Why We Outsourced Our Content Creation to Freelancers
Voiceover: Welcome to the CrowdSource podcast channel where we discuss the future of crowd-based talent solutions for the enterprise.
Nicki Powers: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the CrowdSource podcast channel. My name is Nicki Powers. Today, I have two guests joining me to talk about the challenges of finding and managing freelance talent and how to overcome those challenges.
My guests are particularly familiar with this subject, as they have both worked together in a freelancer/employer relationship recently, Julie Gauthier and Kelly Barner. Thanks for joining me.
Julie: Yes, thank you. I’m glad to be here.
Nicki: Awesome. We’re really happy to have you on the show. Now Julie Goutier is the content marketing director of Scoop.it, a content marketing software company that combines a big data semantic technology that helps find relevant content with an easy to use social publishing platform.
As a marketing professional, Julie knows firsthand how difficult it can be to curate and publish engaging content on a regular basis. Julie, can you tell us why that is a challenge for marketers?
Julie: I don’t know if you guys read, but [phonetic] Gartner just released the results of a study around the top five emerging trends in digital marketing. One of the big five is around the rise of big content.
Let me quote them just for a second. According to a Gartner survey, content is the most important thing marketers can do, and yet they’re unequipped to take it from a skilled enforcing level. That means that most marketers understand how important content is for their audience and global marketing strategy.
They particularly lack the resources and skills to create good content.. You all know that marketers understanding something doesn’t mean that CEOs understand it. Most marketers do not yet have dedicated teams for content marketing.
Just like in our case at my previous company where I was lucky enough to work with Kelly, you might be facing a situation where you and anyone within your company who can write has millions of other things to do with deadlines that cannot be pushed.
It’s not just about finding the time or resource to write content. It’s also about writing big content, incredible content. There’s a study from the CMO council that revealed third-party content is four to seven times more trusted than vendor-created content.
If every content comes from one or two people within your company, they’re more likely not to be trusted. To bring that to a particular challenge around content marketing, we had another one at Ivalua.
It was that procurement was such a technical domain that very few people had enough knowledge to write about it. That’s why we considered reaching out to an expert freelance writer such as Kelly.
Nicki: Kelly is a regular guest contributor to a number of industry blogs and publications. She even co-authored a book titled “Supply Market Intelligence for Procurement Professionals.” Kelly, what first of all made you decide to become a freelance writer?
Kelly Barner: In this case, it was really kind of the convergence of two things. My professional background is actually as a procurement practitioner. I work to help companies make decisions about which suppliers or product and services they would work with.
I developed a lot of expertise in this area particularly after spending some time in consulting, which gave me insight across a different number of fields and industries. I had the expertise there. The writing piece came from a separate part of my background.
When I was in college, I actually had majored in English Literature before 1700. For anybody that’s listening to this who is getting a hard time from parents, aunts and uncles that “You’re studying Shakespeare but you’re never going to make any money,” tell them that they’re wrong.
[Laughter] It can be just as difficult to learn to be a good writer as it can be to pick up technical college. Where those two things come together for me is that in addition to the podcast that I do and the sites that I write for, I’m also the managing editor at [Phonetic] BuyersMeetingPoint.com.
We have a website, and probably the highest traffic area of that website is the blog. I’m regularly writing on all of these topics that would serve as the essential thread for that big content, the information that the company Julie had worked for would be looking to put out.
For me, I was working with them already in that they were already one of my sponsors. They knew my background. They knew my capabilities as a writer. They knew that I could connect the two things.
I had done a little bit of work here and there, but I wouldn’t say then — and I wouldn’t actually even say now — that I consider myself a freelancer. I can and do serve for a number of different companies in a freelance capacity.
I actually think that’s one of the really interesting things that Julie was able to bring out in the article and that hopefully she then sort of underscored in the second piece for some of the suggestions we had worked out about why it was a good relationship.
When you’re looking for a freelancer, you don’t just go to the White Pages and look up freelancer. Think about the people that you know that have the skill that you’re looking for and the technical expertise that you need to combine with it. Consider asking those people.
