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5 Steps To Find and Work With Quality Freelancers

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5 Steps To Find and Work With Quality Freelancers

Half of marketers say they outsource a content marketing activity. That’s not surprising given about 60% of B2B and B2C marketers operate content marketing teams with no more than five people.

Finding partners with adequate topical experience and who understand the brand’s audience are the most frequently cited challenges in CMI’s most recent research.

Half of #B2B and #B2C marketers say they outsource a #ContentMarketing activity, according to @CMIContent #research. Click To Tweet

To help you overcome those challenges and confidently hire top freelancers, I’ve put together this five-step guide based on my experience working with contract writers.

1. Establish an adequate budget

Before you start the search for writers, you should set a realistic budget.

You can’t simply take a full-time employee’s salary and divide by 40 to estimate a freelancer’s hourly rate. Given freelancers run their own business, they charge more. They have to calculate rates that encompass their expenses – both the employer and employee share of income tax, insurance, and operational costs such as computers, software, internet, etc. Their locale also could affect their rates.

You can’t set a #freelance hourly rate by simply dividing an employee’s weekly compensation by 40, says @emanuelp986 via @CMIContent. #ContentMarketing Click To Tweet

If you’re challenged with finding writers who have sufficient topical experience, budget to pay the higher rates more experienced writers charge. It’s better to have a writer produce a top-notch piece within one or two attempts than to hire a cheaper writer and make multiple corrections.

If you’re challenged with finding writers who have sufficient topical experience, budget to pay the higher rates experienced writers charge, says @emanuelp986 via @CMIContent. #ContentWriting #Freelance Click To Tweet

You should also decide on a budget based on the expected deliverables. The more labor and research-intensive the project, the higher the budget should be.

Rates vary dramatically based on the individual as well as the industry. To calculate your budget, ask peers in your industry what they pay. Look to freelance associations and organizations for benchmark studies.

While a budget sets expectations on how much you can pay the writer, it isn’t the predictor of how successful the relationship will be. That’s why you need to follow the next steps.

2. Create the perfect help-wanted post

Freelance writers carefully read help-wanted posts to assess whether it’s a good opportunity and fit for them. Your listing should clearly explain your expectations and deliverables to attract more qualified responses and accurate proposals.

But just because you’re contracting to work with someone doesn’t mean you need a complete job description as you would with a full-time employee. Among the relevant details to include:

  • Assignment description, including what information will be provided by the company and what information the writer is expected to find.
  • Specify any special knowledge or skills needed
  • Expected deliverables, including length estimate
  • Start and end dates, including interim deadlines
  • Compensation range with terms like hourly rates or fixed prices as well as invoice payment timing

It helps to add some personality to your listing as it gives the freelancer an idea of what it would be like to work with you. And most importantly, don’t hesitate to ask additional questions you deem necessary to find the ideal candidate for your work.

Add some personality to your #freelance help-wanted listings to give an idea of what it’s like to work with your brand, says @emanuelp986 via @CMIContent. #ContentWriting Click To Tweet

TIP: To assess how well they follow instructions, include a small “test” such as, “Please put the word ‘freelancer’ in your subject line.”


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3. Locate the best writer for your brand

It’s so much easier these days to reach out and find quality writers for your task or project. Among the options:

  • Ask your professional and personal network for referrals. Their input is invaluable because they already have a familiarity with or have worked with the suggested writers. Those word-of-mouth referrals give the candidates an added boost from the beginning.
  • Turn to job boards. While many writers search job boards for permanent gigs, part-time writers also use them to find work. Make it clear in your listing that you’re seeking someone for part-time work.
  • Post on social media. Post the opportunity to Instagram and Twitter, and use industry-relevant hashtags as well as #Freelance. Posting to relevant social media groups also can be a great way to reach writers in a specific niche.
  • Go to freelance sites. Use platforms, such as Contently, Skyword, ClearVoice, etc. These outlets facilitate finding, hiring, and paying writers. Most of the platforms help you quickly find better quality content creators who produce optimal quality work in your niche or for the content type you want created. (I recently hired a writer who specialized exclusively in the privacy policy and terms of use pages.)

Go to #freelance sites such as @contently, @skyword, and @clearvoice to find quality #content creators for your brand, says @emanuelp986 via @CMIContent. #ContentWriting Click To Tweet

TIP: Create an authentic and engaging profile on freelance sites to show your brand’s personality and culture that will attract writers who are interested in that environment.

