yourself as available as possible to your writers and remind them again and again that there is no such thing as a silly question. Building a personal rapport is vital—video calls are great for this, and often far quicker than trying to painfully explain something over email. Apps such as Google Hangouts will become your best friend, for when a simple question requires a quick answer.
With freelancers you have the opportunity to not only become more cost-effective, but to make time zones work for you. This is the key: whilst you’re sleeping, some of your freelancers will be working. Manage this effectively and the amount you produce will rapidly increase, without compromising on quality.
Establish a process
It sounds absurdly simple, but if you don’t set up a clear, defined process, then you’re at very real risk of not achieving the core goals of the project. Common pitfalls include repeating work (or producing the wrong content due to poor briefs), missing deadlines, and inefficiently handling budgets.
It may take some time to set up, but it will undoubtedly pay off once it’s up, running, and ticking along by itself whilst you dedicate yourself to other tasks.
Firstly, one of the most useful things you can do is to spend some time getting your briefs watertight. Provide key details about the client, background information for the task such as the target audience, and clearly explain how this work fits into the wider strategy. Outline the deliverables clearly, and provide a step-by-step guide and examples if necessary.
Brief templates can help with this, especially if you’re producing different types of hygiene content for the same client. It will be worth it when you receive the work back exactly as needed, with minimal questions in the process, and future you will thank you.
Secondly, I strongly advise setting up trackers, because let’s face it: the benefit of a good Excel document cannot be underestimated. Create them so you know what stage your project is at from a glance and include pricing information and details of your freelancers. These trackers should essentially be a one-stop-shop for everything you need to know about the project. This will be invaluable not only for measuring where you are in the process but also for reporting.
Project tracking and management services such as Trello can be a godsend. Make use of them. Here at Croud we have our own proprietary technology, Croud Control, which allows us to manage huge content projects flexibly, with full visibility and control over every aspect of each project.
If this all sounds a little exhausting, why not use a trusted freelancer to manage this process for you? That way you only need to brief one person (although admittedly you will probably need to do a deep-dive), and providing you have regular check-ins along the way, you will only need to get involved at the final stage.
QA, QA, and QA again
Speaking of the final stage: check everything. Then check again.
It is unavoidable that your copywriters will make mistakes, as they are human beings. It’s also possible that your proofreaders will miss the odd spelling mistake here or there. This is the reason why I operate on a two-stage QA process at a minimum.
If your client is a multinational company, you may be required to translate or localize your copy into several different languages. It goes without saying that native speakers should perform the QA on this type of work, especially if the copywriter was a non-native speaker.
Providing your freelancers with feedback is crucial to the success of content projects, aside from just being a decent thing to do. After all, everyone wants to do a good job and more likely than not, wants to know how they could do it better.
Tight budgets mean you might have to get creative with how you manage it. This QA process allows me to do just that. If a new, potentially unexperienced copywriter with good writing skills and low hourly rate does the bulk of the work, the more skilled writers who are almost definitely more expensive can be lined up to proofread, check tone, and generally make sure it is up to scratch, in half the time it took to write it. Just make sure they don’t end up re-writing the work. Empower them to provide constructive feedback directly to your copywriters, and effectively train them up.
If your QAs pick up on the same mistakes being made repeatedly, allow your copywriters the opportunity to review their edits. If they can actually see the corrections being made, they are more likely to bear them in mind when they write for you again. If fewer edits are required, then congratulations, you have made the process even more efficient and cost-effective.
Creating high-quality, unique copy and content on a large scale is never going to be easy, but it doesn’t have to be painful. With a bit of legwork at the beginning to establish a well built process, and by making the most of a network of freelancers, it has the potential to be a breeze.
Not only that, but you and your clients will undoubtedly reap the commercial rewards of your hard work. Using exactly this process, together with our global network of 1,700+ freelancers known as ‘Croudies’, we were able to produce city-specific landing page copy for a client with hundreds of locations. This work led to a 113% increase in organic traffic, coupled with a 124% uplift in domain visibility.
And the key to success? Engage your writers at every available opportunity, so they don’t feel like a cog in a machine. Provide them with valuable feedback and help them whenever you can. This will likely not only improve your enjoyment of the project, but you’ll also probably find that they are more willing to help with future work. And when the whole project goes off without a hitch and you receive fantastic reviews (because why wouldn’t you), tell them of the good news and allow them to share in your success.