The Business Leader’s Guide to Outsourcing Content Creation for a Website
If you’re launching a website project, outsourcing content creation isn’t necessarily a simple task.
And for good reason.
Your website is your digital storefront.
It’s where new clients learn more about your services.
And—if your site ranks high in the SERPs—it might serve as a buyer’s first interaction with your brand.
On top of that, creating a new site (or reworking your current content) is a major investment. Depending on the size of your project, outsourcing content creation can cost thousands of dollars. And who wants to spend hours micromanaging a project or correcting a writer’s careless errors?
Bottom line: When it comes to content creation, websites involve higher stakes.
And that’s why you want your project done right—the first time.
If you need a website writer but aren’t sure where to start, keep on reading. This article shares a step-by-step process you can follow for your upcoming project.
Step One: Lay a Foundation for Outsourcing Content Creation
Producing solid copy doesn’t start with finding a writer.
To create high-quality website content, take the time to understand your audience, competitors, and marketing strategy.
This might take some patience (especially if you needed your homepage rewritten...yesterday).
However, each of the steps I’m sharing below is important—with benefits that extend beyond your current website project.
1. Know Your Audience
If you haven’t clearly defined your target audience, put the brakes on outsourcing content creation.
Don’t settle for pinpointing your primary verticals and the products or services your clients need. I’d recommend drilling much deeper to identify your ideal buyers.
Here are some aspects to explore:
The size of your buyers' companies
Buyers' organizational positions/roles
Buyers' education level and typical age
The unique challenges buyers need to solve
Key phrases and industry-specific verbiage
Just why is this so important?
Let’s say you’re a tech company—and your ideal client is a recruitment firm that needs collaboration software.
Your content writer is drafting your FAQ page. The goal is to leverage this content for SEO and target long-tail search terms.
Is your ideal customer a business that has no exposure to collaboration software? If so, your content writer might draft your FAQ page around questions like, “What is collaboration software?” or “Can collaboration software increase team productivity?”
Is your ideal customer a medium-sized business who uses a competitor’s software? In this case, your writer might take an entirely different approach. He or she might write for queries like, “What integrations does your software support?” or “What’s the advantage of transitioning to Your Company from Competitor XYZ?”
See the difference?
You’ll want to dive deeper into your target audience—so you create quality content that's tailored around your ideal buyers.
2. Know Your Competitors
Before you begin outsourcing content creation, take the time to research your competitors.
And always remember that, in the digital world, it might be surprising to discover who your online competitors are.
For instance, if you’re a manufacturing company, your competition might include…
An international manufacturer that is selling parts on Amazon.
An industry magazine with numerous pages of content for the search terms you want to target.
A small, local manufacturing company that’s managed to create a stellar local SEO presence.
When it comes to competitive analysis, I’d recommend having a SEO agency survey your digital landscape and provide a strategy for ranking in the SERPs.
But if you’re a startup or simply don’t have time to wait, at least do a quick online search.
Google the keywords your ideal clients would likely use to find companies like your own. Then, analyze what organizations appear in the search results.
Click through to competitor sites, and ask yourself…
What content has this company created that relates to my products/services?
What’s the length of the content I'm viewing?
What’s the depth and quality of this content?
Obviously, this is just scratching the surface when it comes to competitive analysis (and these questions are primarily concerned with content).
But if you don’t have the time—or resources—to hire an SEO agency, a bit of common sense is your friend.
3. Know Your Overarching Marketing Strategy
Your website is an important part of your marketing strategy. But it isn’t everything.
The fact is, digital marketing can involve a number of tactics, including…
Leveraging email campaigns.
Cleaning up your local directory listings.
Launching Facebook retargeting ads.
Creating a landing page for pay-per-click (PPC) traffic.
All that to say, don’t make web content decisions in a vacuum. Know exactly how each tactic in your marketing strategy fits together.
Here’s a quick example that shows why this makes a difference:
You’re a company that offers in-depth research reports, and clients purchase a subscription to access your insights.
However, your marketing agency has helped your organization realize something important. The best way to land clients isn’t to promote your subscription sign-up page. It’s to offer a consultation call.
Because of this—when outsourcing your content—make sure your writer creates a call to action for your consultation call...not your subscription package.
