Pros and cons of hiring content writers online

Perhaps I need to start this blog post with an apology.

I posted a (fake) writing assignment on Freelancer.com and held my breath, about three minutes or so. That’s how long it took the first freelancer to respond to my request “to do some blog posting.”

Since I am a content writer I felt I should check out the competition on a site such as Freelancer.com. The website claims over 18 million registered users.

About six additional freelancers followed in quick succession to let me know they would like to complete my assignment. Another dozen or so took a few days to send me an email. That’s an impressive and quick response rate. The website calculated the average cost quoted by the candidates. Each freelancer gets rated (up to five stars) and reviewed by clients. So far, so good!

Next, I completed a quick review of the candidates’ profiles. Allow me to summarize my findings: If a person can’t submit a basic bio, maybe said person shouldn’t moonlight as a freelance writer.

Here are two typical bios of writers with five stars:

“Being a platinum level expert ezine author and having 4 years of writing expertise (articles, rewriting, blogs, ghostwriting etc), I am fully confident that I can deliver you high quality, plagiarism free, seo friendly and error free articles within the earliest possible time and also at an affordable price. Please check my portfolio for samples.” (A 52-words sentence with multiple errors!)

“i am H. G., a first class degree holder of Geography/Environmental management and also a full-time professional writer. I write articles, SEO, Press releases, Academic assignments and Technical writings. With my services, your project shall be delivered as at when requested and also of the highest standards. Your satisfaction is my primary objective.”

freelancer2Next, the website sent me an avalanche of email with interesting subject lines. See illustration.

Next, I closed down the fake job and my account. My apologies to the candidates!

Does it make sense to hire through a website such as Freelancer.com? Based on my initial experience, I would proceed with caution.

Surprisingly, the average rate quoted by the Freelancer.com candidates came in at $80/hour. My assignment didn’t specify the amount of writing or research required. Nevertheless, that isn’t exactly cheap and in line with rates charged by many professional freelance writers in Toronto.

Looking for a qualified content writer who is registered with a professional association and accountable to a peer group? A person who knows your local market and Canadian context? Who is aware of differences in American, Canadian or British spelling, punctuation, vocab, measurements, currencies and preferences?

In the GTA, I suggest you visit PWAC or PIC, a group of Indies who are also members of IABC. And, of course, I’d love to hear from you at any time.

 

 

 

Cash and content are king in our digital world

cartoonby Nandy Heule

An SEO marketing company recently plastered simple flyers on telephone poles to advertise their services in mid-town Toronto.

One of their offers included “content bundles.” For example, three articles and 40 social media posts each month will cost you $99 for 1,500 words.

Maybe it sounds self-serving, but I’m concerned about this service offering.

The general consensus now suggests “content is king.” Your online info will be read if it is of serious interest to the readers you are targeting as well as SEO-friendly. Moreover, such content needs to be free of grammatical errors, typos and plagiarism.

A steady trickle of new, quality content will improve search engine performance. Such blog posts and news updates showcase an organization’s experience, creativity, and commitment to excellence. Quality content helps build influence and reputation, not just web traffic. It builds brand and bottom lines.

It makes sense to hire an experienced freelance writer who can work with rough notes, industry research, client success stories and other materials. She can turn such information into compelling copy — content that tells a brand story, demonstrates positive impact, and builds influence. Please plan to pay more than $99 for 1,500 words for this process. But, be confident that what you look like online matches the quality work you provide.

If the content marketing budget can’t exceed $99 a month, talk to a good writer who can produce 1 or 2 pieces of quality material. Less may very well be more!  A client testimonial, an industry event, an inspirational quote, a staff bio, an image with a caption, or a factoid can all provide strong content on a limited budget.

Don’t hesitate to contact me if you need a Toronto-based freelance writer to have a look at your content and evaluate its effectiveness.

Do you really need to have an instant (Twitter) opinion on everything? One way to stay focused

Globe and Mail writer Russell Smith laments the pressure leaders in business, the arts, and others feel to take a stand on just about everything.

Smith writes, “It’s so easy taking a stand now, that you must have a stand: You must have a position right away and publish it, broadcast it, and you instantly have responses, arguments, and that’s thrilling; it seems all so very vital and important.”

He adds, “There is now pressure, real pressure, — rsmith-logoparticularly if you have a Twitter account, and especially if you have some kind of agent or publicist who says you have to ‘build your brand’ by using it — to take sides and issue opinions, all day long.”

The pressure to regularly add posts to social media platforms is real because failing to do so makes the owner of the news feed look inactive almost instantly. You don’t post, you don’t exist anymore. You may as well be out of business. The traditional print ‘news cycle’ of at least 24-hour has been reduced to minutes. It can be brutally difficult to appear current.

I officially follow a couple of hundred smart organizations and people on Twitter – mostly law firms, accountants, marketing gurus, news agencies and some leading non-profits. Unofficially, I flip through my Tweets while waiting for the TTC. When I feel like it, I admit it.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy Twitter. I can be nice about bad grammar (“Of these luxurious outdoor showers which do you want to get clean in?”). I try to put on my marketing hat when confronted with the overindulgent use of maverick symbols now lifted from obscurity.

Nevertheless, rather than feeling pressure to share a constant stream of modestly interesting opinions and news events – posting for the sake of posting to look ‘alive’ — organizations and their leaders may want to ask themselves a simple question: What do I want to be known for most on social media platforms?

Once an organization selects a few “hot topics” of choice, the pressure to post regularly may be replaced by posting and curating quality information when it is available. Information you know your readers want to receive. (More talk about curating in another post.)

Focusing on quality, not quantity may be one way to feel less pressured about sharing opinions and news on social media sites. Your followers and readers will understand quickly that you only post when it matters most.

Thought leadership vs content marketing: what’s the difference?

Canadian research study finds firms may not measure outcomes appropriately

Most professional services firms engage in thought leadership activities to gain and retain clients.

What used to be referred to as thought leadership has morphed into “content marketing” – an effort to build a client base by providing thoughtvaluable information. Lawyers, accountants, consultants and similar professionals now publish online a wide variety of insights, opinions, reports, research and case studies.

A small, but interesting Canadian study on thought leadership activities identifies “there is an opportunity for firms to increase the use of measurements such as referrals, client growth rates and employee satisfaction rates in evaluating their thought leadership strategies.”

Author Wendy McLean-Cobban conducted her research under the supervision of David Scholz at McMaster University’s Master of Communications Management Program. She concludes, “Digital measurements for the web are being used more frequently [to evaluate thought leadership activities], but their effectiveness in measuring success is less certain.”

In other words, it’s often relatively easy to provide basic measurements for content marketing — how many individuals visit a website, download a paper, or open the link to an e-zine. In contrast, it is often much more difficult to qualitatively measure the benefits of speaking engagements, media interviews or board directorships.

However, just because online activities are easy to track doesn’t mean, of course, they can be linked to a new piece of business gained or, more importantly, business growth over time. A small event for a narrowly targeted group of prospects may bring in a piece of valuable business; an e-book downloaded by hundreds of web visitors may generate a long mailing list but not a single referral.

What’s the take away? Ms. McLean-Cobban quotes an observant marketer who preferred to remain anonymous: “If thought leadership starts with a marketing intent in mind, it will probably not be successful. You really do need to actually be thoughtful and leading. And then you should market the hell out of it, but you don’t start from a marketing point of view.”

I say, Amen. If you want to share a new insight or research, you may wish to first distribute it quietly and in person to key prospects. Then, develop a strategy to distribute it as part of a larger content marketing approach. And, don’t forget to track feedback and business generated down the road.