TIP: If you hire a writer who only freelances part-time, recognize it may take them longer to complete the work than if they worked a full-time freelance writing schedule.

4. Evaluate the writing candidates

First, you should shortlist your options. You can then ignore responses that didn’t pass your test, such as including “freelance” in the subject line. Then, go through the remaining responses and eliminate those who don’t meet the basic requirements.

Freelance platforms also help you find qualified wordsmiths by filtering them based on specific prerequisites and only invite qualified writers to respond to your listing.

With your shortlist identified, conduct a video interview. I do this with every writing opportunity. While phone interviews can work, I find it easier to interact with a person on video.

During the interview, ask them questions to reveal:

  • Their professional background and expertise in areas important to your work (i.e., SEO, headline writing)
  • Their experience in your niche and with your content type(s)
  • How they approach writing assignments such as the ones you would assign
  • How they handle meeting deadlines when they are working on multiple projects
  • How they respond to unforeseen obstacles, such as an interviewee that doesn’t respond or an unexpected power outage

TIP: Asking for narrative examples sometimes can better help you understand the candidate’s thought process.

If you have a standout candidate, you can proceed to the next step. If you’ve narrowed the search to two or three candidates, ask them to complete a small paid project related to your topic. Then, you can compare and gauge each writer’s ability, from understanding the assignment to executing the content.

Ask the 2 or 3 finalist #freelance candidates to complete a relevant paid assignment to gauge their ability, says @emanuelp986 via @CMIContent. #ContentWriting Click To Tweet

5. Hiring the freelance writer

Once you select the freelance writer to hire, it’s time to detail what you want them to do.

There is a marked difference in hiring a freelancer over an employee. While you tell employees what they have to do and how they have to do it, you can’t give the same instructions to freelancers. They control that.

With freelancers, you should be clear about the criteria, including start date, detailed scope of work, deliverables, payment terms, etc. All these details should be included in a contract, which safeguards your business and the writer, and can help prove to the IRS that the writer is a contractor, not an employee.

A detailed, clear, and concise contract includes:

  • Names, contact information
  • Exact assignment requirements with deliverables
  • Deadlines, including milestones
  • Payment terms
  • Owner of the completed work
  • Confidential information clause
  • Limitation of liability
  • Freelance copywriter terms and responsibilities
  • Indemnity clauses

Don’t begin the working relationship until both parties have signed the contract, and you’ve paid any deposits as required.

TIP: To help your writer onboard more quickly, share examples and documents of similar work so they can better understand your expectations.

TIP: Make sure the writer can access any servers or platforms necessary for their work. It will improve their productivity from the beginning.

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:

Expand your team with freelancers

The process of hiring freelance writers is similar to hiring an employee. You need to know what you want, explain it well in a help-wanted listing, narrow down the candidates, conduct an interview, and then engage your preferred choice.

However, you also need to respect the transactional nature of the relationship. While you can’t control how they do the work, you should spell out exactly what they are to deliver in the formats you prefer and on the schedule you set.

By following this process, you’re more likely to find valuable talent that can help your content marketing team deliver results for your brand.

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute




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Why We Are Always ‘Clicking to Buy’, According to Psychologists

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Why We Are Always 'Clicking to Buy', According to Psychologists

Amazon pillows.

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A deeper dive into data, personalization and Copilots

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A deeper dive into data, personalization and Copilots

Salesforce launched a collection of new, generative AI-related products at Connections in Chicago this week. They included new Einstein Copilots for marketers and merchants and Einstein Personalization.

To better understand, not only the potential impact of the new products, but the evolving Salesforce architecture, we sat down with Bobby Jania, CMO, Marketing Cloud.

Dig deeper: Salesforce piles on the Einstein Copilots

Salesforce’s evolving architecture

It’s hard to deny that Salesforce likes coming up with new names for platforms and products (what happened to Customer 360?) and this can sometimes make the observer wonder if something is brand new, or old but with a brand new name. In particular, what exactly is Einstein 1 and how is it related to Salesforce Data Cloud?

“Data Cloud is built on the Einstein 1 platform,” Jania explained. “The Einstein 1 platform is our entire Salesforce platform and that includes products like Sales Cloud, Service Cloud — that it includes the original idea of Salesforce not just being in the cloud, but being multi-tenancy.”