For me, this was one of those deals where the writing skills and the technical knowledge came together. Without intentionally doing so, I get called by myself very well to fulfill that freelance writing role.
Nicki: To our listeners, the article that Kelly is referencing is actually a blog post that Julie authored titled “How We Overcame Our Content Marketing Challenges by Outsourcing to Freelancers.” Kelly, in this case, was the freelance writer as she just mentioned.
Julie, you talked about the challenges of content marketing for marketers and really for all professionals. Content is king. It rules the web. What was your final deciding factor in choosing to hire a freelancer, rather than just hiring somebody internally?
Julie: When you’re facing this content marketing challenge and this overall marketing challenge, since content is such a big aspect of marketing nowadays, I think there are two things that you should try to do. The first thing would be more content-centric.
In response to what I was saying about Gartner’s statement around sourcing and content curation, you often think doing content marketing or having a blog only means creating blog posts. There was great content out there just waiting for you to comment it, add to it and leverage it.
I don’t know if you’re aware, but it takes an average of about 150 hours to create a white paper or an eBook. It takes about 4 hours to create a blog post. It only takes 20 minutes to create curated content.
Consider leveraging curation as part of your content marketing strategy. The second thing you should do is much more human-centric. Obviously you all know that you can’t do it all alone. Why not leverage others in these ongoing efforts?
Getting your co-workers to contribute absolutely doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also hire and leverage freelance writers, either to keep up with the high goals for content publishing or to help you with longer and more time-consuming pieces of content just like eBooks.
Several reasons why you should also work with a freelance writer, the first thing was around building trust, as I mentioned before. Content is four to seven times more trusted if it comes from somebody else, rather than in-house.
The second thing is distribution. Working with a freelance writer helps you increase your distribution, thanks to your freelance network. If Kelly is going to write something for my blog, she is obviously going to distribute it to her network as well.
It helps her reputation and her online branding. That’s why we considered working with Kelly. She is such an expert in her domain. Her website and her blog are really important when it comes to procurement.
That’s why we decided to work with her.
Nicki: You bring up a really good point. That is around expertise. If you don’t have the expertise in-house to produce this type of content or you do have the expertise in-house but those resources are extremely limited obviously — because these are your top resources. They can’t necessarily spend time producing content.
Four hours on a blog, that sounds like a long time. That’s half a day that will go into producing content. Kelly, what advice can you give to people who are producing this content? Obviously, as a writer yourself, you must have some thoughts or things that you can offer perhaps to the people who are just getting started with this.
Kelly: One of the things that can be difficult to adjust to is sort of the unpredictable nature of a relationship that you may end up having. Just as much as an unexpected freelancing engagement feels like a windfall. It can feel equally negative when that need and therefore that work and income naturally comes to an end.
I think what ends up being important is finding a way to sort of work both sides of the relationship. Stay positive. Don’t think of it as being a mercenary. Build a relationship with these people. That will increase the likelihood that you get more work or work becomes more steady.
It’s worth making that investment. Don’t just think of it as a transaction, even though you’re filling, to some extent, a tactical need for them. Don’t think of it as being limited to that. Build any relationship you get the opportunity to build.
Nicki: Julie, from your perspective as the client who is hiring a freelancer, what would you say is the most challenging aspect of managing a freelance workforce?
Julie: Well, one of the biggest challenges, I would say, would be the distance. You know that if you work with a team, they’re just right here. You can knock on their door and do a brainstorm. If something’s not clear, you can just see it together and kind of do the changes on the fly.
I would say that would be one of the biggest challenges. What we did with Kelly to overcome it was — First of all, it’s something that you can’t automatically have. It’s not a button you can push. We got along very well.
It’s easier to just pick up your phone and call Kelly whenever you’re not sure about a sentence. Then leveraging the shared documents has been a huge thing for us as well. Being on the same Excel or Word document, talking about the revisions and doing them on the fly to make sure everybody understands is how we overcame this distance problem.