Step Two: Find a Writer to Take Responsibility for Content Creation
Once you have a basic foundation for outsourcing your content, it’s time to find (and hire) a writer you can trust.
Here are some tips for this step in your journey…
1. Find Potential Writers, and Narrow Down Your List
When it comes to outsourcing content for a website, there are several ways to find potential writers. Check out these ideas for locating candidates…
If you work with a marketing agency, ask for a referral. They may have an in-house writer, or they might connect you to a trusted contractor.
Do a search on Google and LinkedIn. Use queries such as content writer, copywriter, or content creation. Try to find someone with expertise in your industry.
Get recommendations from other colleagues. There’s a chance that they’ve outsourced their website copy to a qualified writer.
Tip: While it’s wise to ask for a writer’s portfolio, I’d suggest looking at the writer’s website to get a feel for his or her work.
Your writer may have a limited portfolio because of confidentiality obligations to clients. Even if there aren't signed nondisclosure agreements (NDAs), the writer may desire to respect clients’ privacy.
Once you have a number of candidates, narrow down your options until you have a short list.
Like I said in my article on whether to outsource your content creation, don’t simply hire the first person you interview.
While finding a skilled writer is great, finding a writer who also understands marketing best practices is even better.
That’s because content creation goes hand in hand with other marketing activities such as search engine optimization (SEO) and conversion rate optimization (CRO).
Here are a few personal examples of why this matters on a practical level…
When writing copy for a homepage, I don’t prefer to create content for sliders. That’s because sliders may negatively affect a site’s CRO.
And because I have knowledge of SEO, I can offer backend meta descriptions that put keyword research to good use.
2. Have a Pre-Discovery Call
Before you formally commit to a writer, schedule a pre-discovery call.
Why have a call when you can simply interact through email?
Stellar copywriting skills aren’t everything.
Website projects can take months to complete. And the last thing you want is to be stuck with a writer who's abrasive, dishonest, or undependable.
During your pre-discovery call, observe if the writer…
Possesses intellectual humility. Does the writer ask questions to learn more about your organization? Does he or she seem teachable?
Conducts himself or herself in a professional manner. How a copywriter interacts with you may be a foretaste of what to expect during your project.
Displays integrity. Notice how the writer communicates. Is he or she upfront about his or her capabilities? Does he or she tell the truth...even when it’s not convenient?
The call doesn’t have to be long. You may realize you’ve found the right person after only 15 minutes of interaction.
3. Solidify Your Scope
Know exactly what webpages you need written?
If not, discuss this with your content writer during your pre-discovery call.
Hopefully, your writer will have a solid background in digital marketing—enabling him or her to provide guidance for your decision.
If you can’t come to a conclusion, at least give a general sketch of your vision. Remember that your writer needs a tentative scope to provide a quote.
4. Determine a Price, and Establish a Contract
If you decide to move forward with a writer, discuss pricing sooner rather than later. Getting an early quote will help you avoid wasting your time (or that of your writer’s).
When talking rates, make sure you know everything that’s included. To get clarity, feel free to use these questions below:
What’s the relative word count you’ll provide for each page?
How many calls are included in this price?
Will you provide any content for the backend (e.g., meta descriptions, page title tags, or alt text)?
How many rounds of revisions are included?
Is editing the copy included in this price?
How will you send the deliverables?
When it comes to outsourcing content, you might wonder whether to pay hourly or per project.
I’d recommend paying per project.
The reality is, not everyone is honest. And this arrangement can protect your organization with a fixed cost (provided you’re satisfied the price is fair). However, realize that a pay-per-project agreement doesn’t mean you can request two extra pages...when you agreed to a 13-page site.
Tip: To avoid miscommunication, request that your writer provide a sufficiently detailed scope of work.
Finally, once you agree to a price, ensure there’s a signed contract in place.
Be sure to read your agreement carefully. This can help you avoid surprises regarding your payment schedule or service fulfillment.
If your writer drafted the contract, don’t be afraid to ask questions. At the same time, expect the contract to protect your writer from things like receiving inaccurate information or not being paid.
