Recently, I’ve noticed a new trend in content creation. With an increasing frequency, clients are asking me to do just a single task in the content creation process.
For example, a client will ask me if I can come up with headlines for a topic.
Or, they’ll ask if I can just do the research for a piece of content. And the list of individual content creation task requests goes on.
I know I’m not the only one getting these requests, because I’ve talked to other writers. Does this approach to content creation make sense? Should you divide the various content creation tasks between freelancers?
In this post, I’ll take a look at the most common reason why businesses try to piecemeal content creation. I’ll also look at the various tasks businesses often try to separate out. Of course, you’re invited to share your thoughts and experiences.
The Wrong Motivation
Often when a company decides to piecemeal content creation, they are trying to save money.
Unfortunately, as with many things, the parts can (and usually do) add up to be more than the whole. The higher price doesn’t always translate to better quality content. That’s because the old saying “too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the broth” has a grain of truth to it.
While you may love the snappy headlines I write, hiring me to write just a headline a may mean that the content doesn’t deliver what the headline infers. Trust me, that mismatch will annoy your readers.
A piecemeal approach to content creation can be more expensive because you’re paying more than one writer to come up to speed for the same piece. In other words, you’re paying for multiple learning curves.
Plus, all freelancers have a certain amount of overhead (such as proposal creation, billing, and accounting) allocated to each project. When you hire more than one freelancer for the same project, you pay for each freelancer’s overhead as part of their project.
If lowering your cost is your motivation for dividing out writing tasks, you’re going to be disappointed. You won’t save money and it may even cost you more. Besides, there are better ways to save money.
So, in the context of content creation, does it ever make sense to separate tasks and assign them to different freelancers?
Surprisingly, the answer is sometimes “yes.” But it depends on the situation and the task.
A Look at the Various Content Creation Tasks
Let’s take a look at each task involved in content creation:
- Headline creation. Headlines are important to the success of a piece of content. The right headline can ensure the content is read. The wrong headline can repel readers. That’s why many blog posts and even ebooks have been written on the topic of writing a good headline. It’s just that important. Clients are often surprised at the price I charge to write a good headline. “It’s a just a sentence,” they say. And while that may be true, it’s arguably the most important sentence in the entire piece of content. It shouldn’t be written quickly. In my opinion, it also shouldn’t be separated from the writing task.
- Research. Another task writers are often asked to do separately is research. In fact, writers themselves may hire assistants to do their research for them. It’s important to be careful about scope if you are going to separate the research from the writing task. There’s a difference between providing raw information and organizing that information into a rough draft. Clients who ask for “just research” often want a rough draft instead. The other hazard with accepting a “research only” project is that the information the client wants may not exist.
- Writing. As I stated earlier, I think the headline creation and writing task go together. If you’ve ever tried to write a blog post or article from someone else’s headline, you know what I mean. The writer using someone else’s headline is likely to wonder, “what on earth did they mean by that?” Of course, I’m not saying that a headline can’t be edited and made more effective later on. However, in most cases I see writing the headline as part of the writing process. Of course, if content already exists, a good writer can create an effective headline for it.
- Editing. This is one task that is best broken out. Everyone wins if someone other than the original author edits the content. The writer, of course, is responsible for basic proofreading tasks. But it’s the second set of eyes–the eyes of the editor–that can mean the difference between whether your content will be great or mediocre. An editor can find missing information, places where the content doesn’t flow, and insure a unified voice. Sadly, most online publications do not engage a dedicated editor.
- Finding Images. This is another task that can be farmed out. While many publications ask that the writer provide a stock image or other royalty-free image, the task of finding an image for content can be time-consuming. Stock images tend to be limited in what they offer. The use of other images is usually restricted. Plus, assigning a staff member to place images with content is another way to make sure that your publication has a unified look and feel. You can also be sure that the publication has the correct permission to use each image.
Of course, there are other types of content, such as podcasting and video creation, where a separation of tasks may make sense.
As you can see, breaking some tasks out and assigning them to different freelancers won’t save you money. If you do it right, though, it may help you to improve quality.
When a Piecemeal Approach Can Help
There are definitely some situations where a piecemeal approach may make sense.
- Tight deadline. If you have an extremely tight deadline and need to create lots of content, it may make sense to have a freelance team working on the project. Some members of the team can provide research, while others write, and still others edit and polish each piece.
- Freelancer emergency. You may find yourself in a situation where a freelancer cannot complete a writing project. You need to pay the first freelancer for the work they’ve done (very important) and hire another freelancer to finish the project.
If you do decide to break out various content creation tasks, take extra steps to make sure that communication between various freelancers goes smoothly. Also make sure that everyone understands the goal of the project.
If you’re a writer, have you ever been asked to work on just part of a piece of content? What did you do?
If you’re a company, do you take a piecemeal approach to your content? What tasks do you separate out and why?