Outsourcing services: Best practices for outsourcing content development
How to get exactly what you want from an outsourced writing, editing, and design partner.
Outsourcing content development services like writing, editing, and design should make your work life a breeze.
A good content partner can improve the quality of your communications and take away some of the most stressful and time consuming parts of your job.
Outsourcing creative services can actually help you lower costs, too, since you can scale professional services to match your needs. When you outsource, you can stay on track during busy seasons or access specialized talent for a one-time project.
Not convinced? Been burned in the past? Don’t give up. Instead, let’s review the steps to build a great content development relationship. With the right people and processes, outsourcing can bring you some relief.
Outsourcing editing services helps you create accurate, clear, and enjoyable content.
Prepare to outsource creative services
Preparation pays off. Before you hand off a project, make sure everyone has the same understanding of the assignment, its goal, and any constraints, like the timeline or budget.
Make sure you can answer these questions about your content or creative project:
- What do you need? Can you briefly summarize your project and its requirements? Basically, what is it, and what is it supposed to achieve?
- Why do you need it? Why is this project important? Why is it important right now? How does it align with other projects or goals?
- Who are you creating it for? Who is the target audience persona-wise or demographically? Who has to approve the content or design before it’s released into the world?
- How? How will the audience consume your content? How will it be promoted or shared? And how will you measure the project’s success?
- When? When can the outsourced partner start? When do you need content or materials back?
- What’s getting in the way? What are the roadblocks you’re experiencing right now? What’s stopping you from getting this project done yourself or with internal resources?
If you can’t answer these questions, take a moment to organize your thoughts before you engage an external partner. An outsourced creative service partner will need all of this information to get started.
Expect an outsourcing service to ask for:
- A designated contact person. Having a single point of contact simplifies the process, especially if you have multiple internal reviewers. This reduces confusion, speeds up review cycles, and ultimately lowers the cost of outsourcing.
- Contact information for subject matter experts, if you need a writer to coordinate interviews. Include the contact’s name, title, and time zone, plus any scheduling tips.
- Editorial style guides, brand guidelines, acronym lists, and product literature (if you have them). Copywriters, editors, and designers will study your style before they start. If these materials aren’t accessible or current, send recent example content that you liked or that performed really well.
Depending on the project, a writer can work from an outline or just an idea. If you’re outsourcing layout or artistic services, make sure you have clean, approved copy for the designer to work with.
Onboard your outsourced creative service provider
If you want an outsourced provider to write, edit, or design like a member of your team, you have to treat them like one. Whenever possible, equip your outsourcing service provider with:
- A good introduction. Introduce your outsourcing service to internal stakeholders or subject matter experts. This is particularly helpful if a writer needs to request an interview or time on their schedules.
- The right connections. Make sure your outsourcing service has access to the right documents, project management sites, or IT systems to work efficiently. Contract writers, editors, and designers can make your life easier by uploading documents or comments directly to the workflow systems you use every day.
- Insight into your processes. Let your outsourcing service know what the review process will be like. Understanding your internal processes helps the creative team build a realistic schedule for your project.
- The inside scoop. Are there project quirks only a staff member would know? Or a weakness you’re trying to downplay? Share. It’s not gossipy. And you should be able to trust your outsourcing service with total confidence.
Not sure where to start?
Dragonfly has handled complex writing, editing, and design projects for years. We have the right processes and people to guide you from A to Z (and keep your sanity intact).
Create a workflow for outsourcing content services
Ready to outsource? Then it’s time to jump into workflow.
- Heads up. Let your outsourcing service know a project is coming as soon as possible. The intake manager at your outsourcing service will start to choose the right staff and prepare pertinent questions, so the project gets a solid kickoff when you’re ready to go.
- Kickoff. Whether it’s your first or your 40th, every project starts with a conversation. As you become more comfortable with your outsourcing partner, kickoffs get simpler and faster. You won’t have to provide company background and style guides every time, but your outsourcing service will always need key project details. These can be given during a call or by email, depending on the complexity of the project.
- Summary. End the kickoff by recapping the expectations, so everyone is on the same page. Decide on big details—like the deliverable and deadline —and on finer process details:
- Should work be delivered by email, file transfer, or another method?
- Who should receive drafts?
- How will revisions be provided to outsourced partners? Who will send them?
- For editing projects, should changes be made directly in the document or tracked? Should the editor use comment boxes or another format?
- Handoff. Once the writing, editing, and design teams understand the project and processes, make sure they have everything they need to do the job. Send any notes, outlines, contact information, logos, or photos you promised to during the kickoff. For design projects, provide clean and approved copy for the layout artists to work from.
- Hands off. Once you turn your project over to a professional, keep your hands off the keyboard. Don’t send small changes or updated sections to the creative team. Trust the process and your partner. Your writer, editor, or designer will return your communications project on time, and you’ll prevent version control snafus.
- Responsiveness. One caveat: Be responsive to your outsourcing partner if they have key questions or get stuck. Help them coordinate with subject matter experts if they hit a wall, and provide timely feedback at critical junctures.
- Honesty. Give clear and candid feedback to the outsourcing team so they can learn, improve, and meet your needs. And, remember, you retain final authority over the project. A good outsourcing service will ask hard questions and make suggestions, but they won’t impose their preferences on your final product. Consider their feedback, but don’t change your standards to make someone else happy.
Recap. How did it go? Let your outsourcing service know what worked well and where the team could improve. It’s important to recap both the process and the final product. Outsourcing should make your life easier; sometimes, small process tweaks can make a big difference.
“Your team has been spectacular to work with thus far. Everyone has been very responsive, courteous, and flexible, and we really do appreciate that. Keep up the excellent work!”
— The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Is managing vendors a pain? Simplify outsourcing with a single content services provider
Freelance writers, editors, and designers are fairly easy to find, but can be a headache to manage.
When you supervise a freelance roster, you have to keep track of everyone’s availability, rates, and strengths. Lining up the right team for a project could take hours. And if one person backs out, it could jeopardize the entire project. Afterward, you have to manage multiple invoices, payment systems, and payment schedules.
There’s a simpler way. A content services agency is a one-stop shop for all of your writing, editing, and design needs.
Compared to freelancers, a professional outsourcing service offers several advantages:
- An agency will match your project with content professionals who fit your exact industry, audience, project, and timeline. You only have to make one phone call to find the perfect fit, even when your content needs are specialized or unique.
- Content development agencies can support your project with writing, copy editing, fact-checking, and design services from start to finish. It’s more efficient to work with one partner. Fewer details fall through the cracks.
- A firm can accept one-off assignments if that’s what you need, but they can also support your bigger-picture content strategy. An outsourcing service can suggest more uses for the content you create and new ways to promote your materials.
- A firm can provide structure and processes to help big projects run smoothly. An agency will understand downstream activities like printing, mailing, and publishing and will ensure your project meets the requirements for its final destination.
- Agencies have more quality control processes than freelancers do. Anyone who’s assigned to your work has been vetted, and their work will be reviewed before it comes back to you.
- Content companies invest in employee development and training. Agency writers, editors, and designers will be current on best practices, platform guidelines, and industry trends.
- If your content needs grow or change over time, an agency can scale with you. With an agency’s support, you can maintain productivity when someone has the day off or your workload suddenly explodes.
Freelancer or firm? Either way, outsourcing creative services should make your life easier. Pick a partner who understands your project and is enjoyable to work with.
How can we help?
We’re excited to write, edit, and design for you.