8 things to consider before hiring a content writing firm

Posted by John Stevens on 7 Feb, 2017
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In the fast-paced world of content marketing, you need online content on a regular basis.

Thirty-nine percent of B2B content marketers expect their content marketing expenditure to increase throughout 2017.

For many businesses, that money will go into hiring content writing and development firms along with freelance writers and other content developers outside the company.

But, of course, you want to make sure your money isn’t going to waste and is actually being used to fund high-quality and effective content that generated leads and boosts profits. If you’re about to outsource your content creation, consider these eight points before you sign on the dotted line and hire a content writing firm.

1. Do they have experience in your industry?

One of the most important things to consider when it comes to outsourcing content creation is what kind of experience the company or writer has in your industry. It pays to work with a writer who understands your readers and the sector you operate in. If they don’t, content ideas are more likely to be surface-level. It will also be difficult for the writer to produce in-depth content that will be useful for your readers.

You’ll find that many bigger content production firms are wildly versatile. Don’t be afraid to talk to them to request one of their writers with specific industry experience.

2. Do they specialize in the type of content you need?

It’s easy to assume that any writer can perform any writing job. That’s simply not true. A firm that specializes in technical writing may not have writers on their team who can produce quality blog posts. The same goes for press release, speech, grant, whitepaper and product description writers. Each form of writing is completely different and it’s difficult for writers to cross over when they don’t have experience in multiple formats.

You’ll also find that each company’s offerings differ, even when they specialize in the same type of content. For example, some companies will have their writers conduct interviews for blog posts while others won’t. Some only offer specific packages while others will adjust to suit your needs.

Look for content writing firms that use writers who understand the format you need. If you’re looking for blog articles, don’t hire a company that specializes only in press releases.

That said, many companies employ a multitude of writers experienced in different formats and industries. This works to your benefit if you want to expand your content offerings. For example, you might decide to release a whitepaper after having worked with a company on a piece of blog content, so choosing a firm with a wide skillset will make life easier long term. Finding the right content writing firm for your businesses means looking for one that can help you with the styles of writing you need both now and in the future. Having a content strategy in place will help make this process easier, as you’ll go into the search for a content supplier with at least a rough idea of what you’ll need through the course of the next six months to a year.

3. Can they fill the gaps in your content strategy?

When hiring a content writing firm, don’t just focus on the writing aspect. Content marketing doesn’t work on the “publish and pray” approach. You also need a social foundation and you should be employing other SEO tactics. Your content should align with your advertising and you should be engaging on your own blog and social media by having someone monitor and respond to comments. You should also be measuring metrics like comments, followers, backlinks and more.

If you already have areas like SEO, social and research covered, then you might only need content ideation and creation added to the mix. However, if you have other gaps in your content marketing strategy, be sure the firm you choose can fill those gaps or that you can hire another company to do so. For example, if you need to outsource your newsletter content, you might look for a content writing firm that can write the content, design your email, and send it to your subscribers.

Many content writing firms aren’t just about the content. They’ll help with your entire strategy. Don’t choose a company just because it has the best reputation or price. Choose a company that suits your unique needs.

4. How has their content performed in the past?

Looking at samples of what the writing firm you’re shortlisting has produced already gives you an idea of how successful your own content could be. Look at metrics like social shares, comments and where the content ranks on search engines. If engagement is high, it shows the firm knows how to appeal to the audience they’re writing for. If the content ranks high on search engines, it indicates they’re effective at optimizing their content for search engines.

That said, it’s important to note that the results of a firm’s content should not fall solely on them. A client might hire them to simply write the content but then not share it on their own social media channels or in their newsletters, or the client may not do their part in their SEO strategy. Keep in mind poor engagement may be the client’s fault instead of the content creator’s, but be sure to ask the question anyway. Also look at the content itself. Is it fit for purpose and tailored to the audience? Is it well-written and adapted to the client’s own tone of voice?

5. Do they offer a trial period?

Nothing’s worse than entering a contract only to find you hate the work or that it doesn’t align with your brand’s image. A quality content writing firm will allow you a trial period before asking you to sign a longer-term contract.

During this trial period, you’ll agree to a rate and a certain amount of content. Your company will be able to keep the content produced in that trial period since you paid for it. However, you won’t be locked in, so if you don’t like the content, you can cut your losses and re-start your search.

A trial period gives you a chance to get a real feel for what kind of content your chosen provider can produce for you. It also gives you a test run to assess how you like working with the people there. It’s a huge step up from reviewing content samples because it’s all customized to your needs. Samples give you a good idea of a firm’s writing style, grammar skills and the amount of research their writers perform. Custom trial periods show you if the writers can match your business’s tone and appeal to your specific audience.

Not all content writing firms’ trial periods will work under the same model. Some offer free trials where you pay only if you’re happy with the content. Others require payment upfront.

6. What’s their turnaround time like?

If you work to strict deadlines, you will want to make sure the writing company you hire can adhere to those deadlines as well. Most content writing firms are very accommodating and will assist you based on your needs. Others set their own deadlines and turnaround times, meaning you have to follow their content writing schedule. That may not be a problem for you if you’re willing to be patient or if their deadlines are quicker than you need. Either way, be sure their turnaround times can accommodate your needs too when required.

7. What’s their revision policy like?

At one time or another, you might have suggestions for changes to the content and ask for major or minor revisions. Some firms and freelance writers charge extra for revisions. Others see them as their own mistakes and revise them free-of-charge.

Each content writing firm also differs in the turnaround time for corrections. For example, one company might have a 48-hour turnaround policy for revisions. Another might take a week to get revisions back to you, which can slow down your publishing calendar.

Some writing firms might also have a policy where you can’t request revisions after a certain timeframe, such as three days after receiving the content. All of these policies are fair, but you’ll want to make sure you see eye-to-eye on this before signing a contract.

8. What do their past clients say?

Take a look at online reviews or ask to talk with someone who’s worked with them in the past. Their portfolio and samples can say so much about the firm’s writing skills, but they can’t tell you what it’s like to work with them.

It also helps to look through their client portfolio to see what brands the company has worked with. If they’ve worked with big brands you recognize, that’s a good sign they’re a quality firm. However, just because they’re right for one company doesn’t mean they’re right for you. Focus first on whether the company aligns with your other unique goals.

With the above points in mind, you shouldn’t have a problem finding a content writing firm that suits your needs. Do you plan to outsource content creation this year? Have you found a content writing firm you enjoy working with? Tell us about your experience in the comments.

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