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Is it best to write content in-house, or hire an outsourced content writer?

Aug 2, 2019

content writer

We all know now that writing content is important. What you want to know is how on earth do you get it done (and get it done well) when you’re an accountant, not a writer. 

As Ann Handly said so succinctly in her wonderful book ‘Everybody Writes’:

“If you have a website, you are a publisher. If you are on social media, you are in marketing. And that means that we are all relying on our words to carry our marketing messages”.

We are all relying on our words to carry our marketing messages. 

You know what that means?

Whether you like it or not, you’re probably a content writer

Give yourself a big pat on the back. Craft a handmade certificate from you to you. Because if you’re already writing content for:

  • Your firm’s website
  • Your social media channels
  • Online freebies and giveaways
  • Printed materials 
  • Your emails to prospects 

Just like Ann said, that pretty much makes you a content writer. 

However, I can just about russle up something resembling a cake, but I’m certainly no professional baker. 

So don’t worry, I get it. Yes you’re a content writer in the sense that you are literally doing the thing (writing and publishing your own words) but that doesn’t necessarily mean you feel confident in:

  1. What you’re producing
  2. Why you’re producing it

I mention you first, because although we’re going to delve into all the different options you have for getting great content written for your firm, we believe that accountants are creative too – (so much so, we’re even running an event to prove it! One in Manchester and one in Edinburgh)

You know your clients, your firm, and your offering better than anyone. There’s no one better positioned to answer the questions you get asked, than you. 

Some of you will find that uplifting. Others will still be hoping there’s someone out there who can do a better job of actually putting it all into words.

If you’re not confident, it might be time to outsource

The first option to think about is whether to outsource. But there’s a secondary consideration here too:

Outsource to an agency or a freelancer?

To answer that question, you need to ask yourself these three things:

  1. How often are you going to need someone to write you content?
  2. Do you want to be directed, or give direction?
  3. What about the rest of your marketing activities?

The freelance option

Freelancers are a great resource for taking some of the stress off your plate – and there are plenty of brilliant freelance content writers out there in the world.

Often though, we find the motivation for hiring a freelancer comes down to their flexibility (no hire and fire pain) and your budget (can’t I get it cheaper?). 

You’ve probably heard of websites like Upwork, Fiverr and People Per Hour. But as I mentioned in this previous blog post on the topic, there are some really important considerations to factor in before you go down this route. 

Whilst choosing the freelance option will certainly take some pressure off, you may find that you’re still putting in a fair amount of work. The flexibility of this kind of gig work means that you may find:

  • You’re not able to get a content writer on a retainer: Meaning that you’re using different freelancers for different pieces of work. 
  • You will be getting great work, but not advice: With a freelancer, you’re sort of putting yourself in the role of content manager. You create the strategy and deal with the who, what, where, why and when, and the freelancer does the work. If you’re not so confident in content strategy, this might not reduce the stress after all. 

The agency option

One of the most obvious differences between agency and freelance is the difference between one person and one whole team. We don’t just have one content role at PF. Our content team looks like this:

Content Leader/Director: The Client Marketing Managers will be managing projects for clients, meaning that they’re giving direction on how to move forward with content marketing, and assigning the specific content actions to be completed. 

Content Writer: Me. Equipped with the knowledge of the client’s brand, tone of voice and style, I’ll write the custom content for the client – blogs, landing pages, emailers, social posts, guides, case studies etc. 

Content Manager: Jenn.She manages all of the content that is created by PF and shares it with the world. You’re reading this now because of Jenn. 

Content Contributors: The whole team. Content is king, and so of course it needs its own court of royal advisors. The PF team are all involved in writing the marketing tips, blogs, and sharing their experience and advice with clients and in training sessions. 

But there’s a reason we call our offering ‘Outsourced Marketing’ and not ‘Outsourced Content Writing’ at PF.

I had a meeting with a client this week in which we were talking about redesigning his firm’s home page. We were talking about the importance of imagery and he said:

 “Don’t the words just do all the talking?”. 

Words are important. They are powerful. One sentence could be the tipping point for your potential client to choose you over your competitor. That being said, words aren’t the whole picture. There is a harmony that comes with the right images being paired with the right words (on the right website platform… with the right social media post to promote it…). You catch my drift.  

When it comes to choosing an outsourced content writer, stop first and think about that third question – what about the rest of the marketing? Who is going to choose the right images, create the graphics, help with the videos, create the page structures, do the social posting, look after the health of your website…

And what about the strategy behind it all? 

What is the goal? Do you want to bring in more leads? Better qualify the ones you’re already getting? How will you decide the best course of action to achieve that goal? 

We often get asked if we can just do the content writing. But you don’t need just content writing, and we feel we’d be doing you a disservice if we said you did. When you choose an agency, like PF, you’re choosing a whole team of experts who will look at the bigger picture

You might have an in-house writer on your own team

I recently had a meeting with a client who invited one of his team members into our brainstorming session. He felt she’d be able to bring more ideas to the table when considering blog titles because she tends to receive the most client questions by email – and tends to be the one answering them!

You may find that there’s someone in your firm who has the capacity, the creativity and the client understanding to be your in-house content writer. That excites us too. Like I said earlier in this blog, we’re just as much about bringing out your creative side as we are about taking the work off your hands. 

If your star content writer is hidden within your firm, great! Here are our top tips to help them be the best they can be, and contribute the most to your firm’s goals:

  • Have them read ‘They Ask, You Answer’ by Marcus Sheridan – we talk about this book with all our clients, and no doubt you’ve heard us praise it before. The book runs through the most important five topics to cover when you’re creating content for your clients – a great way to give your content writer some direction.
  • Give them some training – Our Accelerator course is a great place for anyone on your team to start. It’s always a fantastic community of people, who leave the course at the end of 12 weeks with an actionable marketing plan for their firm. We cover how to write great content in one of the sessions, but also cover all the harmonious elements of content marketing that run alongside writing the words. 

* P.s, we’re running an earlybird offer for our September intake that includes a free copy of ‘They Ask, You Answer’ and some more amazing freebies – check it out. 

  • Bring in a content leader/director: Want to give your content writer monthly strategic direction, but not confident you’re able to provide it? We created our co-pilot and tracking option for this reason. Co-pilot and Tracking is like your monthly management accounts for your client, but it’s focused on your marketing numbers. We’ll meet with your content writer once a month, talk about what’s working and what direction to take next. 
  • Send them in the direction of our free stuff – There’s plenty of advice to be found in this treasure trove of content marketing. 

Whatever option you choose, you’ll need to know and communicate your brand

Whether you choose to write the content yourself, bring in your staff, or outsource it, you’ll need to be able to communicate your brand to the person responsible. They will need to know how you walk the walk and talk the talk.

What I mean by that:

  • Who you are and who you are not – you live and breath your values in everything you do, so this will dictate the kind of content you create. 
  • Your tone of voice – are you direct, opinionated, over-the-top polite, always positive? Do you tolerate slang? Will you ever swear? Do you like to use humour? 
  • Personal colloquialisms and quirks – There’s an obvious difference when you’re writing for different audiences in different countries. But there may also be differences that are more defined than that. 

If you’re unsure on some these yourself, you might want to take some time to think about it and document your thoughts. Take a look at our style and tone of voice sheet to get an idea of how you could present something solid and strategic to your chosen writer (or keep for yourself as a reminder!). 

There’s lots to think about. As always you know where we are if you need more direction. And hey, I love to write. I love writing, talking about writing, planning writing. So if you see something here you’d like to talk more about… 

Well, write me.