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Do you ever wish you had another set of hands to help you create content? More marketers are hoping to create not only more content, but more valuable content. Training and hiring freelancers can help you make that happen.
Today’s guest, Kaleigh Moore, is a successful freelance writer who works with marketers to make their clients more successful. She’s written for Entrepreneur, Inc.com, and other well-known publications. Today Kaleigh will talk to our listeners about why you might need a freelancer, some best practices in using a freelancer to help with content creation, and how to best grow your relationship with your freelancer.
Some of the highlights of the show include:
Nathan: Do you ever wish you had an extra set of hands to help you create content? I feel that way sometimes. More marketers are looking to create not just more content in 2017 but more valuable content. A really great way to make that happen is by hiring and training freelancers. They will help you effectively scale your content production.
I’m Nathan from CoSchedule and today, on the Actionable Marketing Podcast, you and I are chatting with Kaleigh Moore. Kaleigh is a freelancer. She’s also a coach and she’s a contributor to huge publications like Entrepreneur, Inc.com and a whole lot of others.
Hiring a freelancer like Kaleigh is like adding a new member to your team, but it comes complete with the benefits of nailing deadline from folks who never get distracted. As you’ll learn from Kaleigh, you’ll get the subject matter expertise and super smart content you need to attract a world class audience. Let’s learn more about what to look for in freelance marketers and how to make the relationship extremely successful.
Kaleigh, thanks a lot for being on the podcast today.
Kaleigh: Thank you for having me. I’m very excited about this.
Nathan: I am really excited about this. I think today’s conversation’s going to be interesting especially given some of the data that we’re going to talk about. I guess just to kick this off Kaleigh, I was wondering if you could tell me a bit about what you do, the sorts of companies or publications that you’ve had the chance to work with.
Kaleigh: Sure! For about three years now, I have been a full time freelance writer and I help mostly software companies and ecommerce companies or ecommerce brands create blog content for the most part. I do a little bit of email marketing, I do a little bit of website copy, but the blog content is my sweet spot and that’s what I spend most of my time doing. I’m creating educational content, customer acquisition type thing. Just really valuable pieces of material that they can share with e-newsletter lists and put on their blog and share and educate their audiences and that’s what I help them do.
Nathan: The last time we chatted, you mentioned coming across some interesting research from Andy Crestodina at Orbit Media Studios and specifically about marketers looking to work with freelancers for help with content creation. I was wondering if you could share some of the insights you’ve gleaned from that research or what makes those findings interesting for you?
Kaleigh: I love looking at this research because it is very interesting to figure out what everyone else is doing when it comes to content. From this new set of data that was just released, it looks like for the most part, companies, brands, even individuals are creating longer form content than they were in the past.
Not only are they creating posts that are longer and more depth but, hand in hand with that, those posts take longer to write and they’re producing better results because there’s more value, there’s more education, you can really take a deep dive into subjects with that longer form content.
What comes with this is a lot of teams are finding that it’s difficult to crank out this content and keep the quality level high with existing in-house teams. Everybody already has a million things to do so they’re turning to freelance help to pick up the slack or pick up the extra work in producing the content. In doing that, they’re freeing up their internal resources and they’re still able to work with subject matter experts and people who really know the topics that they’re trying to cover but they’re not having to tie people up writing thousands of words every single week because the data did show that most posts that were successful were more than a thousand words long. If you’ve got in-house team members that are writing thousands of thousands of words each week for this post, that’s a huge time suck.
Nathan: I kind of wanted to pick your brain a little bit deeper into that. In what certain situations might it be beneficial for a marketing team, whether they’re in a standard business or maybe they’re in an agency, to look for some outside help from a freelancer?
Kaleigh: I think it makes sense to work with a freelancer in a couple of different scenarios. Number one would be is if there is an existing marketing team but they’re maxed out and you don’t really have anyone in-house who can pick up writing thees long form pieces of content, it’s a time resource stretch, that’s when it makes a lot of sense. Also, if it’s an in-depth post and you need somebody with a lot of subject matter expertise who really knows a topic inside and out, knows the research, knows what new data is coming out, I think working with a freelancer who specializes in a very specific type of content writing can be extremely helpful because that person already has all that information and they can fairly efficiently, fairly quickly produce a high quality blog post or newsletter, whatever it might be, without tying up your in-house resources. Just from an HR standpoint, working with freelance help is great because you don’t have all the things that come with having an employee like paying for healthcare and having a salary for them. It’s kind of on an as needed basis so it’s very flexible.
Nathan: You mentioned there are ways marketing teams can help freelancers be really successful. I think that’s a big part of this here. We’re looking for outside help to help us create more content from the marketing team perspective. I was wondering if you could share your take on how marketing teams can help freelancers create really effective content.
Kaleigh: Yes. There are definitely things that both parties need from the relationship. I know this because I’ve been on both sides of the equation, both as a freelancer and as somebody who has hired freelance help myself. I have some key things to keep in mind for both sides of the equation.
Freelancers are looking for a few very specific types of things. Things like your marketing personas and what your style guide is or your company voice and tone, what does that sound like, who are your competitors that we shouldn’t be referencing when we’re writing this piece for you, what are the major do’s and don’ts.
