It’s not really a fair question, is it?
Should you buy cheap content? After all, for many mom and pop shops, cheap content outsourced from India or Malaysia is the only affordable content. And I know what you are thinking: I’m going to tell you no, because I’m a freelancer, and you should buy from me!
Of course, I’d love your business (/end plug), but that’s not quite the story either.
Let me give you the lay of a land. I’m a freelance writer who has worked for content writing agencies in Europe and Asia – and yes, I’ve created some of that cheap content. So I’m going to give you some insight into how these agencies interact with their freelance writers – and some tips on how to polish the content you buy from these dealers.
Who’s the client again?
No joke, there are times when writing for these agencies in Asia I have had to ask who the client is. Those four blog posts you just bought for $50? There’s a good chance the writer didn’t check with their supervisor to ask who to name drop in the article. This means it’s possible your articles will be missing the very important CTA – the call to action.
Want someone to sign up to your email list?
Visit your store?
Like your Facebook page?
That may be something you will have to tack onto the end in your own words.
Now there have been times I’ve known who the client is. But here’s what I’ve had to go on:
- Word count (500-800 words)
- Article title
- 2-3 points (optional)
- Client (optional)
- Instructions: Link to stats when possible. (optional)
Oh, and it’s due tomorrow.
So what, you may be asking yourself. That’s enough, isn’t there?
Not for a quality piece. Content creation doesn’t just fill up space on a web page. Content is created with specific goals in mind, like converting leads and establishing credibility. When a writer gets these kinds of instructions, it can lead to very unfocused articles, that will offer no SEO juice, little style, or revisions.
Oh, and do the writers know when the work is published? Can they use it in their portfolio?
But they edit cheap content, right?
Yes, once writers submit their drafts, an editor glances over them. I didn’t think this was an issue – until I received feedback from one of the “editors”, who didn’t know the difference between basic grammar terms. Even if English is the current lingua franca, we often forget that there are different variants of English. And many speakers are on different levels.
I’ve met folks who speak English far better than I can. But this hasn’t been the case in the developing world agencies where you are outsourcing your content. In fact, I have been more terrified of the editing process than the writing one.
Okay, but aren’t they getting paid well?
Sure, it’s less than what any professional in the US or Europe would accept. But isn’t that a ton of money in the developing world?
It’s true my friends, $50 will get you farther in India or the Philippines than in the US. But that’s not quite how the economics work out. And I’ll give you an example.
After writing for an agency for one month – an amount that should about to $800 on the professional level – I made enough to cover just over 1 week of groceries for three people in India. This is after taxes, by the way. Living in the southern USA, I would have been able to buy my monthly groceries with the professional level.
In the developing world, content creation is still developing as an industry. It’s considered less valuable than other markets, and that’s not counting all the bureaucracy and administration that takes money off the top.
The freelancer working for a cheap content mill in Asia isn’t actually making much of anything. And do you know what this means?
They write faster. They don’t check for grammar or spelling errors. They don’t care about your audience, or offering high-quality pieces. They have to write more in order to get paid enough to survive.
But I can’t afford a professional freelance writer!
And that’s okay. If you believe you really need content to grow your business, there are many different options that can still fit your budget (and get you better results). For example, you can try hiring:
- A high school student with an interest in your industry
- A college student looking for some extra cash (wanting to intern)
- A family member who has some time to help out (still pay them though!)
- Delegate it to company employee (but pay them for it!)
- Create a contest on social media which requires users to submit content
- Network for guest blogs
- Change your direction – don’t create content, just curate it instead
And if all else fails? Consider taking time aside to edit it yourself. Or hire anyone I listed above as an editor.
Okay, but are all agencies bad?
Not at all! I have worked with wonderful agencies in Europe and Western Asia. Many agencies do an all-star job. But like any other industry, there are unethical companies that don’t care about you or your business – they just want your money.
It’s best to be careful and vet an agency’s work before signing on. A flashy graphic on Twitter isn’t enough. Ask for a sample of their work. Buy one month as a trial. And if you find the content is sub-par, you know where to look.