When clients enlist your agency to develop fresh content, it usually means their own team is running out of new ways to engage their audience. At the outset of your agency's relationship with a client, the new content ideas will likely flow easily.
But as clients continually demand new ideas to meet their content goals, your team might need to introduce some fresh minds to the account. If you see your internal team as the only source creative ideas, you could be setting your agency up for creative burnout and stagnant growth.
If you work with freelance writers, you already have a team itching to provide you with creative assistance. The use of freelancers offers you a community of writers and with key experience in your clients' industries, providing your team with a steady supply of creativity.
Far too often, freelancers are primarily used when your agency's "to-do" list is overflowing. They are seen as a tactical resource, when they should instead be viewed as a creative and strategic resource.
So why don't agencies see freelancers as capable of contributing to the creative talent pool? The big problem is that agencies are generally not great at enabling freelancers to do their best work.
Here we'll explore some tips to get freelancers more effectively involved in the creative process at your agency -- and why their participation is necessary for business growth, client satisfaction, and preventing burnout in your creative department.
How to Outsource Creativity at Your Agency
Give Freelancers the Tools They Need
The most obvious objection to using freelancers to come up with creative ideas for your clients is that they just don’t know your clients well enough. To effectively create a content calendar for your clients, your team likely spends a lot of time carefully researching past content, discussing goals over the phone and in-person, and eventually agreeing on a tone and strategy that suit the client's unique needs and goals.
Your freelancers need the necessary tools to make informed decisions about the content they're creating. Like your own team, freelancers are concerned with developing a better understanding of their audience, and learning what types of content this audience likes to consume. Make sure you answer these questions in advance by providing your freelance writers with:
Your client's buyer personas: This will help your freelancers better understand your client's audience. If your client doesn't have buyer personas, consider helping them set some up.
Relevant keyword research: Use a keyword research tool to inform the specific keywords ideas should be optimized for.
Content analytics on how past content has performed: A record of your past successes and failures will inform your freelancers what ideas perform best.
Make your Content Calendar Accessible
By opening up the floodgates to allow freelancers to send you content ideas, you're going to end up with plenty of high quality content pitches that fit your client’s audience. But how can you be sure they'll fit the content strategy you've laid out?
Whether you employ freelancers or not, using a content calendar to manage your client’s content creation is the best way to organize the delivery and publishing schedules of everything you’re producing. While you don’t need to fill this content calendar out 100% for the next year, it absolutely pays to plan ahead. Click here to download a free editorial calendar template for Google Calendar.
By sketching out at least a rough outline of your content strategy for the next 6-12 months, you'll be much better equipped to request and accept content pitches from your freelance community. Organize your calendar around larger content pieces such as whitepapers and webinars in addition to any events your client will participate in or products they'll be launching.
When you inform your freelancers of your long-term goals, they can pitch you content ideas that fit your current goals. Plus, if they send an idea that won't fit for another 2 months, you're able to save it instead of rejecting it outright.
Provide Clear Feedback
As a chance to earn more work, your freelancers will jump at the chance to pitch you their own content ideas. However, if the response is poor or if there is little feedback, they could easily get discouraged.
Just as it took time for your agency to figure out the right content to send your clients, it will take your freelancers time to get the hang of pitching you valuable content ideas. This process can be sped up considerably if you are open and clear about what pitches are worthwhile and why.
While there are always more freelance writers who are willing to pitch your business, the real value is in building a content community of writers whose ideas will continue to get better as the relationship matures. View this small group of freelancers as internal employees, nurture their creativity, and you will end up with a much larger pool of creative ideas to provide your clients with.
Don't Underestimate the Value of Good Freelance Talent
If your agency is valued for its creativity, it's your job to put processes in place to ensure creativity can be sustained. Don't disregard your greatest source of potential content ideas: freelancers. Instead, give your freelance writers the tools, information and feedback they need to provide a much larger contribution to your business. Your clients, your freelancers, and your agency will thank you for it.
Originally published Oct 27, 2016 5:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017