Just an open line of communication is important, especially when you’re starting with somebody who’s brand new, a freelancer who’s new. It can be difficult to soak up all the company information that you need to in the early days, feeling things out, you’re trying to get in your strive with writing in a company voice and all that. Keeping that communication open, being positive with edits instead of being very negative and not all that constructive with comments. I think just have that open minded communication is huge and having those brand assets upfront makes the production process run so much more smoothly.
On the other side, I think that content managers have some expectations too that they want their freelancers to bring to the table, these are things like very few edits, that’s always a content manager’s dream, to have somebody to bring them a piece of content that’s almost ready to go. Subject matter expertise, SEO help, that’s something they would like thrown in. Subject client suggestions are a big one because you want to grab the reader’s attention with a compelling subject line. Maybe ideas for social sharing, images, uploading into the CMS that they’re using, all these little pieces that make their lives easier. They want freelancers to come to the table and not just deliver a finished piece of content but go above and beyond and really rise to be somebody that they enjoy working with and value working with as well.
Nathan: Kaleigh, you mentioned just a little bit ago that it’s nice for the freelancer to have some assets from that brand to really be effective. I was wondering if we could dive a little bit deeper into that. Do you have an example of a company that’s really nailed that freelancer process?
Kaleigh: I do! It’s a company that I work with and have worked with for several years now. Campaign Monitor is an email service provider. They have this wonderful freelancer getting started deck and it’s just a slide deck that they send out to their freelance writers that they work with. It has everything you need, all in one place. Everything from years of research that we recently published to here’s our style guide, here is the way we like to approach grammar, all these different things that are questions that you would have when you’re getting started with a new company. They address all of those upfront and it makes the onboarding process for both parties run so smoothly. I always appreciate that when there’s a company that comes right out and says here are all the assets that you need all in one place. If you have any other questions, let us know but for the most part, you should be able to dive into this and have a really good feel of what we’re looking for and what we need from you as a freelancer.
Nathan: That definitely sounds like a smart thing to do especially as you build that relationship with a freelancer for the long term like it’s not just a one-time thing if you almost onboard the freelancer like they’re a team member.
Kaleigh: Absolutely. Even if it’s a one off person, you still don’t want to have a huge time investment into it. You want to make the process as smooth as possible and it’s something that you can do once and not have to replicate over and over again. Just having an asset like that is extremely beneficial.
Nathan: It sounds like maybe that could be something like a guide or a checklist could be helpful. We’re talking a little bit about process. Let’s just say that we’re a marketing team, we’ve got a freelancer starting. I’m wondering specifically about the workflow. In your opinion, coming from the freelancer perspective, what would an ideal workflow look like for this?
Kaleigh: Here’s what I strive for with any client that I am working with as a freelancer. It’s a very polished process that I found to be really efficient and gets everything squared away right from the beginning and establishes a nice workflow moving forward for future projects. It always starts with onboarding, of course. You work through the getting started deck and the freelancer sends over all the assets that the client needs from them, whether that’s tax documents or here’s my writing process, here’s what to expect from me, just kind of getting on the same page about how the workflow is going to work.
From there, you typically get assigned a topic. I always like to do an outline once I get the topic and send that over first before I start writing anything and get too far into the content just to make sure that we’re on the same page.
And then, I really dive into the research from there. I can take the time to build out a really insightful and well written piece of content but I want to make sure that I’ve got that outlined where the client needs it to be before I get into any of that.
Once the research is done, you can build out the first draft. That gets sent over/ I typically use Google Docs for this because the editing process is so seamless 00:10:48 between client and freelancer, it just makes it very fast and efficient for both parties. Then, once the edits are done, go back over and do the final draft. I like to include the extras because I think it’s helpful and it’s something memorable for the client. Writing headlines are hard and if you can deliver something a little extra, that’s really helpful so I include a few suggestions for possible headlines from my experience I think would be effective and attention grabbing for the readership and that’s pretty much it. It’s a pretty short but smooth process. When you do it well, it can be a very efficient, very fast process that allows you to get a lot of content published and produce really high quality content but scale at such a fast rate.
Nathan: There are a couple of takeaways in there for me. Number one, I want to talk about that outline. I think it’s a really smart idea even for any sort of content creation to come up with that idea first and what the outline or what the piece of content would like and approve that. I don’t know if you want to dive a little bit deeper into that but I’d be interested to learn more.
Kaleigh: Of course. I think the outline is a huge part of it because I have been in a situation where I’ve went ahead and written the article without sending over an outline first. Because I was new and I wasn’t 100% sure what the client was looking for, it might’ve been a little off base. That meant that I had wasted time creating a piece of content that wasn’t quite on the mark for they’re looking for. It’s a little frustrating for them too, I’m sure because that slows up the process on their end as well.
I like to keep things really basic. I will typically go with the headers for each section that I’m going to write and then draft in a few bullet points beneath each one talking about either the research I’m going to reference or the points that I want to make within each paragraph. That way, it speeds up the process a lot for me too when I sit down to write the post because I know exactly what I’m going to tackle in each section. I found that to be a fantastic way to get on the same page and to also speed up the writing process and be able to deliver exactly what the client’s looking for faster than if you were to do it without the outline.
