Right after the call for more content comes a call for a content creator. Many marketing directors, after they realize they themselves (and their internal teams) don’t have the bandwidth or the expertise to write all those white papers, case studies, blog posts, feature articles, and other content, turn to freelancers to round out their teams.
However, working with a freelancer can be a tricky proposition, even someone as laid-back as me. It’s all too easy to fall into the seven deadly sins of content creation, thereby ensuring that everyone is unhappy and no one is satisfied. So what are the deadly sins, and how do you avoid them?
- Pride is excessive belief in one’s own abilities. It goes both ways, but remember that you’re hiring a freelancer for her expertise in writing. She may have suggestions, and she may have sound advice. It’s worth listening and explaining why you’re choosing to go in a certain direction, rather than digging in your heels and saying, “This is how we’ve always done it.” A good freelancer will listen, too, and explain why she’s suggesting what she’s suggesting (like not using hashtags in your white paper, for example). Both of you will ideally check your pride at the door and work toward the common goal: content that meets your business goals.
- Envy is when you want what your competition has. Well, yes, you do want their market share; otherwise, you wouldn’t bother with this whole content marketing strategy and content blitz. But the deadly sin comes in when you try to copy exactly what your competition is doing. Your content marketing is supposed to differentiate you, and it won’t do that if it’s just like your competition’s.[tweetthis twitter_handles=”@cparizo”]Content marketing is meant to differentiate you, and it won’t if it’s just like your competition’s.[/tweetthis]
- Gluttony occurs when you want more content than even an army of freelancers can handle. You want a full-on content binge. Ask yourself if this is going to backfire: will you annoy your customers and prospects by pushing out all this content? If you’re a startup, it’s understandable that you want to create a lot of content. But focus on what you can handle now: a strategy around a particular product, with a set number of assets.
- Lust happens when you get really excited about one particular piece of content. It becomes your focus, your obsession. You tweak it and red ink it, and it intrudes upon your sleep. You’re so obsessed with perfection on it that it never gets out the door. It’s a captive to your whims. Let it go.
- Anger manifests when someone higher up the food chain starts pushing for content, and you’re not able to get it. This happens a lot with case studies, in my experience: the customer lags with approval, or the customer is hard to get on the phone for a call. Eventually, you end up throwing someone under the bus, usually the freelance writer. (And we don’t really like that. It’s painful.)
- Greed happens when you’re trying to squeeze more out of the writer than is in the contract. Your freelancer should specify what’s included in terms of revisions, subject matter expert calls, and the like. Sometimes companies want more than is in the contract and don’t want to pay for it. Don’t be that company. You’re going to need more content down the road, and freelancers have very long memories. We want to give you everything that is in the contract, but we also have a finite amount of time.
- Sloth is the deadliest of all the content creation sins. It shows up in so many ways: sitting on a deliverable and not taking action, not submitting invoices to A/P, or approving something that hasn’t been reviewed. Then, you end up with a freelancer asking for status updates, or an angry higher-up wondering where the content is, or having to go back to your freelancer with even more edits because the first draft wasn’t properly vetted. Even when you have a lot on your plate, taking action on content creation needs to stay at the top of the priority list, or you risk not meeting your goals.
The good news is, it’s easy to overcome these seven deadly sins. Know your strengths and weaknesses; know your writer’s strengths and weaknesses. Go into content creation knowing that it’s not a perfect process. However, if you know what you want out of it and have a solid content marketing strategy in place before you contract with a freelancer, your chances of success are much higher.