If this title sounds a bit peculiar, you are not alone in feeling that way. After all, so many tasks these days are enthusiastically outsourced, and writing is one of them. Some estimates suggest that as much as half of all marketing content is being written by freelancers or firms that specialize in this sort of writing, rather than by in-house staff.
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While there are many good reasons to do so, this is a strategy that should be undertaken thoughtfully, and with a full knowledge of potential pitfalls. An enterprise considering outsourcing their writing needs to take into account a number of factors that could make this approach less successful.
Content creation takes time and reflection:
One of the situations that often prompts a business to bring in some help for content creation is simple lack of time. The business of running the business can be so overwhelming that trying to sit down and to be too much to handle. However, is this a reason to outsource the development of materials that will carry the message of the business? Sometimes, it is better to rethink priorities and allocate some person power to this task.
The very exercise of articulating something – anything – about the business can be very helpful in clarifying what makes your enterprise unique and worthwhile. This insight, in turn, can be helpful in the longer term in planning and strategizing for growth. Of course, if the writers brought in to help with content creation are permitted to participate in the reflective process, the same positive result can be achieved. However, where time is perceived to be short, this step in the process of creating marketing material can be unwisely overlooked.
You need to continue to improve your writing skills:
Another reason that often prompts the hiring of outside writing help is a lack of writing skills on the part of the entrepreneurs themselves. This should not be a source of embarrassment.
Many brilliant businesspeople cannot write marketing material right from the start. It has always been an art, and now, with the demands of Search Engine Optimization, it is also now a science, complete with statistics! Some have compared this kind of writing to three-dimensional chess, and the comparison seems apt. There is no shame, therefore, in seeking help if one’s writing is not very strong.
However, this should not be used as an excuse not to strengthen one’s own writing skills. Part of being a successful entrepreneur in the longer term is, indeed, acquiring additional skills in order to adapt to the environment. Think of how disadvantaged many businesspeople were who pooh-poohed email when it was in its infancy (yes, there was a time when it was possible to operate a business without it!). Similarly, outsourcing writing marketing content should not replace the conscious effort to improve one’s own writing.
ESL is not an excuse not to be involved in content creation:
A perfectly valid, and often related, reason for outsourcing content creation is a lack of language skills. Even the most articulate writer in their mother tongue is at a major disadvantage when trying to translate into another language. English is particularly tricky. It is an irregularity-laced minefield of words from two very different linguistic sources (Romance and Germanic) with a massive available vocabulary. For an ESL entrepreneur, this is actually a drawback.
More words in the thesaurus mean more opportunities to make an embarrassing mistake in word choice. However, this is not a reason to outsource writing entirely.
You, as the originator of the business, have a unique and vital perspective. If possible, you should put your ideas down, whether or not the grammar is correct, or the word choice felicitous. This should become the basis for discussion with whoever does the final composition of content. Don’t use language skills deficits as an excuse for not being directly involved with the creation of your marketing messages.
You need competent wordsmiths for content creation:
Of course, all this assumes that you have access to help from writers who are at least fluent in English, or in whichever language in which you need to market. This is another pitfall of outsourcing. Although there are many freelancers out there who are wordsmiths of great skill, there are also a disturbing number of folks whose language competency exists largely in their own imagination.
There is often no way to discern, from a website, whether a writer is a native, competent speaker/writer, a fluent ESL speaker (no shame there – think of ESL literary giants such as Nabokov), or someone who cannot get through a sentence without committing a linguistic indiscretion. This is preventable by working with people you have gotten to know, even if only by telephone. Referrals are crucial to avoid problems. If you can avoid outsourcing, you can avoid the problem entirely.
Your message needs to be conveyed accurately in your marketing content:
Whatever your reason for considering outsourcing, you face a potential problem of dilution or distortion of your intended message. Think of the children’s game of “telephone”, where repeated transmission degrades the accuracy of the chosen word or phrase into nonsense, resulting in laughter. The same phenomenon, when applied to marketing your business, can result in wasted expenditures, and the possibility of lost sales.
Your marketing content needs to reflect a unified, consistent, and accurate grasp of what you are selling. This is possible only if the writer understands fully what you are trying to accomplish, and if you are hiring someone else to create your marketing content, you will need to invest effort in explaining your business in detail. It is frustratingly difficult to write about something one does not understand fully.
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From personal experience, trying to write marketing copy without a complete picture of the business and its goals is like walking through a dark tunnel with a small flashlight, swiping at cobwebs on the way. If you cannot take the time lay out your business for a hired writer, better keep the task to yourself.
Outsourcing content creation is a critical option for businesses. However, it needs to be exercised with knowledge and caution. If you have the language and writing skills and the person power to write your own marketing copy, you are in a fortunate and enviable position. If you find that you need to get outside help, consider the caveats noted above, and use outsourcing wisely and well.