Nathan: Yeah, definitely would eliminate a bunch of revisions, I would think. That second point that I want to talk about there was your process seems really simple. How does keeping it simple help out with producing work quickly?
Kaleigh: It’s very tempting to over complicate things when it comes to writing. I think a lot of writers probably get hung up on trying to spell out the outline and get too detailed before they get into writing and sometimes that can be a bad thing. Keeping a simple process in place and having that open line of communication where if something’s not quite right, both parties feel okay to say, hey, this is not what I’m looking for, can you help me with this question that I have? Or can you address this comment that I’ve made within the document here.
A tool like Google Docs makes that back and forth very simple. You could of course use something like a Slack channel too to just go make notes and to share ideas. With some of the clients that I work with, we do use CoSchedule as well for the comments on where are the articles headed or maybe what’s missing, what research or images or things like that need to be added to the document. That also makes the go between very smooth.
Nathan: The freelancer probably just isn’t working in the office with the marketing team directly, I’m sure you’ve found really great ways to collaborate. Do you have some frameworks or tools that you found work extremely well for optimizing this content creation process?
Kaleigh: Yeah. Almost all of the clients that I worked with, I have never met before, I have never met face to face with them. It’s definitely a remote relationship. We use a couple different tools to purge the gap. Trello is a big one for planning subjects. A lot of the people that I worked with have Trello boards for post ideas or for revisions or just keeping track of where we’re at in the process. Some other clients use CoSchedule to deliver assignments and make sure that everybody’s on the same page about due dates.
What I really like about that tool is that the writer can also see what’s planned for after the content’s delivered, whether that’s the distribution plan or what they’re working on with SEO, things like that. It gives them a more in-depth looks so you can get a fuel for what the goal of the content is.
As far as other tools, like I said, Slack sometimes is an easy way to go back and forth over where we’re at on different projects. In the past, I’ve had clients who use Basecamp to go back and forth and do these types of thing. I think email is a simple way to make the process very messy and to lose things in the mix of everything else. Having a separate tool that allows the team and the freelancer to go back and forth without the clutter of the inbox is extremely helpful.
Nathan: Yeah, I would think organization of any kind, commitment to doing it a certain way is extremely helpful for both parties.
Nathan: Let’s just say that I’m a marketing team, I’m looking to hire a freelancer, it’s something that the CoSchedule marketing team’s done already before. Let’s just say that I’m brand new to this. I was wondering if you could give me some advice on where do I start, what should I look for, what’s your best advice on hiring a freelancer?
Kaleigh: The best place to start looking is through your existing connections. If you have people you know, just go to them and say, hey, I’m looking for a freelance writer or freelancer of any kind for this type of project, do you know anyone? Can you make an introduction? Usually, those introductions are the best quality recommendations you can get for finding freelance help because either they’ve worked with that person in the past and they can vouch for the work or they know somebody else who has worked with this person and it’s a nice way to speed up the process and find somebody who specializes in exactly what you’re looking for.
The other thing that’s interesting, and I’ve gotten quite a few different writing opportunities this way, is that people go to the blogs that they like and they respect and they’d find the writer whose voice resonates with them then, they’ll approach them from those blogs. They’ll reach out to those writers directly. I’m sure that’s true for other projects too whether it’s graphic design or whatever freelance help you need. If you can find somebody who’s doing work for somebody else that you really admire, looking for those channels is a great way to find the help that you’re looking for. Those are my top two. Of course, there’s job boards and all those things but I don’t feel like there’s very high success rate with those. They’re really hard to sift through for finding high quality help. Going through more organic channels is a great place to start.
Nathan: Maybe a follow up question to that, just because I know you have tons of experience with this is, let’s just say I’m a freelancer and that’s something that I want to do, I want people to find me in those organic ways. What are some good ways for a freelancer to get out there so that marketing teams can find them and hire them?
Kaleigh: Freelancers need to be participating in the places where their target audiences are looking and reading and spending time. For me, as a freelance writer, that means that I’m doing guest posts on places like Copy Hackers and ConversionXL and places like that because I’m targeting fast companies and ecommerce brands. Those are authority building sites. For me, as a freelance writer, I can get published there and people can see my work and that’s a way for me to get in front of a highly relevant audience with people I’d like to work with and also it’s a chance for them to see my writing style and the kind of work that I can produce.
I think that’s a great way for any type of freelancer, spend time where your audiences already looking. Sometimes, that means reaching out and saying, hey, are you looking for guest contributions right now? How can I get involved with you guys? It’s not always a yes right away but if you persevere and you stick with it, I think that most of the time you can get those opportunities to pan out.
Nathan: Yeah, Kaleigh, I think that’s excellent advice. That wraps it off for us today. I want to say thanks for sharing all this information on how marketing teams can build a good relationship with a freelancer and a few bonus tips on how freelancers can get out there and reach these marketing teams. This is a really fun conversation to have on the podcast.
Kaleigh: Thank you for having me.
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