It’s something that everyone needs to consider at some point as they become more successful.
Do you continue to do certain work yourself?
Do you hire someone to help you out?
Or do you outsource it?
There are many areas like this in any business, but one in particular is content marketing.
Creating and promoting content, especially for a new site, is essentially a full-time job.
If you have a small team, you can’t always dedicate a full-time person to content marketing efforts.
What ends up happening is that it is ignored or it’s done on a limited basis.
Without consistency, you’re much less likely to see the full results of great content.
Regardless of your specific situation, there will come a time when you will lack the time or manpower to execute content marketing properly.
So, what do you do then?
In most cases, you will have to decide whether you want to outsource your content marketing.
This is not an easy decision.
To help you make it—and make the correct one—I’ve compiled a list of 11 questions you should consider and answer.
Some of these questions are meant for potential hires, and some are meant for yourself.
I highly recommend opening up a blank spreadsheet and at least jotting down your answers to each question.
1. Does anyone on your team have the skills you need?
Content marketing can be incredibly effective.
I’ve driven millions of visits and tens of thousands of customers using it for my various websites/businesses.
That being said,
it’s not easy.
In order to be successful in content marketing, you need to have a wide variety of skills. And you can’t just be average either; otherwise, you’ll get lost in the crowd.
If you really want to break it down, you could highlight 12+ skills that a great content marketing team needs:
Obviously, one person can have more than one skill from this list.
The best content marketers have all, or nearly all, of these skills.
I think that you can simplify it even further. Content marketers need to be highly skilled in three areas:
- Domain expertise – are you an expert in the subject you’re writing about?
- Networking skills – do you know how to promote effectively?
It’s not very difficult to find someone with one of these areas covered.
But it’s pretty hard to find someone with two of these, and it’s even more difficult to find someone with all three. That makes a “unicorn” in the diagram above a top content marketer.
They do exist, but you need to find them.
The fact of the matter is that you’re unlikely to have one of them on your team already.
In a recent survey, 42% of companies said that they currently did not have the expertise to use content marketing effectively.
They’re not even just talking about one person having the necessary skills. These companies couldn’t find all the skills within their whole teams.
That’s how difficult it is to assemble a great content marketing team.
So, this is your first question:
Do you—or anyone on your team—have the skills and experience with content marketing to be successful?
If the answer is no, then you have no choice. You’ll either have to bring in someone new or outsource your content marketing.
If your answer is yes, you do have a choice.
Then, you’ll have to determine if it’s worth having them spend their time on content marketing while taking away from other areas of your business.
Many of the remaining questions will help you determine this.
2. What kind of budget do you have for content marketing?
Like with any other kind of marketing, the more you have to spend on content marketing, the better your results will typically be.
Since your content needs to be head and shoulders above your competition to be effective (here are some examples of epic content), it makes sense to spend as much as you can.
In a 2015 survey, it was found that on average, B2C marketers spent 25% of their total budget on content marketing.
I’d say that if you have no experience with content marketing, that’s a good ballpark target.
If you have a lot of success, you can scale up your budget in the future.
I expect those percentages to continue to rise in the coming years. Another recent survey found that most businesses (60%) are increasing their content marketing spending.
Very few are decreasing their investment, which suggests that even mediocre content marketing efforts are getting some results.
Your budget will determine your options: If you have a very limited budget for content marketing, say $1,000 or less per month (and I’m including the creator’s time in that figure), you won’t be able to hire a good agency.
Typically, you’ll need to be spending at least a few thousand before an agency will take you on as a client.
However, for that amount, you could hire a freelancer. Assuming they produce really good pieces of content, you’ll be able to publish 1-2 pieces per month.
That’s not a lot, but it can get you started. Also keep in mind that if you want extensive content promotion, it’ll cost even more.
If you have a larger budget to work with, you have all options available to you, and this won’t be a limiting factor.
If that’s the case, base your decision on your answers to the other questions.
3. Would you rather work with freelancers or agencies?
If you do decide to outsource your content marketing, this is a huge decision that you’ll have to make.
You can work with freelancers, or you can hire an agency.
They can both be good options, but each has their own strengths and weaknesses.
If you’re not familiar with the terms, a freelancer is someone who is self-employed and generally works for multiple clients at the same time.