Data Cloud — not an acquisition, of course — was built natively on that platform. It was the first product built on Hyperforce, Salesforce’s new cloud infrastructure architecture. “Since Data Cloud was on what we now call the Einstein 1 platform from Day One, it has always natively connected to, and been able to read anything in Sales Cloud, Service Cloud [and so on]. On top of that, we can now bring in, not only structured but unstructured data.”

That’s a significant progression from the position, several years ago, when Salesforce had stitched together a platform around various acquisitions (ExactTarget, for example) that didn’t necessarily talk to each other.

“At times, what we would do is have a kind of behind-the-scenes flow where data from one product could be moved into another product,” said Jania, “but in many of those cases the data would then be in both, whereas now the data is in Data Cloud. Tableau will run natively off Data Cloud; Commerce Cloud, Service Cloud, Marketing Cloud — they’re all going to the same operational customer profile.” They’re not copying the data from Data Cloud, Jania confirmed.

Another thing to know is tit’s possible for Salesforce customers to import their own datasets into Data Cloud. “We wanted to create a federated data model,” said Jania. “If you’re using Snowflake, for example, we more or less virtually sit on your data lake. The value we add is that we will look at all your data and help you form these operational customer profiles.”

Let’s learn more about Einstein Copilot

“Copilot means that I have an assistant with me in the tool where I need to be working that contextually knows what I am trying to do and helps me at every step of the process,” Jania said.

For marketers, this might begin with a campaign brief developed with Copilot’s assistance, the identification of an audience based on the brief, and then the development of email or other content. “What’s really cool is the idea of Einstein Studio where our customers will create actions [for Copilot] that we hadn’t even thought about.”

Here’s a key insight (back to nomenclature). We reported on Copilot for markets, Copilot for merchants, Copilot for shoppers. It turns out, however, that there is just one Copilot, Einstein Copilot, and these are use cases. “There’s just one Copilot, we just add these for a little clarity; we’re going to talk about marketing use cases, about shoppers’ use cases. These are actions for the marketing use cases we built out of the box; you can build your own.”

It’s surely going to take a little time for marketers to learn to work easily with Copilot. “There’s always time for adoption,” Jania agreed. “What is directly connected with this is, this is my ninth Connections and this one has the most hands-on training that I’ve seen since 2014 — and a lot of that is getting people using Data Cloud, using these tools rather than just being given a demo.”

What’s new about Einstein Personalization

Salesforce Einstein has been around since 2016 and many of the use cases seem to have involved personalization in various forms. What’s new?

“Einstein Personalization is a real-time decision engine and it’s going to choose next-best-action, next-best-offer. What is new is that it’s a service now that runs natively on top of Data Cloud.” A lot of real-time decision engines need their own set of data that might actually be a subset of data. “Einstein Personalization is going to look holistically at a customer and recommend a next-best-action that could be natively surfaced in Service Cloud, Sales Cloud or Marketing Cloud.”

Finally, trust

One feature of the presentations at Connections was the reassurance that, although public LLMs like ChatGPT could be selected for application to customer data, none of that data would be retained by the LLMs. Is this just a matter of written agreements? No, not just that, said Jania.

“In the Einstein Trust Layer, all of the data, when it connects to an LLM, runs through our gateway. If there was a prompt that had personally identifiable information — a credit card number, an email address — at a mimum, all that is stripped out. The LLMs do not store the output; we store the output for auditing back in Salesforce. Any output that comes back through our gateway is logged in our system; it runs through a toxicity model; and only at the end do we put PII data back into the answer. There are real pieces beyond a handshake that this data is safe.”

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Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads (And How To Fix It)

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Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads (And How To Fix It)

Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To

You ask the head of marketing how the team is doing and get a giant thumbs up. 👍

“Our MQLs are up!”

“Website conversion rates are at an all-time high!”

“Email click rates have never been this good!”

But when you ask the head of sales the same question, you get the response that echoes across sales desks worldwide — the leads from marketing suck. 

If you’re in this boat, you’re not alone. The issue of “leads from marketing suck” is a common situation in most organizations. In a HubSpot survey, only 9.1% of salespeople said leads they received from marketing were of very high quality.

Why do sales teams hate marketing-generated leads? And how can marketers help their sales peers fall in love with their leads? 

Let’s dive into the answers to these questions. Then, I’ll give you my secret lead gen kung-fu to ensure your sales team loves their marketing leads. 

