You’ve realized the value of Teamlancing and you’re scaling content like crazy. That’s great and all, but I’m here to give you a reality check and also urge you to slow down for a sec.
As a former freelancer who’s been running a content marketing firm for the past five years, I’ve been on both sides of the content creation process. I’ve seen it all and I have learned A LOT about what it takes to set up writers for success so the first draft is a great draft (not an epic disaster).
I’ve learned a lot about how tricky and important this relationship is as well. In the words of Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock, circa 1988, “it takes two to make a thing go right.”
For content creation to go right… it’s not just on the writer, it’s on you too. Here are some bad habits to quit and some good habits to take up so you set up your content creator for success, make glorious content together, and live happily ever after.
5 things to stop doing with your content creator
Bad habits creep in… here are several you may not realize you’re doing in your existing content creation relationships.
1. Stop expecting your writer to be a mind reader.
When you’re working with a content creator outside your organization, they will not be as close to the subject matter as you are. Even a pro writer who specializes in the subject matter will benefit from supportive materials.
If you’re assigning new content and your instructions are one to two sentences with zero attachments, links, bullet points, etc… you’re expecting your writer to be a mind reader and it will be much harder for them to deliver the content you’re looking for.
See No. 1 in the “things to start doing” section later for more on the assignment details you should aim to include.
2. Stop not taking your writer’s experience into consideration.
Budgets are budgets. You may not have a super comfy content marketing budget when you’re hiring content creators. In this case, you’re likely paying less and working with less experienced writers.
Less experienced writers are also wonderful content creators to work with, as long as you provide ample guidance and support. Always invite them to ask questions and make sure they have everything they need to do great work. If you’re working with more experienced writers, you can lean on them more — but again, it never hurts to check in.
3. Stop asking for quick turnarounds all the time.
Sometimes things happen. Content gets stuck in the review or approval process and you have to swoop in with another piece at the last minute. These situations affect turnaround times, which directly impact your writer.
- Rushed turnaround time: 24 hours or less
- Quick turnaround time: 2-3 days
- Acceptable turnaround time: 1 week
- Preferable turnaround time: 2 weeks or more
Occasionally, it’s okay to ask for a quick turnaround as long as your writer is available and willing. Once in a blue moon, a rushed assignment arises — if you must rush content, I highly recommend paying extra to take care of your writer who is dropping everything for you.
Stick with acceptable (one week) and preferable (two+ weeks) turnaround times, otherwise content quality will suffer and so will your writer. And, sorry, but they may not choose to work with you after too many rush jobs. Get ahead of your content creation process, so your writer has the time to produce the best possible content.
4. Stop forgetting to be clear about personas.
You know who this piece of content is for, but are you remembering to clarify that persona each time you work with your content creator? When working with a new content creator, send them all of your buyer persona details so they understand the audience this content will be speaking to.
After you’ve sent over the persona details upfront, reiterate which specific persona their content is intended for any time you create content together. Without this clarification, the point of view could end up being skewed so the content doesn’t make sense. And, that’s a hefty rewrite.
5. Stop being insensitive to a creative human being.
Content creators are both human beings and artists. Creative people tend to be more sensitive — this sensitivity makes them great at what they do, but they also feel hurt if someone rips their work to shreds or if they feel like their work is undervalued.
Valuing their work means everything from paying their preferred rate to showing your appreciation (more on that later). It’s easy to get caught up in the content factory. Just make sure you’re not treating your writer like a content factory that only exists to churn out content for you all day.It takes two to make a thing go right... you and your writer. It’s time to acknowledge the good habits and the bad in your #contentcreation relationships. Click To Tweet
5 things to start doing with your content creator
Now that you know which bad habits to quit, here are the good habits to take up for better content creation relationships.
1. Start providing as many details as possible.
Even if your writer is experienced, it never hurts to give them plenty of supportive materials so they are totally set up for success. If your writer is less experienced, it’s even more important to ensure they have as many details as possible.
As you’re assigning a new piece of content to your writer, include most or all of the following:
- Content type (i.e. listicle, Q&A interview, thought leadership, curated)
- Related internal resources (similar blogs, videos, case studies to reference and respin)
- Inspirational external resources (i.e. competitors to one-up, top-ranking articles, answers to “people also ask” questions)
- Real-world quotes (i.e reviews, testimonials, thought leader contributions)
- Subject matter expertise (provide bullet points or an interview transcript from an SME)
- SEO strategy (i.e. primary and secondary keyword targets, “people also ask” questions for headers)
- Audience (specify which persona this piece is being made for)
- Other misc. instructions (i.e. 3 title options, meta description, list of sources, social copy, internal and external link guidelines)
- Invite questions (Always close with an invitation for them to ask for clarification, just in case)
Here’s a section from a recent ClearVoice assignment I sent to one of my longtime content creators…
2. Start giving brand and messaging guidelines.
Any new writers you work with should have clear brand guidelines and messaging foundations, like personas and brand statements. As you continue to work with writers, make sure they have the most up-to-date version of your guidelines.
Not only does this information give your writer more context, but it also ensures branding and messaging consistency so the voice and purpose are communicated well. Additionally, being aligned on simple grammatical preferences (i.e. em dash vs. en dash vs. hyphen) will make your life a hell of a lot easier when you’re editing content.
3. Start working with the same writer long-term.
This is the 52nd article I’ve written for ClearVoice since 2017. I’ve worked with several of my own content creators here on ClearVoice for years. On both sides, the creator (your writer) and the producer (you), working together long-term makes a huge difference with content efficiency and quality.
Although it might be tempting to bounce around to different writers, this is uncharted territory. Not all writers are created equal, as you’ve very likely experienced. If you’re working with an amazing writer, keep giving them work — keep building loyalty and mutual respect.
4. Start playing to your writer’s strengths.
There are all types of content creators out there… specialists and generalists, technical writers and journalists. Do you know which kind of writer you’re working with?
All this time you’ve been assigning them tons of blogs because you needed to hit your publishing cadence. Maybe they’re a fiction writer who’s passionate about customer stories and they don’t love blog content as much. Maybe they enjoy writing how-tos but they struggle with thought leadership. Ask your writer what kind of content they prefer.
5. Start showing your appreciation.
We appreciate what our writers do for us… our content engine wouldn’t run without them. But, how often do we show our appreciation? It doesn’t take much and it doesn’t have to happen all the time.
Say “hello” and “thank you.” Let them know they have permission to add any content they want to their portfolio. And, give praise.
We’re all in a hurry, I get it. Sometimes I’ll work with a writer on several assignments before taking a breather to thank them. Especially if you have a favorite content creator that is rocking every assignment… be nice to them or they will move on. Don’t forget that content creators are in high demand.
Two words to live by when you’re beginning any new piece with your content creator…
How to make content creation relationships thrive
We’re all moving fast in a fast-paced world. Along the way, we’ve turned brevity into a bad habit. Slow down — acknowledge the areas for improvement in your content creation relationships. Overshare and overcommunicate to make sure your writer has the support system they need to achieve success.