As marketers, we all want to produce content that inspires audiences to action. But creating consistently outstanding articles, reports and ebooks takes longer than many expect.
Unless you work for a mega corporation with a bottomless budget, chances are you have limited content writing resources.
Your in-house marketing team might be great at SEO, campaign management and social media. But are they effective – and efficient – content writers?
The last thing you need is to pull resources from other important projects to focus on content production. Especially when you discover that their work doesn't resonate with your target audience.
Here’s how hiring an external content writer can help overcome these challenges – while also saving you tens of hours each month.
Fact #1: Producing high-quality content takes time
Anyone can open Microsoft Word and smash out a 500-word blog post.
But if you don’t do the behind the scenes heavy lifting – tasks like idea generation, research, interviews, editing and proofreading – those 500 words will be dull and uninspiring.
I got my start in content writing in print journalism. As a result, I've spent years learning how to write well under pressure. Even so, it takes me several hours - often between four and six - to get a piece ready to publish.
When writing a 1000 word technical blog post, for example, I might allocate time like this:
- Idea development – 30 minutes
- Research – 1-2 hours
- Interview preparation – 15 minutes
- Conducting interviews – 15-45 minutes
- Content writing – 2-3 hours
- Editing and proofreading – 1 hour
- Revisions – 1-2 hours
- Sourcing images – 30 minutes
- Uploading content to blog – 30 minutes
- Writing and scheduling social media posts – 15-20 minutes
- Writing content for EDM – 30-45 minutes
Less experienced content producers may need to allow an extra 15 to 30 percent for each task.
If you're doing this in-house, the time commitment is huge. You'll spend five to seven hours - equal to almost one full day per week - producing a single blog post. That's around 300 hours per year if you publish weekly.
It's easy to see how businesses get into trouble - and why content strategies fail. It's not enough to ramp up content production efforts without extra support. After a short burst of productivity, employees find it impossible to sustain quality output in the long run.
Fact #2: In-house resources are expensive
When it comes to producing content in-house, you can choose to:
- Hire a full-time content writer
- Ask your marketing team to generate content on top of current workloads
- Encourage consultants and subject matter experts to write content
No matter which option you choose, producing content in-house is going to cost time and money. What’s more, success is not guaranteed.
In-house content writer
The average Australian in-house content writer earns $45,781 per year. A specialist technical content writer will earn more, depending on their expertise and experience.
This doesn’t sound like a massive investment, until you consider expenses like:
- Recruitment and on-boarding
- Leave loading
- Ongoing professional development
These hidden costs can increase the cost of hiring an employee by up to double. What started out as a $46,000 annual investment could end up as a $90,000+ budget blowout.
How much content could an in-house content writer write, if an in-house content writer could write words?
Based on my earlier calculations, a prodigious worker could write up to five pieces of blog post-length content per week. Each blog post, then, would cost a total of $400+ to produce. That's factoring in hidden costs like superannuation and leave loading, too.
This is a fair price for copy from a top content agency. For a mid-range writer producing mid-range content, it's exorbitant.
Marketing team turned content factory
You have to hand it to technology marketers. They thrive under pressure. They convince IT decision makers that B2B software is exciting and innovative.
But as skilled as marketers are, they're generally not content writers.
Like anything else, content writing is a skill that takes time to perfect. A marketer who excels in branding may struggle to communicate his brand’s value in an ebook, for example. And it might take a landing page specialist days to write a straightforward blog post.
Both may attempt to maintain a brand's voice and tone, but this is difficult when only writing a piece of content here and there. Going even slightly off brand can add hours to the editing stage.
Marketing managers get the best results when they focus on their team's strengths. If you don't have writers in-house, outsourcing is the smart way to use existing resources in areas in which they add the most value.
Consultants as content writers
When it comes to content development, every tech company should draw on the expertise of its consultants. They're out in the field talking to customers every day. They have the best understanding of your audience's challenges and concerns.
That said, you might not want to put consultants in charge of content development. Here's why.
First up, consultants are smart. They think in highly technical ways. They often assume everyone understands complex concepts with the same ease that they do.
Ask a consultant to write a blog post, and weeks later (have you ever tried to pin down a consultant for non-client work? It's like pulling teeth) you'll get a brilliant piece of work. But you'll also spend two hours translating that content so readers don't need a PhD to understand it.
Secondly, consultants' time is valuable. When I worked in software marketing, our consultants were billed out at $2,000 per day. A resource worth $250 per hour is one you want to use wisely.
For example, if a consultant spends half a day drafting a blog post, you've spent $1000 already. And that doesn't include the cost of editing industry jargon into plain English.
The best approach is to organise a quick chat with your technical resource. This will minimise time away from revenue-generating tasks, while also streamlining content production. Read more about how to get better content from technical resources.
Fact #3: Skimping on price always costs more over time
You can pay someone on Fiverr to write your content for you. It’s cheap. Turnaround is fast if you pay for a rush order.
It’s also a terrible idea if you want to do any of these things:
- Save time
- Save money
- Make money
- Produce quality content that engages readers.
We don’t use services like Fiverr or Upwork for client work. Never have, and never will.
But since it's always good to know your competition, I have experimented with Fiverr for writing blog posts.
Even with extensive editing, the results weren’t good enough to publish.
In content writing land, you get what you pay for. I spent so much time writing briefs and making the content more appealing that it would have been faster to write it myself.
The writing quality was adequate. Most pieces were readable, flowed well and weren't plagiarised. However, they weren't insightful or supported by research. They had trouble nailing brand voice and tone.
Publishing that content would have been detrimental to the Mint Content brand.
As someone who runs a content writing agency, it's obvious why I'm apprehensive. But I also know that most of our clients wouldn't push content of that standard to their networks.
The benefits wouldn't outweigh the risk of confusing readers with an inconsistent voice, or repeating what they already know.
In short: if you want the results that come from working with experienced, efficient content writers, you need to pay market rates. Choose respected writers that understand your audience and industry. They'll do more for your business than 50, five-dollar blog posts ever can.
Fact #4: External content writers get better results in less time
If you manage content writing in-house, prepare to commit huge resources to making it work. Hiring an external content writer, on the other hand, can save time by taking care of the content production process.
You do need to invest time working with the writer. But it's much less than if you were managing everything internally.
Working with external professionals has other advantages too. Writers that specialise in your field spend all day writing about topics that are relevant to audiences like yours.
For example, I write a lot about mobile security, digital transformation and customer experience. As a result, I'm all over the latest reports, trends and issues - and there's plenty of overlap between topics.
My clients end up with more nuanced, credible content than they could create on their own. They also save time collating research, which is common when briefing less experienced writers.
Creating winning content is a significant time investment. However, hiring an experienced content writer can reduce the burden on in-house resources. You get more content, written faster - and to a higher standard than what might otherwise be possible. Happy writing!
Until next time,
P.S If you’re ready to free up hours of your marketing team’s time, check out how Mint Content's content writing services can help.