5. Pay Your Writer as Agreed, and Send Over Materials
Once you’ve signed a contract, provide any agreed upon payments. If the project is small, your writer might request full payment to avoid having two separate transactions. (However, make sure you trust the writer before agreeing to this.)
If the project is large, your payment schedule might look like 50% up front with 50% due upon a later date.
Either way, know when your payments are due—and fulfill any obligations before launching the project.
If you’ve agreed to send over important materials, do this before advancing to the next step. Having preliminary information enables a writer to ask more informed questions (which can also improve your project's efficiency).
Try to send over…
Your current URL if your website is up and running.
Any brand guidelines you’re currently using.
Information on your target audience.
Internal company documents.
Step 3: Begin Outsourcing Content for Your Website
You’ve found a quality writer. You’ve signed a contract. You’ve sent over your payment and company materials.
Now it’s time to (officially) begin outsourcing content writing for your web project. Here’s how to kick off the process…
1. Have a Formal Discovery Call
If the purpose of your pre-discovery call was getting acquainted with your writer, then the purpose of your formal discovery call is allowing the writer to learn about your project.
It's possible that your writer thoroughly understands your industry—and wants to focus on specific questions about your website.
However, your writer may need to start from scratch. Here are some topic areas he or she might cover during the call:
Who is your target audience?
What is the primary pain point of your audience?
What services or products do you provide?
Who are your competitors?
What is your company mission?
What is the primary call to action?
Don’t be surprised if your content writer asks (what seems to be) an elementary question. Remember that your content writer might work with a variety of industries. And his or her expertise is clear communication—not staying up-to-date with the latest cloud-computing software or investment trends.
If your website project is a huge one, you may need a second discovery call.
Tip: Maintain a balance of providing information while letting your writer ask questions. Talking about your business is exciting, but remember that your writer has a limited amount of time for the call.
2. Set Your First Deadline, and Start Small
Every website project is different. But—if you can—discuss a deadline for the first content deliverable. And hold off on setting deadlines for the other web pages.
At my previous job, one industry partner taught me a valuable lesson on project management. Working with them, I learned the following process:
Write a portion of content.
Ensure this content is on point.
Then draft the other deliverables.
It’s a strategic idea, and using it can help you onboard a writer and polish your marketing tone before proceeding.
Once you’ve reviewed this initial piece of web copy, communicate your feedback.
And don’t assume that your copywriter knows when you’ve completed review. Even if you leverage cloud-based documents, it doesn't hurt to send a quick email that the documents are ready for your writer.
If you have significant changes, your writer should...
Take a look at your feedback.
Revise the content accordingly.
Send the content back for your second review.
Tip: If you're having difficulty getting on the same page with your writer, don't hesitate to set up a call. Sometimes this is better than long email threads or multiple document comments.
Once you nail this initial content, you can set deadlines for the other web pages and repeat the same process.
3. Review Your Content Consistently
As outsourcing your content progresses, it’s essential that you keep up with content review.
After all, the delivered copy is yours. At the end of the day, it's your responsibility to ensure the content meets your expectations.
To put it bluntly...
Procrastination is the enemy of outsourced content creation.
And here are two big reasons why:
If something needs correcting, it’s better to catch it early on. Even when your writer thoroughly understands your organization, you’ll want tweaks here or there. If there’s a mistake, that error may be repeated multiple times in other webpages. And that can mean extra revisions...that were totally preventable.
You’re more likely to hastily approve content. When you have a pile of unreviewed copy in your inbox, there’s the temptation to hastily approve everything. However, quick decisions can ultimately undermine your website. The goal is quality content...not simply getting your project out the door.
4. Ensure There’s an Editing Process
Last, but certainly not least, be sure to follow an editing process—whether this is provided by your team or your writer.
Even if your copywriter can spot a dangling participle from a mile away…
While it may be appealing to immediately publish your content, don't jeopardize your site's quality with misspellings and grammatical errors. (This is especially important if you're targeting clients who are skilled in written communication.)
Moving Forward with Outsourcing Content for Your Website
When you’re outsourcing content for a website, you might feel a bit overwhelmed with...
Getting clarity on your goals.
Finding potential writers.
Establishing a process.
If you need direction for your website project, don't hesitate to reach out.
Together, we can discuss your needs—and what outsourcing content for your website would look like if we worked together.