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Using Freelancers for Content Marketing

Image Credit: Blogspot

In my last blog post, I described the important role that freelancers can play in executing a content marketing strategy and provided some tips for building a freelance team. Of course, assembling a team of great freelance talent is just the first step. You then need to figure out the best way to use that talent to get the results you need. While there’s no single right answer, following these rules of the road will help:

1) Put them to the test, onboard the best

Any time you’re working with new freelancers — no matter how impressive their credentials or how highly they’ve been recommended — always start off with a test assignment. The idea is to start them off with a small project that either isn’t a high priority or that you have the time to redo if necessary.

This approach may seem a little counter-intuitive at first — after all, if you’re paying for their time, you want to get something out of it. Even so, you’re much better off testing the waters, rather than finding out that the very important content you’ve entrusted a new freelancer to write needs to be completely redone at the last minute. Your strongest freelancers will quickly prove their worth, and from there it’s easy to start engaging them on meatier projects.


2) Go broad, then get organized


Always try to have a variety of freelancers in your network with different backgrounds, skills, and expertise. Doing so will make the team much more valuable and allow you to create a broader range of content.


Use a spreadsheet to help not only keep track of important logistical details, such as your freelancers’ rates and availability, but also to catalog the types of projects they are best used for and any specific strengths or weaknesses they may have. This is also the place to keep tabs on their performance. I assign a grade to every freelancer I work with, so I know who to send my most important projects to (the A-listers), who are best suited to handling the low-hanging fruit (the B-listers), and who I probably won’t use again (everyone else). Unlike in school, when it comes to creating great content, a C isn’t a passing grade.


3) Provide Structure and Guidance


Freelancers aren’t mind readers or magicians. If you want them to create good content, you have to position them to do so. Set clear expectations, ensure that they have access to the right tools and resources (such as your company’s editorial style guidelines), and make yourself available to talk through ideas and answer questions. While you don’t want to micro-manage, any time you engage a freelancer, be collaborative and invest the time necessary to ensure that you are both on the same page from the start.


4) Use Flat Fees if Possible


Negotiating flat fees for specific projects often makes the most sense. Doing so, rather than simply letting your freelancers bill you for however many hours they work, encourages them to manage their time more effectively and keeps everyone’s expectations in check. That said, there can always be unexpected hiccups that significantly increase the time it takes to complete a project, so offer to adjust fees accordingly. Trying to nickel and dime your freelancers, even when budgets are tight, is rarely a winning strategy.


5) You’re the Boss, Act Like It

It’s up to you to enforce deadlines and standards, provide honest and constructive feedback, and to take action when a freelancer isn’t performing. It’s important to build great relationships with your freelancers, and one of the best of ways to do so is by always providing leadership and direction.


Kevin Cain is responsible for setting and executing OpenView’s content marketing strategy.

  • Stephanie Tilton

    Kevin, as a freelancer, I greatly appreciate #3. Companies can’t throw everything over the wall and expect stellar results. In addition to your guidance, I suggest the following to get the most from this relationship:
    * Describe your company’s culture, positioning, challenges, and goals
    * Provide insight into your ideal buyers’ purchase path, and information and content preferences
    * Actively engage with the writer in information-gathering, content strategy, and review sessions

    • Kevin Cain

      Thanks for your feedback, Stephanie. Those are great additions and I couldn’t agree more.

  • Mimi

    Hi Kevin, how do you handle the part about the subject matter expertise. In our industry, we need people that understand language translation for example. Those are hard to find.

    • Kevin Cain


      Finding freelancers with a specific subject matter expertise is something that can take time. You may find that there are people who used to work in a given industry and are now working as freelancers who can fill that need. You may also want to talk to colleagues at competitor firms to see who they use.

      Thanks for your comment.

  • Bill Donovan

    Hi Kevin, I like your points on both blogs about freelancers. As an independent writer, I had a few thoughts. I think your advice about building relationships in your earlier blog is
    most valuable. As a journalist I always felt that the better the relationship I
    had with an editor the better able we were to really hone a story before we got
    started. The editor has confidence that the writer “gets it,” and the writer
    isn’t paranoid that he’ll appear to be dense when asking questions. What’s
    really essential to that teamwork is having an editor who cares as much about
    the project as the writer cares about it. A good editor may have
    multiple articles he’s managing, but he has to be able to focus on each one as
    if it’s his only one. It helps him understand the story/article better and
    elevates the importance of the project for the writer.