An agency, on the other hand, is more “professional.” They’ll have a full staff of at least three employees and typically have a wide variety of clients.
Price comparison: Here’s where your budget limitations might come in.
When you’re hiring freelancers, cost is all over the board. In general, you will pay less to a freelancer for the same work than you would pay an agency because the freelancer has less overhead.
However, there is a huge range in what freelancers charge.
Most of it depends on what you’re looking for.
Currently, you’ll have a tough time finding a great freelance content marketer unless you’re willing to pay more than $100 an hour (that’s the low end).
The best freelance content marketers can charge upwards of $300 an hour because there is no one else who can do what they can.
These guys know your subject in and out, are great writers, and also have contacts in the industry to help promote the content.
They’re expensive, but they get results.
However, if you can’t afford that, don’t worry. You can go down a tier or two and find freelancers who charge what works out to be $50-100 an hour.
Although they may call themselves content marketers, most are just good writers and know your subject well.
They can still produce valuable work, but expect to hire another freelancer for promotion or to do it yourself.
What about agencies? Any good agency will charge at least a few hundred dollars per hour. They can do this because they offer a lot.
They typically have an expert in every area of content creation and promotion. They’ll have an expert designer, writer, editor, and promoter. Together, the team does everything a top individual content marketer could do (and sometimes more).
In summary: You can usually save a bit by hiring freelancers, but you’ll have to do more work managing them. You can hire both cheap freelancers and agencies, but you’ll get what you pay for.
Quality comparison: There’s a lower bar to entry to become a freelancer than to start an agency.
That means that there is high variance in the quality of freelancers. There are a lot of terrible ones out there, but there are also some top notch ones.
With agencies, you also have variability, but you are less likely to come across a bad one. Most agencies are started by competent freelancers who want to grow their business, so the quality is higher on average.
What does this all mean? It means that you can get a quality result either way. But if it’s crucial that the quality is decent from the start, an agency is a safer bet.
Either way, reviewing their past work is the easiest way to see if they can deliver what you’re looking for.
Dependability: When it comes to dependability, agencies are also a safer bet in general.
Some freelancers are great. They are highly professional, will always put you first, and deliver what they promise every time.
However, others are terrible. They might drop off the map, and you’ll have no way of communicating with them.
Additionally, unless you’re one of their main clients, you risk being dropped without notice or deprioritized when something else comes up.
If you go the freelance route, you need to interview your candidates and try to get a feel for their work ethic and priorities. It’s not easy, but you’ll get better over time.
An agency has at least three people you can contact. It’s rare for them to go completely out of touch. Plus, you will be able to reach them pretty much at any time during normal business hours.
As far as always delivering their work on time, they all will have the same issues. Agencies usually have several or hundreds of clients. Unless you’re a big spender, they’re not going to lose sleep over whether or not you’re happy with them and whether or not you’ll leave.
If you have a smaller budget, it’s often better to hire a freelancer. Even if you can only spend $1,000 a month, that’s a large chunk for a freelancer, but almost nothing to an agency.
The more important you are to someone, the more dependable they will be.
4. How much of your content will contain private/personal data?
There are many different content marketing strategies that can be successful.
Some will get you to the results you’re looking for faster than others.
One aspect of content marketing in particular—transparency—is one of the most effective things you can add to your efforts.
Readers enjoy getting a behind the scenes look and getting more detail in general.
If you’re willing to share company data (that you’re allowed to share), you can increase the chances and speed of success with content marketing. It allows you to provide unique value. No one else has your personal data.
For example, you might talk about your customers.
Dating site Plenty of Fish creates some great blog posts, in which they analyze what kind of profiles get the most and least success on their platform:
It could also be about the results of your work.
For example, I often share traffic and profit details with you in Quick Sprout posts.
Readers find this valuable, and it increases your credibility in their eyes.
To answer the question of this section—how much of your content will contain private/personal data?—you’ll need to decide whether you have any interesting data to share and whether you’re willing to share it in your content.
The reason why this is so important to decide right now is because it will affect your final decision.
To create these kinds of posts, you need to analyze whatever data you have.
I can’t speak for everyone, but I know that I don’t want a random freelancer or agency digging around my personal data.
I also know that there are some things that I’d rather keep private.