It might be, for others, a big challenge when you work with a freelance workforce.
Nicki: Obviously you’re relying heavily on digital tools, the internet and even the phone, to talk with one another about the ongoing aspects. It makes a lot of sense that distance could cause a problem if maybe you’re not in the same time zone.
Maybe you really don’t have as much control over one another’s schedule because you don’t work for the same company really. You’re not in the same four walls. Perhaps you have competing priorities on any given day. That is certainly a challenge of managing a freelance workforce.
What would you say, Julie and Kelly, what is the most positive aspect of managing a freelance workforce or being part of a freelance workforce?
Julie: The first aspect is the essence and reason why we actually started working with a freelancer. It’s because you know the work is going to get done. There’s not going to be any excuses that you get from your co-workers saying, “Hey, I got this deadline. I’m so sorry. I couldn’t make it. I’ll do it next week.”
There’s really nothing you can do when your co-worker tells you that because it’s not part of their job. It’s just something that they’re doing to help you out. When you work with a freelancer, it’s a known relationship.
You know that you hired her or him to provide you with content. You know the work is going to get done. That’s, I think, one of those positive aspects of working with a freelancer. I would say the second is around the partnership.
It’s around not being on your own or in a small team in content marketing. It’s about building this team work. This relationship has been great. Given the tools that are out there today, I think it could be even better.
Nicki: Kelly, how about in your opinion? What would you say is the most positive aspect of being part of a freelance workforce?
Kelly: I think one of the most positive aspects is that it allows someone with a non-traditional, whether schedule or work/life balance, to continue doing work that makes money and keeps their resume current. I know I can say for myself — I had worked as a practitioner for several years.
I moved over and worked as the associate director of consulting at a large solution provider in the state. As I was getting near that decade, I think what happens for a lot of people is — for me, it was time to start a family.
It just didn’t simply make sense any more for me to be hopping on a plane every Monday morning at 6 a.m. and taking a redeye home Thursday into Friday. I wanted to stay engaged. I had this knowledge and expertise that I had built up.
I wanted to keep using it. I also found through a number of different channels that I was absolutely still marketable. One of the advantages that I think I have and that others in a similar situation would have is that you are often best positioned to work when your clients are offline.
Obviously time zones come into this. They can do wacky things. One of the things that I always push for is I will say to people, “If you think you can even get close with that next piece of the puzzle that you said you were going to send me this week before you go home on Friday, that gives me an entire weekend to make some kind of forward progress on that effort while they were going to be offline anyway.”
Since a lot of these projects, and I would include writing of any kind in this, tend to be iterative — the more iterations you can get in, the faster you get to the process and the better-quality project you have at the end of the day.
I found that as a freelancer I could say, “You know what? It’s actually better for me to work in the evening. It’s better for me to work over the weekend.” You do what you need to do during the day. Then I will step in when it is most convenient for me anyway, and I will take the next step.
It really does end up being a win-win for both sides.
Nicki: How can our listeners reach out to you if they have any further questions about this? Julie, can you provide your Twitter handle and/or other contact information?
Julie: Of course. You can reach me on Twitter. I’m pretty active there. My handle is “JulieGTR.” You can also find me pretty easily on LinkedIn. Even reach me via email if you want. My email is “firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Nicki: Kelly, how can our listeners reach out to you if they have further questions?
Kelly: Sure. I think all three of those channels work for me as well. I’m also a big fan of Twitter. My Twitter handle is “BuyersMeetPoint,” which is M-E-E-T. My email address is kelly, K-E-L-L-Y, @buyersmeetingpoint.com.
I’m also pretty easy to find on LinkedIn if you want to look for me that way.
Nicki: Perfect. We’ll post links to those on our blog at Crowdsource.com/blog. [Music Playing] Thanks so much for joining the show, Julie and Kelly. To our listeners, thanks for tuning in.
Voiceover: Thanks for listening to the CrowdSource podcast channel. Learn more about the future of crowd-based talent solutions for the enterprise by visiting our website at Crowdsource.com.