Whether you run an online magazine, create content marketing products, or write customer support articles, you need quality writers who can create content that will resonate with your readership.
That’s a no-brainer. What’s not a no-brainer is deciding whether to outsource this content creation to freelance writers or a content agency or to hire internal employees to take it on.
That’s why it’s important to consider your options carefully when it comes to content creation. In a nutshell, you have two options: hire a writer or content team internally or outsource content via freelancers or a content agency.
Below, we explore the advantages and disadvantages of each, comparing cost, quality, and flexibility so you can make the best decision for your company – and get back to creating content that matters.
Cost will likely be the first factor to consider. Which option will be more cost-effective, both short and long-term?
Let’s start by factoring the costs associated with hiring an employee. According to a report by the Society for Human Resource Management, the average cost to hire an employee is $4,129. This includes costs associated with posting job listings and resources devoted to the hiring process.
There are also all kinds of titles for content creators: Writer, Copywriter, Content Writer, Content Marketer, Content Strategist, etc. Let’s look at the average salary for each:
Salary data for the following chart was sourced from The Creative Group’s 2016 Salary Guide.
For the sake of generating an average cost, let’s use the average salary for a Web Content Writer with 1 to 5 years of experience. Here, it’s $59,750 (the average of the low and high salaries).
This position represents one that could very likely be the first content marketing hire for a company.
For internal employees, we also need to factor in insurance and benefit costs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, benefits account for 30.2% of an employee’s total compensation costs.
In this case, it would be $18,045 (rounded to the nearest dollar). Here are the costs so far for this one employee:
In this scenario, the average cost of hiring a Content Writer would be $81,924. In the second year, the cost would be slightly lower ($77,795) since there wouldn’t be any hiring costs.
However, this total does not factor in additional expenses including costs for payroll taxes, office space, and any equipment needed, such as a desk, computer, office chair, and software.
Factoring all these other expenses could very well put this position at over $100,000. This is for one employee. Over time, you’ll likely want to assemble a content team that includes a Content Marketing Manager, a Content Strategist, and a Content Promoter.
Let’s take a look at the costs of outsourcing content. There are two options here: hire freelance writers or hire a content agency. We’ll look at freelance writers first. Freelance writers typically charge using one of the following models:
Costs can vary widely in all three models based on the amount of experience the writer has.
In the per hour model, you can expect hourly rates from as low as $12 to roughly $60 per hour, with some as high as $100/hour. However, per hour pricing isn’t preferred by most writers (including myself).
First, if you’re a solid writer looking to make a decent hourly rate, some companies may scoff at the idea of paying $50 per hour for a writer, not realizing that freelancers don’t necessarily pocket their hourly rates since they have costs to cover that employees don’t.
Second, an hourly rate penalizes a writer that is efficient and writes quickly. You’ll more often see per word and per article pricing, especially for more experienced writers.
In the per word pricing model, you will find rates from $0.03 to $0.30 per word. Some charge more, but this is the most common range. However, most decent writers will charge at least $0.10 per word.
So if you want a 1,000-word article written at a rate of $0.10 per word, it will cost you $100.
In the per article model, you will find rates ranging from $50 to $500 per article. This depends largely on the type and length of the article, as well as the industry. In my experience, $200 to $250 for a 1,000 to 1,500-word article written by a quality writer is an ideal range.
Considering the most common pricing model used by writers (per article payment), if your company produced a 1,000 to 1,500-word article every week at a rate of $200 per article, it would cost you $10,400 for the year (about 10% the cost of a full-time employee).
Lastly, there’s the option to hire an agency. Agencies have the advantage of having large marketing teams with different roles for each specialty, such as content strategy, content creation, and promotion.
Agency pricing can vary widely, ranging from $2,000 to $10,000 per month, sometimes more. However, it’s not difficult to find a quality agency that can produce and promote 3 to 4 content pieces for $2,000 to $4,000/month. And at $3,000/month, that’s still only $36,000 for the year.
But it’s not all about cost. When deciding whether to outsource or hire for content creation, the quality of content produced should also be considered.
Whether it’s internally or outsourcing, it’s possible to find a writer to create quality content for your website, content marketing tool, or online magazine. It’s simply a matter of finding the right person.
One of the advantages of hiring an employee is that they will likely develop a stronger brand knowledge over time. Think of it this way: An employee is working with the company for 40 hours/week. Your product or service is the only one they work with and the only company they have to write for, while a freelancer or agency will likely have multiple clients to juggle during their working hours.
As a result, an employee can more quickly pick up industry and product knowledge, as well as your brand’s voice, tone, and priorities. (However, that’s not to say that a freelance writer couldn’t do this if you work with them long enough.)
Additionally, an employee may develop a stronger bond with internal team members and communication may be easier, especially if working in an office environment.
Yet many companies try to fit a lot of different responsibilities into their first content marketing hire. A company’s first content hire is usually tasked with creating content, editing, managing the blog, posting content to the website (which may involve coding skills), editing or creating graphics, creating emails, promoting across social media, reaching out to influencers, and more.
It can be difficult to find a person that has the skills to complete all of these tasks effectively. It can be done, but it’s unlikely. If you do find that person, you better be ready to pay them significantly. Another thing to consider: a full-time hire may be more of a generalist, moderately skilled in a number of areas, while freelancers tend to be more highly skilled in a smaller number of areas.
For example, when outsourcing content, you also have the option to hire an expert in any given field. If you need to write an advanced article on email marketing, you can find a writer with deep knowledge in the email marketing field. Thus, you can create a piece of content that will likely be more comprehensive than if it was written by an internal employee.
The same goes for the type of writing. You can hire a copywriter to optimize landing page copy, a blog writer to create blog posts, and a journalist to do interview-style pieces.
Additionally, you may not need a full-time writer dedicated to only creating content. You may not need to produce the amount of content a full-time writer could produce. In this case, using freelancers for your content needs makes more sense.
One last thing to consider is flexibility. As mentioned, you may not have a need to produce a large amount of content.
One of the advantages of outsourcing content, particularly when working with freelancers, is that you can hire on an as-needed basis. If things are slow, you may put a hold on contracting any writing work; yet when things pick back up, you have the resources ready to dedicate back to creating content. This is not possible (or at least not financially feasible) with a full-time employee.
To add to that, if you want to ramp up your content creation efforts quickly, you can simply hire a few more freelance writers. Doing the same with internal employees can be more difficult since the hiring process costs you time and money.
Still wondering if you should hire or outsource for your content needs?
There’s no right or wrong answer. The answer lies in which things you value most. If you want someone in the office with you who can grow with the company over time and you have the budget, hiring can be a great way to go. But if your budget is limited and you want the flexibility to create content when needed, outsourcing will probably be your best bet.
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