Your business is like your child—well, not quite as important, but there are definite parallels. After you conceive an idea, you spend months nurturing it, and then introduce it to the world. Time and money are poured into helping it grow and thrive, all in the hopes that one day it will be strong enough to function without constant intervention on your part. Perhaps, then, it’s no surprise that many aspiring entrepreneurs are hesitant to delegate responsibilities to those outside of their immediate work circles.
Time, Money, and Sanity
At some point, though, reality comes knocking. If you and your employees have just survived a 10-hour workday filled with marketing strategy, customer relations, product development, and finances, you won’t have the time or the energy to produce good translation or original content. Assuming that you and your team want some semblance of a life outside work, such an approach is neither practical nor in the best interest of your company. High-quality translation and writing are rarely the product of a tired or distracted mind; you need to rely on someone whose primary responsibility is to work linguistic magic.
The caveat? You might worry that the amount of content you need doesn’t justify the cost of hiring a full-time translator or writer. At the same time, you don’t want to skimp and ask your sister’s boyfriend to do it for free—a WordPress blog and 3 semesters of college-level English are not sufficient credentials for somehow who will create a product that bears your company’s name.
A Different Approach
Fortunately, there is a third option—outsourcing to professionals. If you secure a talented writer, you’ll get a high-quality product without breaking the bank.
Some of the most successful online platforms have availed themselves of this strategy. For instance, in 2013, the Wall Street Journal and Forbes reported that Buzzfeed and CNN, in a bid to expand to more markets, would outsource some of their translation work to Duolingo. Highly respected news outlets such as Quartz, Business Insider, The Atlantic, and more regularly outsource journalism. These industry giants have few qualms about using outside talent for translation and content creation. This is because such companies recognize the fact that even when outsourcing, the power still rests with them. After all, they have the ability to make any changes or edits to an outsourced product before it’s published.
If you are ready to outsource but want advice, here is a list of pointers to keep in mind.
1. Decide where you want to look for a freelancer
Do you want to recruit your talent from a forum, or would you feel more comfortable hiring an established company to facilitate connections with experienced writers, bloggers, and translators? The plus side of seeking candidates on your own is that you aren’t obliged to pay a finder’s fee, since you did the looking and locating yourself. However, if you spend too much time searching, it will eventually defeat the original purpose of outsourcing writers. On the other hand, if you make a cursory search without properly vetting potential resources, you run the risk of ending up with a piece of subpar content that has to be extensively edited or rewritten altogether. At that point, you’ll have wasted both time and money.
Therefore, it’s often a good investment to employ the services of a reliable third party who finds the freelancer for you. If the provider also edits the freelancer’s work before it arrives in your inbox, better still.
2. Coordinate with the writer or third party to create a brief
This is arguably the most important step in determining whether or not an outsourcing strategy pays off—particularly when dealing with writers. If you do not provide unambiguous instructions as to what you want, you will be caught in an endless cycle of rewrites, passive-aggressive emails and calls, and headaches. Communicate your expectations regarding:
- Tone: Are you trying to be sarcastic? Serious? Self-deprecating? Silly? Subtlety influencing? Some other adjective that doesn’t start with an s? Make it clear to the writer.
- Point of view: While this seems like a given, many people forget to specify if they want a piece to be presented as the work of a freelancer or ghostwritten from a CEO or employee’s point of view.
- Purpose: Is this piece designed to convince a reader to buy a specific product? Do you want the audience to immediately invest in your company after reading it? Are you spearheading a charitable event and want to spread awareness without seeming self-serving? Maybe you are simply informing people of a market trend. After all, if you become a trusted source that readers consult for information, you’ve already built significant trust and loyalty.
- Target audience: Ideally, well-written content should appeal to multiple demographics, but sometimes you’ve got a specific group in mind. Let your writer know that, and give him or her any insights you have into said group’s predilections and consumer behavior.
- Length: If you request a blog of “approximately 250 words,” and are surprised when you received a piece that’s 225 or 280 words, you shouldn’t be. For cases in which you are truly constrained by a precise character limit, make that abundantly clear—don’t use “about,” “approximately,” “around,” or “in the ballpark of.”
- SEO keywords: Almost everyone who puts written text online hopes to optimize his or her position in search results. Keywords are a crucial factor in this regard, so inform the writer of anything you really want included.
- Layout: Will readers best digest this content if it’s formatted as a list? As long or short copy? Do you hate Calibri and insist on Helvetica? I sincerely hope not, but if you’re that picky, tell the writer up front.
- Sufficient product/service information: Provide whoever is drafting your content with enough information that he or she can speak about the product or service as if from personal experience. Even better practice—get writers to try the products for themselves!
3. Ask for a sample
Give a potential freelancer a fake assignment, possibly from an old ad campaign or blog prompt. This is a good indicator of future performance, and will eliminate any reservations you might have about delegating work outside of the company.
4. Pay attention to how much effort a writer puts into getting to know your company and product/service
If a writer hasn’t done research on your company and product or service before accepting a job offer, that should raise a red flag. At the very minimum, a writer unfamiliar with your business should ask a series of questions to acquaint him or herself with the general product and audience.
5. Let the writer complete the job
Once all that is over, take a deep breath and…let the translator or writer complete the assignment in peace. Unless you have major updates, allow the resource to focus while you direct your own attentions to the other aspects of your business.
6. Quickly review the product
After you have the product on your desk(top), review it. Note any minor changes you’ve made, communicate your feedback with the writer, and revel in all of the time and effort you’ve saved.
7. Cultivate relationships with talented people
When you find freelancers or third-party connectors who consistently deliver an excellent product, continue to employ their services! Loyalty goes a long way towards motivating high-quality performance.
Writing can be a highly-rewarding experience, and writing for you own company, even more so. Nevertheless, the best businesspeople are capable of recognizing when it’s time to be humble and seek support from talented, passionate freelancers.