If you decide to reveal personal data, you’ll have to do it yourself. Or you’ll probably want to get someone from your team to do the analysis.
So, while you can hand off the results of your analysis, that still leaves you (or someone you work with) with a lot of ongoing work.
If you’re in a niche where your transparency is really important, this kind of work may be required for almost every piece of content. In this case, you’ll probably want to keep your content marketing in-house.
5. Do they have an area of expertise? Is it relevant?
If you choose to outsource your content marketing, it’s crucial that you hire someone (or some agency) that will get you results.
Just for a second, let’s think about the type of marketers you might need in this situation.
Most of the marketers will have two skills—writing and networking—out of the three main skills we talked about earlier (writing, networking, and domain expertise). Those are, after all, fundamentals of modern marketing.
But the third one isn’t so easy.
To truly gain domain expertise, you need to be studying one specific topic for years. If you market to a particularly sophisticated audience, you’ll need to be even more advanced.
The biggest challenge you’ll face is finding someone who is an expert in your niche.
It’s very rare for someone to both be an expert in a niche and also have the necessary marketing skills.
Wade through the “generalists”: If you decide to hire freelancers, you’ll find a lot of content marketers who say that they can market any business.
The fact that they think so shows that they are not top-level content marketers.
All the best freelancers will have one or two areas of expertise.
When it comes to agencies, it’s a bit different.
A large agency may have content creators who are experts in several niches. However, small- to mid-size agencies who are generalists face the same problems.
Their content will not be worth what you pay.
Instead, you should look for specialists in your niche.
For example, “Gourmet Marketing” is a small agency focused on content marketing for restaurants:
That alone doesn’t mean that they’re a good agency, but at least it tells you that they understand your industry and recognize that domain expertise is important.
6. What will their content marketing process look like?
Stick around in the marketing world long enough, and you’ll start seeing buzzwords everywhere.
They’re not exactly bad. They just don’t mean a whole lot.
Some people will use these words to sound smart in order to convince you to hire them.
The easy way to screen them out is to simply get more details.
When someone mentions “content marketing,” it can mean anything. Everyone has their own picture of what it is.
One of the biggest goals of any interview you conduct should be to figure out what your candidate’s definition of content marketing is.
More specifically, how do they plan to help you?
You should be looking for specific answers that address:
- how they will determine how much content is needed
- how they will determine which type of content is needed
- who will be creating the content
- how they will encourage engagement and ensure growth over time
The two biggest challenges in content marketing are creating enough content and creating engaging content.
You need to get as much detail as necessary so that you are confident that they have the systems (manpower plus processes) in place to create content regularly with no delays, and make it engaging.
If they try to dance around the subject, move on to the next candidate.
While you shouldn’t expect specifics, all freelancers or agencies should be able to outline the main stages of their work for you.
They won’t have all the small details worked out, of course.
But if someone is a good marketer, they’ll have already done some preparatory work before talking to you and should have an idea of how to approach content marketing for your business.
7. How will they measure success?
Just like everyone has a different definition of content marketing, everyone also has a different definition of success.
In order to have a good working relationship, you need to establish reasonable guidelines for success beforehand.
If your expectations don’t match up, at least one of you will be frustrated.
It’s entirely possible for a freelancer to be thrilled that they produced X pieces of content or attracted Y links to your blog posts—and for you to be underwhelmed by those results.
Or you may not care about the same things that the freelancer or agency cares about.
If you’re most interested in email subscribers, raw traffic numbers don’t always matter much.
Before you agree to work together, determine which metrics you care about.
Make sure to go through why you care about each and what level for each metric you would consider “good.”
When you discuss your expectations, you will see whether you have any differences with the other party.
If they think your expectations are unreasonable, they can tell you why, and you can discuss the subject until you agree on reasonable expectations around their work.
If you can’t come to an agreement now, consider yourself lucky that you found out early that you aren’t compatible. It will save you a lot of stress and frustration in the future.
8. Do they give any guarantees?
Does this question look familiar?
It’s also a question that you should answer before hiring an SEO firm.
However, while an SEO firm can’t make guarantees about #1 rankings (honestly at least) because that’s out of their control, content marketing agencies and freelancers can make them.
