Scaling an outsourced editorial team whilst maintaining quality is one of the biggest operational challenges of any PR agency. It’s often tempting to turn to freelancing platforms.
The problem, as I’m sure many of you are aware, is that these platforms aren’t very helpful if you’re looking for quality talent as there’s often no (or very little) barrier to entry, so these marketplaces are flooded with low-quality “writers.” I have wasted so many hours sifting through pages of under-qualified candidates, an experience you probably are familiar with since everyone in PR is facing a unique hiring crisis at the moment.
You might find yourself getting fed up with the writers you find, but it’s not the writers’ fault. These platforms incentivise a race to the bottom on price, so writers learn to compete on price and time rather than on quality. If you’re looking for real talent, you’ll need to look elsewhere.
Change up your hunting grounds
When we built and scaled our editorial team, we knew that platforms would be a waste of time and effort. Instead we aggressively headhunted within communities that signify quality.
This included writers’ guilds in locations across the world, professional writers’ associations and the alumni offices of university writing programmes. We even joined a number of subReddits where passionate writers hang out and then posted jobs there. By taking this slightly unorthodox approach to headhunting we were able to find some incredible writers who take real pride in their craft.
Pay by the hour
Also, think carefully about your pay structure for outsourced writers. Plenty of agencies will pay by the piece or word. While this guarantees costs, it rarely guarantees quality, as it encourages speed rather than diligence.
We pay our writers by the hour. This generally works out a bit more expensive, but it allows writers to spend the time they need to thoroughly research and write each piece. And, in our experience, it can result in vastly superior quality. Simple time-keeping browser extensions such as Clockify or Harvest will help you and your writers to easily clock the hours worked for each assignment. What’s more, the data produced from this provides some really interesting insights on resource costs per client and per editorial type.
Keep them keen
There’s nothing worse than finding your dream candidate, sending them an offer, and then watching them walk away a month later because they didn’t love the team or the agency’s culture. Workers today are extra choosy about what kind of work environment they’ll tolerate. They have plenty of other options. But losing that writer means hours of wasted work while you struggle to refill that position.
It’s in your best interest to ensure your team is happy, thriving, and fulfilled. This comes down to a couple of factors. First, set up a good and intuitive working cadence. Make sure you’re using a good workflow management platform, so your editorial team is always clear on the work they have to do and how they should prioritise it.
Keep a close eye on your team - are they bored? Are they burnt out? Offer different kinds of work in consistent amounts so writers can enjoy a good mix of stability and variety. Let your team work on a rotating slate of projects - bylines, pitches, blog posts, landing pages, and press releases - so they can continue to develop professionally.
And try to build a sense of community by giving your writers chances to meet with each other, trade best practices, and let off steam. Freelancing is a lonely business, and the more connected they feel to you and your writing team, the more loyalty they’ll develop for your agency.
We’ve all struggled to find and keep talent. But it doesn’t have to be a continuously revolving door. By headhunting from the right places - which are often untapped communities that your competitors haven't thought about - you can ensure you’re only approaching the right type of talent.
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