If that comparison sounds suspiciously specific, it’s because I once did exactly that. It was easily the second worst experience I’ve had with cold weather in Alaska.
During the 20 minutes of back-and-forth hopping out of the car to work on it until I couldn’t feel my fingers then jumping back in to thaw them, then jumping back out to work a little more, I couldn’t help but think, “man, I wish somebody else would just do this for me.”
If you’re reading this article, I’m guessing there’s a good chance you’re thinking about finding someone else to handle all of that copy for your website.
It certainly sounds easier.
If a mechanic can change the tire of a ‘95 Dodge Neon quicker than an apprentice carpenter on his way to sheetrock a barracks at Clear Air Force Station, a freelance writer should be able to provide better website copy than yourself.
But is it the right move?
Should you call the marketing version of Triple A? Or zip up your parka, put a pair of wool socks on your hands, pop the trunk, and grab the spare tire your dang self?
Whether you’re leaning towards a hands-off or DIY approach, there are some problems with outsourcing your website copy you’ll want to consider.
To be fair, hiring freelancers is not all bad. In fact, there are many situations where it’s a better option for you. However, I still want to take a little time to cover some of the potential issues you might encounter when hiring a freelancer.
1. Not as knowledgeable
Here at IMPACT, whether we’re talking about blogging, social media posting, or website copy, we recommend companies try and tackle the copy themselves.
The primary reason being: Nobody knows your business or your customers like you do.
When you hire freelancers, they have to figure out who you are, what you sell, and what your value to customers is.
But where do they learn it from?
From you and others in your organization.
But just like a kid’s version of “the telephone game,” the final result might miss the mark entirely.
Unfortunately, the freelancers just don’t understand your business quite like the people within it.
2. Limited access to your experts
One of the reasons freelancers struggle with understanding your business is their limited access to your experts.
Freelancers are often juggling multiple clients and therefore have strict timelines to adhere to. This ties their hands a bit from being able to hop on quick, spontaneous calls with your experts.
Even when you have a content writer in-house who isn’t an expert, it’s still a lot easier for them to get a few moments of time with SMEs than it is for someone outside the organization.
Whether it’s a quick walk down the hall to their office, catching them in the lunchroom for 10 minutes, sending a Slack message, or blocking their car from leaving the parking lot until they get some answers, your people have better access to each other.
3. Off-brand voice
Do you have a defined content style guide for freelancers to review before publishing content that discusses your policy on voice, tone, and style?
Whether you insource or outsource your web copy, it’s important to define your brand’s distinctive personality so that it shines (consistently) across all of your pages.
Without a style guide, freelancers may fall back to their comfort zone and write in their own style that may not quite match the voice, tone, and style you would want for your customers or the tone they are used to.
This inconsistency could lead to confusion as someone goes from page to page.
When someone within your organization is creating your content, they can be in charge of developing and upholding your brand’s voice.
Now, in some cases, you may want to hire a writer because you enjoy their unique voice and perspective and want to share that with your audience.
Even if this is so, make sure whoever's voice is being presented is one that resonates with your audience and helps build trust with your brand.
4. Fixed deliverables
When you own the means of content production for your website, you can work on as many webpages in a week as you desire and go through as many revisions as necessary.
Most freelancer’s contracts, on the other hand, include a fixed number of pages or words written each week.
This can prove to be a hurdle if the content isn't up to par within those limitations.
The longer you have to wait for web pages to be filled with copy, the more opportunities you could be missing to educate and connect with visitors on your site and convert them to leads and customers.
5. Potentially low-quality work
Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of great freelance writers out there, but, only if you find the right fit.
This is someone whose words will have a direct impact on the experience your audience will have when they visit your site.
Review their portfolio, read their reviews, contact their former clients, interview them extensively.
It’s a little unsettling the number of clients I’ve worked with that have had previous freelance work on their website with quality ranging from passable to easily passed over.
For example, when I started my first content manager position writing for a local sleep clinic, they had hired freelancers previously to write all of their blog content.
The freelancer had convinced the clinic that micro-blogs, blogs shorter than 300 words, were the hot trend in marketing at the time.
The freelancer wrote nearly a hundred blog articles, b ut none of the articles have ever been found in organic search.
They were too short to have any sustenance or real value, and many weren't relatable to people suffering sleep disorders.
Whether you outsource or insource your copywriting, quality is key.
6. Likely no iterations
With a lot of freelance work, there’s a “set it and forget it” mentality.
They’re concerned with knocking out a whole bunch of content for a slew of pages. Unfortunately, not a lot of thought goes into the performance of those pages.
If factual information changes, they’re not going to revisit the page to update for accuracy.
If the page doesn’t end up ranking for the desired keywords, they’re not going to reevaluate the keywords in their copy.
Freelancers are paid to put words on a page and then move to the next one. They’re not responsible for analyzing how your audience reacts to those pages and iterating.
The copy may seem great, but until it’s read and reacted to by real people, you’ll never know how impactful it really is.
When you have someone in charge of your website’s content in-house, making quick updates or major overhauls is cheaper and easier.
Plus, someone is held accountable for the content achieving what your business needs it to.
Now that you’re aware of some of the downsides and potential hazards of outsourcing your web copy to a freelancer, you’ve got a tough decision to make.
Are you going to hire outside help or attempt to tackle the writing yourself?
Please don't take this article as a knock at freelancing.
I've worked with many amazing freelance writers and have done freelance work myself. I just want you to be aware of potential problems that may arise so you can nip them in the bud before they manifest.
However, I am also biased towards producing content in-house because that's honestly where I've seen the most success: companies taking full ownership of their content marketing.
It may seem daunting, but all of the case studies you read on our website are from clients that took the reins of writing their content in-house.
But that doesn’t mean they did it alone.
Here at IMPACT, we’ve been training our clients to create their own content.
Nobody knows your buyers like you do. Nobody knows your products and services like you do. Nobody knows how to perfectly mimic your brand’s voice. And nobody cares as much about your success as you do.
And when the results start to roll in, the moment of pride and accomplishment will be all yours. Just like if I had called Triple A to change my tire for me, I wouldn’t be able to write such humblebrag-filled analogies as this one.