A Lesson In Outsourcing
Sometimes the shoemaker is so busy making shoes for his customers that he doesn’t get around to making shoes for his own kids. It’s a sad but true reality and one that you probably face daily in your business (without even realizing it). So, what’s the solution? Should the shoemaker just buckle down and dedicate time to ensuring that his kids are properly shod, or would it be smarter to give the job to another shoemaker?
That’s what this article is all about. Except we are going to talk about content, not shoes, ok?
A bird on the hand, worth two in the bush .. or not?
In every business, there are those activities that lead directly to cash in the coffers, and there are other activities for which you might not see the reward until later down the line. Content marketing is such an activity. Belonging more to the realms of the “softer” inbound marketing approach, creating and sharing valuable content from your company is not consistently rewarded with customers and revenue. Even if you are getting new customers, it can be hard to quantify the impact your content had. Slowly, over time, your content probably will get you followers, leads, and authority, but it’s a soft-burn process, and you have to be patient and keep the wheel churning even through dry periods.
Most businesses today know that they need to put fresh and useful content out regularly in order to (eventually) attract new business, as well as to keep current customers interested and engaged. Larger companies have a dedicated team (or a solo writer) who spends her/ his days researching and creating content. But what if you’re just starting out and you are building your company solo? Is it realistic to do it all yourself? And how about the medium-sized company that’s flying. Your content team is doing a fantastic job creating blogs, ebooks, social media posts, and videos, but no one has had time to look at that book proposal you wrote or to submit some editorials to that Industry magazine.
Even if you have a highly-skilled content team, there are likely some special projects and pieces you want to write that keep getting shoved to the bottom of the pile because no one has the time to attend to them. The obvious solution is to call in the reinforcements – aka. The outsourced writers. But many companies don’t like to do this citing various reasons, such as:
● They don’t fully understand our product
● They haven’t nailed our corporate language
● It will take them ages to get up to speed on our industry
All very valid points, but what if you are desperate? What if your CEO wanted that content created yesterday? You need to come up with a solution fast, and you dont know whether to urge an in-house writer to take the extra burden or to call in the services of a freelancer.
There is no simple answer to this age-old dilemma (yes, the shoemaker’s kids still sometimes wander around barefoot) but here are some thoughts that might help you decide what to do in your particular case:
The case for in-house:
The daily churn – Most companies have mountains of small writing tasks that need doing each day; you want a subject line for an email, a quick LinkedIn post, or some ideas for a tagline. Using a freelancer for these itty-bitty projects is often not worth the bother. You want someone who knows the company really well and who doesn’t need to be caught up to speed. It can be annoying having to keep track of so many small tasks if you are paying a freelancer by the hour. As long as you can afford an in-house writer, small daily jobs are probably better done in-house.
Someone on the ground – Sometimes you want a writer to sit in on meetings, hear what’s being discussed, and translates this into content. Or you want the writer to be part of decision-making in meetings. You want someone who is readily available when you want to pop in to share that hot-off-the-press idea you’ve just had during the coffee break. Waiting to get hold of the freelancer (who could be someone you’ve never even met) doesn’t cut the mustard in these cases.
Intimate knowledge of company culture – Your in-house writer is fully trained up in the language, culture, and style of your company and is ready to go anytime you need them. They rarely need many briefings, and, as they work full-time, they can usually turn around content to your specifications quickly. If you’ve been working with the same in-house writer for a while, you already know each other’s style and way of working, which can lead to a smoother content-creation prcess.
The case for freelancers:
Expert knowledge – In most cases, a writer who has turned “freelance” is an expert with several years’ experience behind them. Some in-house content writers (especially in the Israeli market) are just people with a good command of the English language. They might lack specific writing, journalistic, or copywriting training. If you have a complex project requiring a high level of skill, you might do better to use a freelancer with an amazing track record.
Busy times – You are happy with yout content team, but they are too busy. Your company is growing rapidly, and you have a long list of content to produce. Do yourself a favor; chose the items that are easiest to outsource, farm them out to a freelancer, and watch the weight lift from your overly-burdened shoulders!
One-off specials – You want to publish a full-length book, a series of ebooks, or some journalistic pieces for a trade magazine. These are expert jobs that take a lot of time and skill. You inhouse writer might not have the specific skills needed, or they may be too busy to attempt the job, this is another occasion to take on a freelancer. You only pay for the job they do, (not their health insurance sick pay, etc.) so it can even work out cheaper.
Money-saver – This may come as a surprise, but it is usually cheaper to outsource specific projects than to talk on another full-time staff member.
Katie Coon of In-touch Marketing writes about how many companies,
“fail to take into consideration .. the added expense associated with hiring and retaining an employee… [including] health insurance contributions, retirement plan matches, vacation, sick days, etc. This results in costing as much as 1.25 to 1.4 times the base salary. Add in additional expenses, such as the cost of recruiting and training, and the total starts to escalate quickly.”
To sum up, we at Purple Chia, see value in using both in-house writers (if you can afford them) and freelance. For most companies, it boils down to whether the writers are coping with the workload, and if it would be more cost-effective (and efficient) to outsource specific projects. While many companies fear that freelancers can’t get into the right mindset, you’d be surprised at how quickly a skilled writer will get up to speed.