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Friday, April 21, 2006

Answering reservations about outsourcing content...Quality and value...

As I mentioned yesterday, I am going to answer some reservations I have seen others express about hiring a freelance content writer for their projects. Consider this observation from one disenchanted former content buyer:

"I've hired ghostwriters but they were way beyond my expectation. I felt my money was not well spent and I believe I can writer better."

The first car I ever purchased was a 1970 Buick Skylark. It was a prototypical muscle car and even though it was sixteen years old when I bought it, it ran like a charm. I kept it for three years until I decided I needed something that offered better fuel efficiency, etc. I bought what was then a late model Mercury Lynx (basically a Ford Escort with a different name). The car was a disaster. I then went back to a big muscle car, a 1964 Chevy Impala. It was a source of endless misery. Phantom oil leaks no one could repair, erratic starting that defied diagnosis and an eventual thrown rod while on the interstate in far western Kansas...That's a whole other story...

Something tells me the commenter bought a bad Lynx and a cursed Impala without ever having the chance to own a great Buick. Had my first two car purchases been problematic, I may have concluded that I could build a better car myself or that buying cars simply wasn't worth the headache.

If the first few writers you try produce miserable results, you might just assume you're better off writing everything yourself. Fortunately, there are some great Skylarks out in the writing world who won't disappoint you. The trick is finding the right writer. This is what I would tell the commenter:

There are a lot of hobbyists who aren't sufficiently knowledgeable about the process of content writing to do the kind of job necessary to create high-quality, high-value work. There are kids looking for a few stray bucks who figure they might as well put their typing skills to work. There are desperate people trying to find a way to earn some cash in a hurry. There are professional hucksters who'll take your money, hand back garbage and disappear. Not to force the analogy, but it is a lot like buying a car. There are lots you can trust and others you cannot.

A good content writer will save you a fortune in time alone. You may think you can write as effectively as a professional and you might be able to do so (odds are that you can't--at least not efficiently). However, if you thought that was where your time was best spent, you would be a professional writer instead of a site owner. If you find a good writer, you will make back the bulk of your expense by virtue of having that time freed up to work from your strengths.

Additionally, good content does produce revenue. That's obvious, otherwise you wouldn't have been in the market for writing in the first place.

So, how do you find a good writer? There's no foolproof formula, but there are some things you can do.

  • Get a few samples. This is not a perfect screening tool, because someone unscrupulous could send you samples written by someone else, but it is a start.
  • Get a few references. A quality professional content writer should be ready to give you the names and contact information for a few people with whom they have done business. Check the references.
  • Take a test drive. Before you hand over a massive product to someone with whom you haven't worked, commission a single article and see what kind of work you receive.
  • Ask questions. It isn't necessary to get hung up on academic credentials and work experience, but those things can be an indicator of likely skills. They are not dispositive of the matter, and some great writers may not have the kind of background you anticipate, but they are a potential clue from which to work.
  • Deal with a pro. Your odds of getting the kind of content you need are increased when you are dealing with someone who writes for a living. There are hobbyists and those who "write on the side" who do some fine work, but dealing with someone dedicated to the field does increase your chances of being pleased with the results.
By doing some of these things you can dramatically improve your chances of receiving great content that will be a real value to you.