Marketers Must Take Ownership

“I’ve hit the lead goal. If sales can’t close them, it’s their problem.”

How many times have you heard one of your marketers say something like this? When your teams are heavily siloed, it’s not hard to see how they get to this mindset — after all, if your marketing metrics look strong, they’ve done their part, right?

Not necessarily. 

The job of a marketer is not to drive traffic or even leads. The job of the marketer is to create messaging and offers that lead to revenue. Marketing is not a 100-meter sprint — it’s a relay race. The marketing team runs the first leg and hands the baton to sales to sprint to the finish.

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via GIPHY

To make leads valuable beyond the vanity metric of watching your MQLs tick up, you need to segment and nurture them. Screen the leads to see if they meet the parameters of your ideal customer profile. If yes, nurture them to find out how close their intent is to a sale. Only then should you pass the leads to sales. 

Lead Quality Control is a Bitter Pill that Works

Tighter quality control might reduce your overall MQLs. Still, it will ensure only the relevant leads go to sales, which is a win for your team and your organization.

This shift will require a mindset shift for your marketing team: instead of living and dying by the sheer number of MQLs, you need to create a collaborative culture between sales and marketing. Reinforce that “strong” marketing metrics that result in poor leads going to sales aren’t really strong at all.  

When you foster this culture of collaboration and accountability, it will be easier for the marketing team to receive feedback from sales about lead quality without getting defensive. 

Remember, the sales team is only holding marketing accountable so the entire organization can achieve the right results. It’s not sales vs marketing — it’s sales and marketing working together to get a great result. Nothing more, nothing less. 

We’ve identified the problem and where we need to go. So, how you do you get there?

Fix #1: Focus On High ROI Marketing Activities First

What is more valuable to you:

  • One more blog post for a few more views? 
  • One great review that prospective buyers strongly relate to?

Hopefully, you’ll choose the latter. After all, talking to customers and getting a solid testimonial can help your sales team close leads today.  Current customers talking about their previous issues, the other solutions they tried, why they chose you, and the results you helped them achieve is marketing gold.

On the other hand, even the best blog content will take months to gain enough traction to impact your revenue.

Still, many marketers who say they want to prioritize customer reviews focus all their efforts on blog content and other “top of the funnel” (Awareness, Acquisition, and Activation) efforts. 

The bottom half of the growth marketing funnel (Retention, Reputation, and Revenue) often gets ignored, even though it’s where you’ll find some of the highest ROI activities.

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Most marketers know retaining a customer is easier than acquiring a new one. But knowing this and working with sales on retention and account expansion are two different things. 

When you start focusing on retention, upselling, and expansion, your entire organization will feel it, from sales to customer success. These happier customers will increase your average account value and drive awareness through strong word of mouth, giving you one heck of a win/win.

Winning the Retention, Reputation, and Referral game also helps feed your Awareness, Acquisition, and Activation activities:

  • Increasing customer retention means more dollars stay within your organization to help achieve revenue goals and fund lead gen initiatives.
  • A fully functioning referral system lowers your customer acquisition cost (CAC) because these leads are already warm coming in the door.
  • Case studies and reviews are powerful marketing assets for lead gen and nurture activities as they demonstrate how you’ve solved identical issues for other companies.

Remember that the bottom half of your marketing and sales funnel is just as important as the top half. After all, there’s no point pouring leads into a leaky funnel. Instead, you want to build a frictionless, powerful growth engine that brings in the right leads, nurtures them into customers, and then delights those customers to the point that they can’t help but rave about you.

So, build a strong foundation and start from the bottom up. You’ll find a better return on your investment. 

Fix #2: Join Sales Calls to Better Understand Your Target Audience

You can’t market well what you don’t know how to sell.

Your sales team speaks directly to customers, understands their pain points, and knows the language they use to talk about those pains. Your marketing team needs this information to craft the perfect marketing messaging your target audience will identify with.

When marketers join sales calls or speak to existing customers, they get firsthand introductions to these pain points. Often, marketers realize that customers’ pain points and reservations are very different from those they address in their messaging. 

Once you understand your ideal customers’ objections, anxieties, and pressing questions, you can create content and messaging to remove some of these reservations before the sales call. This effort removes a barrier for your sales team, resulting in more SQLs.

Fix #3: Create Collateral That Closes Deals

One-pagers, landing pages, PDFs, decks — sales collateral could be anything that helps increase the chance of closing a deal. Let me share an example from Lean Labs. 

