Content Marketing Strategy

Hiring a Freelance Copywriter? Avoid these 5 Damaging Mistakes

By February 12, 2014 3 Comments

Outsourcing content can save your agency a fortune; free up valuable manpower and resources; and allow your clients to benefit from incredible content. Assuming, of course, you avoid these 5 damaging mistakes…


[googlefont font=”Oswald” size=”30px”]5. Hiring the cheapest writer[/googlefont]

Freelance sites are awash with cheap copywriters, and you can pick up thousands of words of content for a couple of dollars. But you shouldn’t.

With content, you get what you pay for.

Imagine you’re looking for an eBook. You’d love to write it yourself, but you don’t have the time. After all, 10,000 words of content will take dozens of hours. You decide to outsource it, and almost instantly, you find a bargain: a freelance copywriter charging $50!

Before you tear open your checkbook, stop and think for a moment: why is your writer only charging $50? How can they justify hours and hours of effort for only $50?

  • [googlefont font=”Oswald” size=”20px”]Your freelance copywriter is from a different country…[/googlefont]

$50 goes a lot further in the Phillipines, Indonesia and India, and may represent a decent rate for an aspiring freelance writer. However, it’s likely that these same writers aren’t native-English speakers. It’s entirely possible to find skilled writers in these countries – but it’s risky. If you want to avoid potential language barriers and culture differences, stick with native speakers.

  • [googlefont font=”Oswald” size=”20px”]…they’re inexperienced…[/googlefont]

Your writer is gaining extra benefit from the experience of writing your content. Every freelance copywriter has to start somewhere, and many writers undercharge to build up a portfolio. This can be great for both parties – but if you’re commissioning a crucial piece of content, you probably want to find a more experienced writer.

  • [googlefont font=”Oswald” size=”20px”]…or they’re just plain bad.[/googlefont]

It’s incredibly easy to join freelance websites like Elance and oDesk. There are virtually no barriers to entry, and anyone can sign up – regardless of their ability. It’s also possible to falsify portfolios and job applications, making the hiring process something of a minefield. There’s the possibility that your freelance copywriter is simply going to take your money and run; and even if you do receive eBook content back, who’s to say it’s even readable?


[googlefont font=”Oswald” size=”30px”]4. Distracting your writer with Per Word payment[/googlefont]

Word counts distract from the purpose of your content.

Imagine hiring a freelance copywriter for landing page content. A skilled writer may be able to convert your visitor in 300 words – but by paying on a per word basis, it isn’t in their interest to do so. Instead of a concise and powerful 300 word page, you might receive 600 words of dilute copy. Even if this copy is just as effective as a 300 word page – you’ve paid twice as much for the same outcome.

It doesn’t matter how long content is – as long as it’s effective. Content length is no indicator of content efficacy, and per word payment serves to distract your writer from the purpose of your content.


[googlefont font=”Oswald” size=”30px”]3. Setting strict word quotas[/googlefont]

The same principle applies to your own content briefs.

If you hire a freelance copywriter for 1000 words of landing page content, you create conflicting objectives. Your writer is tasked with creating effective landing page content; and ensuring it’s at least 1000 words. Often, these objectives clash. Instead of writing effective copy with fewer words, and less cost to your agency, your copywriter is forced to write unnecessary words, at a greater cost to you.

Why are you hiring a freelance copywriter? For the length of your content, or the outcome? Do you need blog content that’s consistent, engaging, and targeted? Or do you need blog content that’s exactly 600 words long?

Instead of setting exact quotas, set general quotas: 300-600 words, 600-1000, or 1000+. Allow your writer flexibility in their writing, and set the emphasis on the outcome of your content – not the length.


[googlefont font=”Oswald” size=”30px”]2. Crippling your budget with Hourly Payment[/googlefont]

Signing up for an hourly contract is like writing a blank check.

[box style=”1″]The traditional billable-hour system is tied exclusively to outputs, not outcomes.

Paul Roetzer, The Marketing Agency Blueprint[/box]

As long as you receive the agreed output (say 5 landing pages), it doesn’t matter how much time it took to produce. It also doesn’t matter if the landing pages actually work – because you aren’t paying for the outcomes, just the time that went into creating them.

If you agree a flat rate of $1000 for your landing page content, payment is reliant upon receiving 5 effective, conversion-optimizing landing pages. If you don’t receive effective content, the writer doesn’t get paid. There’s an obvious incentive for your freelance copywriter to do a great job.

If you agree upon an hourly rate of $100/hour, there are no such safeguards. You may have budgeted the same $1000 for the landing pages, assuming 2 hours of work on each page – but you could end up paying much, much more.

It’s now in the writer’s best interest to take as long as possible. The more time they spend on your contract, the more they earn. The same goes for productive time, and unproductive time – so your content is likely to be worse, even though more time has gone into it.

[box style=”1″]Distractions lead to higher costs, and lower quality.[/box]

In short; hourly contracts are great for writers – and terrible for you.


[googlefont font=”Oswald” size=”30px”]1. Hiring a writer, and not a content strategist[/googlefont]

The overarching theme of this post is simple: content should be outcome orientated.

Every piece of content you outsource is being created for a purpose – and you should ensure that your freelancer understands and abides by that purpose. Content alone isn’t enough – you need purposeful content, and you need a freelancer that understands the big-picture of content marketing.

As a result, you shouldn’t hire a writer.

You need a content strategist.

Without a clear purpose, articles, blog posts and eBooks are worthless to your agency. If you’re commissioning an eBook, it should educate, engage and entertain – but it should also promote your agency, illustrate your expertise and knowledge, and encourage further engagement from your reader. Blog posts are great for for attracting new leads – but only if they’re relevant to your target audience, and written with a clear, CTA-oriented direction.


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Outsourcing content can be crucial to the success of a growing agency – but it can also cripple your business. These 5 common mistakes are the key culprits that turn outsourcing sour; so the next time you need crucial content creation, avoid these pitfalls!

Want to learn more about Inbound Marketing? Download my free Inbound Marketing Explained eGuide, and discover how Inbound Marketing can help your B2B business stand out from its competitors!

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Author Ryan

I help SaaS companies grow with content marketing. I also drink Scotch. Sometimes together. CMO & co-founder, Cobloom.

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