Most freelancers and agencies know that it’s hard for you to commit a decent amount of money every month when the results could take over six months to see.
Most good content marketers (especially agencies) will offer some sort of guarantee of a result after 6-12 months.
They probably won’t promise X,000 leads per month, but they can promise that you’ll like the work that they’ve done (the content), the way they’ve done it, and the results so far (according to the metrics you’ve agreed on).
By that time, you’ll know if you are getting the promised results and will either be happy with the direction they’re going or know that you want to get rid of your content marketer.
9. How does content marketing fit into your other marketing efforts?
I mentioned that one of the reasons you might want to outsource content marketing is because you have other things to do.
What kind of things might those be?
It could be many things, including the many parts of your sales funnel.
Your most important job is to make sure that everything fits together smoothly.
There’s no point spending all your time and attention on content marketing if your products still need work.
Before you even think about hiring anyone to help you, get a good picture of how content marketing fits into your business.
Content can be useful to attract readers, but you’ll also need to convert that traffic into leads.
You can then use content to nurture those leads into customers and use even more content to help keep them satisfied so that they’ll continue purchasing from you in the future.
When you hire a freelancer or agency, most of them will focus on the top of the funnel content. They’ll produce blog content to attract traffic and leads.
That may be fine for you.
However, if you want them to produce content to support other parts of your business, that’s something you’ll have to budget for and bring up.
A freelancer may not be able to handle that extra work, but agencies usually can.
And while most content marketers will perform some basic SEO to target keywords, you need to make sure that you also start generating organic search traffic with your content.
Furthermore, you need them to understand what products you sell, which products you’re creating, and relationships you have with other companies in your nice.
They need to know this because it will affect whom they mention in content and which topics are most important to your target audience.
The takeaway: Content marketing is only one piece of your business. If you outsource it, make sure that the work you have done fits with the rest of your business.
10. Do you need a content marketer or an editor?
There’s one unique case that we need to look at with this question.
What if you have a big budget but also want to work with freelancers (as opposed to an agency)?
This might allow you to create a large volume of top notch content on a regular basis.
The biggest problem you’ll have is managing all the freelancers.
When you have a team of 5+ freelancers writing and promoting your content, things can get disorganized fast.
You’ll find that you’ll have to step in and spend a lot of time finding good freelancers, assigning topics, reviewing their work, and coordinating their promotion.
Although that’s an okay solution, there is another option.
Hire a great content marketer as your editor instead. Although this will cost more because you’ll pay a fixed fee, it’ll also free up a ton of time, and assuming you value your time highly, it’ll actually save you money.
Here’s how it’ll work.
On the Crazy Egg blog, we have several writers who contribute on a regular basis.
But I don’t spend all my time coordinating them because we have a blog editor for that.
The editor finds new writers as needed, makes sure that important topics are written about (with the right keywords), edits posts to improve their quality, and promotes them as well.
You’ll need to hire a great freelancer for this unique type of role, which will be expensive, but you’ll save money because now you’ll be getting most of the content created by writers (not full-fledged content marketers).
This process has allowed us to post daily articles on the blog for years, and the results have been great.
11. How will they keep you informed of their progress?
This final question will also save you a lot of stress and frustration.
All agencies and freelancers communicate differently.
Some won’t communicate as often as you’d like, while others will keep you too updated.
Everyone’s different, but I think a monthly report is a good frequency for checking in, in addition to communicating about any big issues that may come up.
Most agencies will send a template-based report of all the most important metrics, which is good because you’ll get used to finding important information within those reports quickly.
Most freelancers don’t have any reporting software, so it’s critical to outline to them beforehand what information is important to you and how often you want it.
This may not seem like an important issue, but it’ll save you from wondering about the status of any work in progress or worrying whether any work is being done at all.
Content marketing is an effective method of marketing for almost any online business.
Its importance continues to grow every year, so even if you haven’t started, you should still get going.
If you have started but are finding that you don’t have enough time to give content marketing the attention and effort needed to get the results you want, something needs to change.
The most common option is to outsource your content marketing (or parts of it).
This is a big decision that will have a significant impact on your overall marketing results, so you need to make it carefully.
The 11 questions that I’ve gone into great detail about in this post will ensure that you know whether you should outsource your marketing and how to find the right person or agency to hire.