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Friday, May 17, 2024
CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - CEO Agenda - Freelancer, Agency, AI, or In-House: Which Do You Need?

CEO Agenda

Freelancer, Agency, AI, or In-House: Which Do You Need?

Kelsey Raymond

We’ve seen an increase in the number of companies that are deciding to rely on freelancers or artificial intelligence (ChatGPT) for their content marketing. But this can have a detrimental impact on content marketing results if not executed properly and in tandem with a more robust content strategy that’s overseen by experienced professionals. Here, we break down different scenarios and the solution/skill set readers would need to accomplish their goals in each situation.

Companies have no shortage of options when it comes to figuring out how to achieve their content marketing goals. However, it can be hard to know which approach will produce the best results. Should they hire a sizable in-house team of marketing employees? Outsource everything to an agency or a bunch of freelancers? Or maybe leverage AI?

As you might suspect, the answer isn’t straightforward. Your company’s path to content marketing success will be as unique as your company itself. Still, you should always know the pros and cons of the options that are available so you can effectively build out your marketing framework as you grow.

The Ups and Downs of AI

More companies than ever are integrating AI software into their content marketing tool kits. More than four out of 10 marketers say they’ve leaned into AI in their content development, according to Influencer Marketing Hub. It’s easy to see why, with some AI apps such as ChatGPT available for free. A product like ChatGPT is a fabulous way to streamline tedious, repetitive tasks. It can also be a good jumping-off point for content brainstorming.

The problem with AI, though, is that it can’t replace the human touch. AI doesn’t have human perception, judgment, or insight. Yes, it regurgitates brilliantly. It just doesn’t think critically — and may even perpetuate stereotypes, biases, and informational inaccuracies. Consequently, putting all your content development eggs in an AI basket is a risky maneuver.

The moral of this story is that while it might be tempting or seem inexpensive to fully turn your content marketing over to AI, you shouldn’t do it. AI in content marketing just isn’t capable of giving you the comprehensive expertise you need to expand your reach, scale your business, and build your thought leadership.

What Freelancers Can, Can’t, and Shouldn’t Do

Another option companies consider is freelancers. Hiring one or more freelancers can be a good strategy to streamline your content development and stay ahead of an aggressive editorial calendar. Plus, you might be able to find freelancers with deep industry knowledge in your niche. That’s a huge advantage, especially if you expect them to write technical copy.

But to maintain your cadre of freelancers, you need to designate a person in-house to both manage your overall marketing and your freelance team. Freelancers rarely have any access to company budgets, insider intel on client needs, and other information only someone on the inside of the organization would know. Having an internal point person makes sure that all information is communicated to your freelancers through one individual. It also puts all the ownership on a single employee to find freelancers to do what you need, whether that’s writing copy, optimizing your current and future content for search, graphic design, or reaching out to media contacts. Unfortunately, many companies believe they can hire a freelancer to do everything they need. But that’s a unicorn freelancer — and we all know unicorns are hard to find.

When discussing freelancers, it’s important to bring up cost. Many people assume that hiring freelancers will be cheaper than hiring an agency or bringing all marketing in-house. Maybe sometimes, but not always. Freelancers with high-level skill sets will charge competitive rates. For example, a quick precursor of freelancers on Upwork showed that copy editors’ fees ranged from $40 per hour for a beginner to $150 per hour for more experienced freelancers. Those who promised CRM management went up to $200 an hour. With rates like these, you might end up paying more for multiple freelancers than you assume.

Content Marketing Agency and In-House Marketing Department Realities

Yet another consideration is building an in-house team or outsourcing. Should you outsource your marketing entirely to a content marketing agency? Or bring it all home by developing an in-house marketing team structure? Either choice could be a good solution based on your individual needs. What’s more, neither one would preclude you from using content marketing AI systems or freelancers to supplement.

Even so, remember that if you’re working with a content marketing agency, you’ll need to make sure one of your internal employees is a point of contact. That way, you keep everything streamlined. If you opt for a full-scale marketing department in-house, you’ll need to make sure you have the budget set aside, as paying for a team of salaried employees and the latest technologies can be costlier than outsourcing to an agency.

Choosing a Content Marketing Solution for Your Current Situation

Still feeling a bit perplexed? Consider the following scenarios. Each one delves into content marketing solutions that could work in a couple common situations.

Scenario 1: You’re an early-stage startup.

Early-stage startups are innovation powerhouses with no shortage of cutting-edge ideas. They’re the ideal places for the development of intriguing content. Here’s the trouble, though: They usually have fairly tight budgets that prevent them from taking on comprehensive content marketing strategies right off the bat. In this circumstance, one of two content marketing choices could make sense.

The first would be to hire a full-time marketing person to manage a relationship with an agency. The agency could take on everything from strategy and content creation to publishing and more. The full-time startup team member could serve as an internal connection and champion who oversees the strategy and the relationship between the agency and the startup, keeping everyone aligned. Together, the two parties would be able to execute a content marketing strategy quickly — speed is integral to startup life! — to build buzz, credibility, and authority.

The second option would be to employ a full-time marketing team member who has media relationships. This marketing team member would be given a budget to outsource all writing and editing to freelancers. This would allow that team member to focus their energy on the strategy, planning, and publishing while freelancers executed on writing and editing tasks. AI might prove useful in this case to help brainstorm keywords, topics, headlines, and first drafts of social posts.

Scenario 2: You’re a growth-stage company.

Organizations in the growth stage need more content than startups do. They might also have existing content that requires some overhaul to remain relevant. Companies at this stage often have more budget bandwidth and corporate support to invest more into their content marketing efforts.

For this type of organization, it could behoove the company to assemble a marketing team of three to five talented employees who could be supported by a strong agency partner. The agency could execute on the content marketing strategy and expand it to include a higher volume of social and guest posts, as well as pieces of gated content and the associated landing pages. The internal players could give the agency access to insights and subject matter experts to keep the flow going and ensure the company’s marketing is moving in an omni-channel direction. If you had three full-time marketing employees at your company, you could specialize them in earned, owned, and paid media and have each of them be the main point of contact for any vendors or freelancers that you work with for your marketing in those channels.

Another option for a growth-stage business like this is to hire a large team of marketers and forgo any outside help. Again, this is a pricey endeavor and not one to take lightly. From time to time, the marketing team could tap into a pool of freelancers for support. Similarly, the team could tap into AI to write rough drafts of social posts and blog posts, though relying on AI to write articles can be risky and needs to be overseen carefully by human editors.

Although the two aforementioned scenarios might not fit your situation exactly, they should give you some direction for your content marketing planning. The good news is that you have a lot of possibilities and opportunities before you. The trick is to figure out which ones will give you the biggest return on your investment.


Written by Kelsey Raymond.

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CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - CEO Agenda - Freelancer, Agency, AI, or In-House: Which Do You Need?
Kelsey Raymond
Kelsey Raymond is the COO of Intero Digital, a 350-person digital marketing agency that offers comprehensive, results-driven marketing solutions to help companies achieve their growth goals.


Kelsey Raymond is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Connect with her through LinkedIn.