If you’re reading this, I’m guessing you’ve realised you need content and/or copy for your business or brand. What you’re not sure about, is whether you should write it yourself and if not, whether you should hire a writer on a freelance or permanent basis. By the time you’ve finished this blog post, you’ll know the answer to the question ‘do you need a freelance writer?’ – or you’ll have the tools you need to answer the question.
Should you write your content yourself?
Ok, let’s start at the beginning. You know you need content but you’re not sure whether you should write it yourself.
Before we can answer that question, you first need to determine what kind of content you need. Do you need copy or more general written content? Or to put it another way, do you need text that directly encourages your readers to take an action or words that are primarily there to educate/inform/entertain/etc.?
If you need copy…
You should hire a copywriter. It takes a lot of skill to write copy that successfully drives readers to make a purchase, sign up to your mailing list, sign up for a free trial or pick up the phone. If you don’t have specific copywriting training and/or extensive experience writing copy that converts you’re going to get much better results by hiring a copywriter.
If money’s a bit tight you could consider writing copy yourself (or getting someone in your team to do it for you) with a view to getting fresh, professionally written copy as soon as you can afford it. Draw up a plan and timeline for how and when you’re going to fund the copy so you have the best chance of making it happen. You can’t afford to let this hide at the bottom of your to-do list.
If you need general content…
You should carefully assess the:
- writing skills and experience of your teamIf someone in your team, whether that’s you or an employee, has a reasonable amount of innate writing skill, you might like to try writing content in-house. If you’re in the market for blog content, check out this article on how to write a great blog post for some pointers on the best approach. If you’re going to go down this route, your business will really benefit from your investment in quality professional development for whoever becomes your content writer.
- time you have available to produce contentIf everyone in your team is at or near capacity in terms of their workload don’t bother trying to produce your content in-house with your existing staff. It takes a lot of time to write great content and if your writer is rushed you won’t get a good return on investment and the rest of your employee’s work may suffer as well. If there’s some extra capacity in your team, however, you might consider producing some or all of your content in-house. Or you might draft content in-house and pay for external editing and proof-reading.
- funding you have available to invest in contentIf money isn’t an issue, invest in the best content writer you can find. The more limited your funds are, however, the more judicious you’ll have to be when deciding how to spend them. Instead of trying to find the cheapest writer (which will likely end up yielding a poor return on investment), consider starting out small by purchasing a limited number of content pieces. After all, it’s better to post one high-quality blog post per month than to produce one mediocre or poor-quality post per week. Alternatively, if you have a reasonable level of in-house skill and interest, consider paying for an expert to develop a content strategy for your business and having your in-house team produce content according to that strategy. Having a really good strategy may give you a better return on investment than less frequent content.
- nature of the content you want to produceNot all content is created equal and the type of content you want to produce can have a massive impact on the success of different production methods. It may make the most sense for post-purchase content to be produced by an existing staff member who has an in-depth knowledge of your products and services, particularly if they’re very technical. On the other hand, more general informational content, even if it’s complicated or technical in nature, could easily be outsourced to a professional writer provided that writer specialises in producing well-researched content and has a propensity for understanding and soaking up complicated or complex information. If your budget is quite tight, you might even consider splitting up the tasks. For instance, you might choose to produce most of your blog post content in-house but pay for a professional to write a compelling headline and high-quality SEO particulars (e.g. SEO title, URL, meta description). This would maximise the click-through rate to your blog posts while still giving you a budget option.
Note: I cannot think of an instance when a piece of written work wouldn’t benefit from at least one image or video. Whether or not you need to hire a writer doesn’t impact whether you need a graphic designer etc. The logic herein refers to freelance writers but it can also be used to determine whether you need a freelance content producer of another kind (e.g. graphic designer, video editor etc.
When in doubt…
If you have any doubt about whether to hire a writer or make do with existing in-house expertise, chances are you’ll get a better result and a better return on investment if you hire a writer. It also pays to take the time to chose a writer that’s a good fit for your business. The more a writer produces content for the same client, the better they get at writing in the particular tone, style and format required by that business. This means the content a writer produces tends to improve over time. If you continually chop and change between a range of writers, you’ll essentially be going back to square each time.
Should you hire a permanent/contract writer or do you need a freelance writer?
If you’ve decided you do need a writer, the next decision becomes whether or not you need a permanent or freelance writer. Thankfully this decision is a lot easier than the first one. This decision is all about the volume to work you have planned.
If you need a lot of content or copy, consider whether you have enough to keep a writer busy all year. If you have so much content you want written that you’ll easily occupy a full-time writer all year, then it makes sense to hire a permanent employee. If you have enough to satisfy a writer working 20 hours a week for a whole year, again you could easily hire a permanent (but part-time) employee.
If you anticipate a lot of fluctuation in the amount of content you’ll need written, you’re probably better off choosing the flexibility of a freelance writer – or a small group of freelance writers. That way you don’t need to worry about how to occupy a permanent employee when you have lighter requirements. Similarly, if you only need one short email each month and an occasional product description when you launch a new product, you’re probably better off going with a freelance professional who can agree to complete projects on an ad-hoc basis.
Once you’ve decided on your path it’ll be time to seek out the resources you need to succeed.
If you decide to stick with existing in-house expertise, check out these DIY articles:
- how to write a great blog post
- how to optimise your digital content for search engines (coming soon)
- how to write emails that are opened and read (coming soon)
- how to write product descriptions that sell (coming soon)
If you choose to purchase content, have a read of this article on how to choose the right writer for your business (coming soon).