The individual or individuals you have found may seem like a good fit in personality and writing style, but you never know until you start working with them. There are some specific steps required in managing contract writers.
If your first choices don’t work out, don’t throw up your hands and quit trying. Outsourcing is a great option. But, you may have to try a number of writers to find the one or two who give you the quality and style you need and who are willing to work for what you can pay.
You may not have a big budget, which can slow you down in finding the right person; but don’t give up. It is possible to find good writers at lower price points, but you have to be willing to stay the course as you search for them. Then, it takes time and patience to teach them your processes and the intricacies of what you need.
Give Clear Instructions
Even if a writer is familiar with your work, s/he cannot read your mind about what you want. You need to give clear, concise instructions. After a few assignments the writer will have a better sense of what you are looking for. Giving instructions, setting expectations, and getting the desired outcome will get easier.
Below is a good sample:
Write a blog post (600-800) words about best practices for XYZ. Be sure to include the importance of _______, _________, ______, and _______ plus any other critical factors you find in your research. Be sure to give appropriate attribution to facts, quotations, and images.
Include at least one image from StockFresh.com. Scatter references to the ABC software throughout the post (http://www.ABC.com/products/XYZ) as it relates to the best practices. The tone should be educational, but conversational and pleasant; we want people to keep reading to the end.
When you give a writer clear, specific instructions, the probability of getting a quality piece is much higher than if you simply say: Write a short blog post on best practices of XYX.
Taking the time to describe what you want, directing the writer to external resources and setting the tone for the piece will prevent the need for multiple revisions and save you both time.
Set Firm Deadlines
You should have a clear schedule with writing deadlines laid out before you start looking for a candidate. Timing and deadlines should be discussed in the initial interview because if the writer is not available when you need him, that candidate should not be considered.
Always confirm that the person you hire is available in your time frame. You are counting on the writer to have the piece completed and ready to publish as scheduled. Late submissions are simply not an option.
Deadlines must be clearly outlined in the contract, with check-in points for evaluating progress and ensuring that everything is proceeding as agreed.
Setting clear expectations up front so the contractor fully understands what you want will ensure that s/he completes the project satisfactorily.
When there are misunderstandings, not only will the project will be delayed, but contractual issues may arise that creates grief on both sides.
It is going to take time and work to develop a smooth routine and relationship with outsourced writers.
Monitor and Review the Work
You will need to monitor their progress and review content to be sure pieces are written in a style, tone, and voice that matches your brand. You also need to verify that they are grammatically and topically correct.
Build Relationships by Giving Feedback
When a piece is a big hit, discuss the possible reasons for success so s/he can factor them in to future pieces. If a piece elicits negative comments, the writer should be made aware of those as well in order to avoid the same mistakes or problems.
Giving feedback as discussed above plus other more general feedback about process and timing will help you build strong relationships. You will keep good writers that give you the quality you want and work for the price you can pay.
Be sure to let them know you appreciate their hard work, the fact that they meet deadlines, and deliver quality content so they want to continue working with you long-term, and will also make the effort to improve so they can deliver exactly what you want.
Always keep in mind that your goals as a content marketer are to establish yourself as a thought leader, connect with your audience and continually add quality content to your website that will improve and maintain search engine status. Those goals do not change when you outsource your content writing.
Outsourcing the bulk of your content writing does not let you off the hook completely. Remember it is your voice and brand the reader is following, so you must stay active. You should write at least every third or fourth post.
Not only does it keep you in the game, it will provide a clear model for the contract writers to follow as they create additional pieces.
What are your secrets to managing contract writers? Share you thoughts, please.