Our webinar page has a CTA form that allows visitors to talk to our team. Instead of a simple “get in touch” form, we created a drop-down segmentation based on the user’s challenge and need. This step helps the reader feel seen, gives them hope that they’ll receive real value from the interaction, and provides unique content to users based on their selection.

1716755163 298 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To1716755163 298 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To

So, if they select I need help with crushing it on HubSpot, they’ll get a landing page with HubSpot-specific content (including a video) and a meeting scheduler. 

Speaking directly to your audience’s needs and pain points through these steps dramatically increases the chances of them booking a call. Why? Because instead of trusting that a generic “expert” will be able to help them with their highly specific problem, they can see through our content and our form design that Lean Labs can solve their most pressing pain point. 

Fix #4: Focus On Reviews and Create an Impact Loop

A lot of people think good marketing is expensive. You know what’s even more expensive? Bad marketing

To get the best ROI on your marketing efforts, you need to create a marketing machine that pays for itself. When you create this machine, you need to think about two loops: the growth loop and the impact loop.

1716755163 789 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To1716755163 789 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To
  • Growth loop — Awareness ➡ Acquisition ➡ Activation ➡ Revenue ➡ Awareness: This is where most marketers start. 
  • Impact loop — Results ➡ Reviews ➡ Retention ➡ Referrals ➡ Results: This is where great marketers start. 

Most marketers start with their growth loop and then hope that traction feeds into their impact loop. However, the reality is that starting with your impact loop is going to be far more likely to set your marketing engine up for success

Let me share a client story to show you what this looks like in real life.

Client Story: 4X Website Leads In A Single Quarter

We partnered with a health tech startup looking to grow their website leads. One way to grow website leads is to boost organic traffic, of course, but any organic play is going to take time. If you’re playing the SEO game alone, quadrupling conversions can take up to a year or longer.

But we did it in a single quarter. Here’s how.

We realized that the startup’s demos were converting lower than industry standards. A little more digging showed us why: our client was new enough to the market that the average person didn’t trust them enough yet to want to invest in checking out a demo. So, what did we do?

We prioritized the last part of the funnel: reputation.

We ran a 5-star reputation campaign to collect reviews. Once we had the reviews we needed, we showcased them at critical parts of the website and then made sure those same reviews were posted and shown on other third-party review platforms. 

Remember that reputation plays are vital, and they’re one of the plays startups often neglect at best and ignore at worst. What others say about your business is ten times more important than what you say about yourself

By providing customer validation at critical points in the buyer journey, we were able to 4X the website leads in a single quarter!

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So, when you talk to customers, always look for opportunities to drive review/referral conversations and use them in marketing collateral throughout the buyer journey. 

Fix #5: Launch Phantom Offers for Higher Quality Leads 

You may be reading this post thinking, okay, my lead magnets and offers might be way off the mark, but how will I get the budget to create a new one that might not even work?

It’s an age-old issue: marketing teams invest way too much time and resources into creating lead magnets that fail to generate quality leads

One way to improve your chances of success, remain nimble, and stay aligned with your audience without breaking the bank is to create phantom offers, i.e., gauge the audience interest in your lead magnet before you create them.

For example, if you want to create a “World Security Report” for Chief Security Officers, don’t do all the research and complete the report as Step One. Instead, tease the offer to your audience before you spend time making it. Put an offer on your site asking visitors to join the waitlist for this report. Then wait and see how that phantom offer converts. 

This is precisely what we did for a report by Allied Universal that ended up generating 80 conversions before its release.

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The best thing about a phantom offer is that it’s a win/win scenario: 

  • Best case: You get conversions even before you create your lead magnet.
  • Worst case: You save resources by not creating a lead magnet no one wants.  

Remember, You’re On The Same Team 

We’ve talked a lot about the reasons your marketing leads might suck. However, remember that it’s not all on marketers, either. At the end of the day, marketing and sales professionals are on the same team. They are not in competition with each other. They are allies working together toward a common goal. 

Smaller companies — or anyone under $10M in net new revenue — shouldn’t even separate sales and marketing into different departments. These teams need to be so in sync with one another that your best bet is to align them into a single growth team, one cohesive front with a single goal: profitable customer acquisition.

Interested in learning more about the growth marketing mindset? Check out the Lean Labs Growth Playbook that’s helped 25+ B2B SaaS marketing teams plan, budget, and accelerate growth.


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