Why Underpaying Writers Can Kill Your Content Marketing

By Debra Donston-Miller September 2nd, 2014

As brands rush to publish blog posts, videos, white papers, news articles, feature stories, and other types of content to build relationships with consumers, they’re often outsourcing the actual creation of content. What they are finding is that they can choose to pay either a lot or a little for content, but going the latter route often costs far more in the end.

If “content is king,” it also has to be regal for anyone to pay attention.

“For my company and for me personally, quality content is everything,” said Samantha Pena, a content strategist for Hudson Horizons, which specializes in web design, development, and digital marketing. “It doesn’t make financial or mental sense to pay someone for a piece of content, whether that is a simple 400-word article or content for a website, if you have to go back and heavily edit the content.”

A cheap but badly written piece of content costs organizations in many ways: Correcting errors in punctuation, grammar, and capitalization is one thing, but it’s quite another to have to make wholesales changes to content that is badly structured or misaligned with the intended audience. And if that poor content isn’t caught by an editor before it’s published online or in print, the cost can be your brand’s reputation.

All of this is not to say that you have to pay an arm and a leg for content, but it’s important to budget to pay the going rate ($0.50–$2 a word) for high-quality content. It’s also important to figure in your internal resources. Do you have people on staff with the time and editorial experience to work with young, less experienced writers? Maybe you can afford to pay a little less and coach a talented recent grad. Do you need content to come in with all the proverbial t’s crossed and i’s dotted? It may be worth it to pay more.

In any case, when looking for writers, look for people who can be “high-profit deliverers” rather than “low-profit providers.”

As a freelance writer, Lisa Merriam definitely has a horse in the race, but she offers some important reasons why using inexperienced and poor writers can torpedo a content marketing campaign.

“A cheap writer won’t really know your industry, probably can’t express your brand voice, and probably won’t master the basics of good writing,” said Merriam. “That’s bad enough, but in today’s digital world, SEO is possibly the most important aspect of writing. I am shocked by the number of writers I encounter who don’t know how to do keyword research, how to format writing for SEO, how to write metadata, and how to use keywords in content—where to use them, how many to use, how often to use them, etc. Writing, even great writing, achieves nothing if no one reads it.”

After all, content marketing is all about getting people to read what’s been written. And good content marketing gets your organization’s message across without hitting people over the head with it. It’s a fine line—one that takes a good writer to balance.

As Mark Twain once said, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”

Image by Tom Simpson
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