“We wrote our first blog post before we wrote our first line of code.”
- Jon Miller, founder, Marketo

Blogging is important for every business. So we don’t just offer ghostwriting services for others. We blog for ourselves. Why? To discuss big issues such as content strategy, commissioning and ROI, as well as tactics for effective copy creation or editing, not to mention news about Collective Content.

Remember, over a third of marketers say blogs are the most valuable content type. Let us know what you’d like to read about here.

Tag: editing

How this editor weighs up freelance enquiries

Photo by amtec_photos on Photopin

What happens when we get approached by a freelance writer?

First, the set-up: I usually get an email direct to me (because we post my address on our website and say we’re open to enquiries), and that usually contains a brief note and CV/resumé. Within that, I usually see career history, links to work samples, and social media accounts.

So here’s what I do:

  1. If the freelancer’s Twitter handle is offered, I usually cut and paste that into Tweetdeck. The picture is telling (selection, more than quality, says a lot about the type of person). But more important, I see what they’ve been tweeting about and who they follow. Some people are professional all the way – only interested in topics that they cover as a writer; other people are up for jokes, politics, you name it. I don’t mind the latter – I’d be a hypocrite to not be OK with people who are broad in how they use a social channel – and it gives me an insight into who someone really is.
  2. I usually then look at career history. This can be both within the CV/resumé or on LinkedIn. I like the latter as it’s usually easier to click through to pages of past employers. I’m looking for publications or brands that I know, and links to other people this freelancer might have worked with. It also gives me a good idea of subject matter expertise. And I like to know how long someone has been freelancing, as well as any other roles they have outside of content or do in parallel to their main gig(s).
  3. Also, don’t think we’re not interested in things like their listed softer skills, languages, qualifications or awards. All could be useful when we work out who’s best for certain projects.
  4. Lastly, I look at examples of work. Why isn’t that a priority, if that’s what we’re going to ask someone to do? As we’ve blogged about before, work samples and portfolios are useful for showing output and areas of expertise, but they’re no guarantee of someone’s ability. Content is a team sport, and any good writer has benefitted from a good editor, a good sub/copy editor, probably a good designer and so on. I’ve been known to contact these people (if I can work out who they are) to ask their opinion on someone we’re interviewing.

I’m not the first to write about this, but possibly the hardest thing to know about hiring someone is just what they’re like as a person. Values, approaches to work and complementing (though not being the same as) the existing team are at least as important as the things that recruiters and HR departments typically screen for.

For a freelancer, the risk is slightly less. But I can’t think of a project or piece of content where we have any leeway for someone to be a bad fit. Everything is important.

And you never know for sure what someone is like until that first day, and until v1.0 of that first assignment.

Follow us on Twitter – @ColContent

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Quality work – why I constantly assess our agency model

On my mind: How to describe team members at our content marketing agency. That’s partly because we’re preparing a new website – nothing radical, just something every company does. But it’s also because of an article from a partner at a VC firm.

The founding general partner at Eniac Ventures talks about team slides in decks that companies use when they’re seeking seed-stage investment. Several things caught my eye, as they relate to Collective Content (although we’re not looking for investors). Number five on his list is “If you have shared history, make that very clear” – so we’ll be doing that, for example.

Our core team averages about 20 years working with B2B content, as writers and editors. That’s across a mixture of agencies, such as PR and content marketing, and working for B2B companies. But mostly we’ve all worked in journalism (another way we’re different from other agencies). Even our wider roster of part-time specialist writers and designers tends towards the higher end of experience.

This is in contrast to agencies where a team of junior writers often means lower prices, along with a we-can-turn-our-hands-to-any-content approach.

 

Process affects

How does all this affect the way we work with clients? There’s one obvious way and it goes like this: Collective Content works to a four-step process for much content – a white paper or e-book, say. Other agencies, often where content is produced by a faceless ‘pool’ of writers (have you heard about our ‘farm fresh’ content theory?) will feed content back into a cycle of edits and other amends numerous times.

This happens because each stage isn’t as well planned, and because their model is based on cheaper, less experienced writers who iterate again and again. I don’t want to mention Shakespeare’s monkeys. But I just did.

 

The difference

The results – to be honest – can be the same. In one model (ours), a group of experienced writers and editors takes fewer stages to get the right outcome. In the latter model, where a larger group takes several more rounds of work but at a lower per-employee cost, the overall price tag to a client is similar.

Clients don’t necessarily have a preference. They just want a good result.

But I prefer doing things thoroughly at each stage, with the highest-quality people and fewer stages, to keep everyone’s blood pressure at a healthier level.

There is always a trade-off across speed, quality and price. Focusing on quality doesn’t necessarily make you slower – but it can maintain project sanity.

 

Follow us on Twitter – @ColContent

 

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6 tips for writers pitching editors and agencies

Cash for words. That’s the brutal equation of much professional writing. But if you’re a freelancer or moonlighting (hey, it happens) pro writer, how do you start a relationship with someone new who will pay you?

As an agency, Collective Content relies not just on our in-house team of writers and editors but on experts who work with us on specific client accounts, projects or even just one-off articles. So every week we see a lot of good and bad approaches.

The following is advice for those who are just starting to talk to people like us (‘pitching’ maybe isn’t the best word). But this also applies to writers seeking work from publications and the editors who make those decisions. (We were once those kinds of editors, so know the similarities.)

  1. Be super responsive – So many conversations just dry up at some point for no obvious reason. Remember the “80 per cent of success is just showing up” line? (Actually, it was originally “80 per cent of life…” – good writers also check their facts 🙂.) Sure, sometimes this is a busy editor’s fault. Take the initiative if you think the interaction is dying.
  2. Be authentic – Be yourself. If you’re working through an agency – or even agencies – but meeting clients or on calls with them, don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. Check with your agency on how you’ll introduce yourself. “I’m your writer on this project. I regularly work with Collective Content.” That’ll work. Remember, it’s easy for anyone to Google you and find out about you. And we’re big believers in being open about everyone involved (what we’ve termed ‘farm-fresh content’).
  3. Show, don’t tell (mostly) – When you’re trying to persuade an editor that you’re right for an assignment, examples of work are better than qualifications or employment history or nice endorsements on LinkedIn. But there’s a big ‘but’ with that. All good editors know that content is a team sport. A great article in your portfolio might have been down to three, four – even more – people being involved. Share the process, and your role within it. Be generous about others who helped. Show you know that this is How It Works.
  4. Be available – We work with people across multiple time zones. Be generous about making meeting times with clients. Most, in our experience, will be flexible if at all possible. But the occasional late or early call will earn credibility. Most companies are now also used to working with people all around the world. Compromise on both sides is key.
  5. Don’t be “free in three months” – We know a few really amazing writers who have done what they do for a quarter of a century. They are ex-media or from the highest rung of an agency’s creative team. They get to take four holidays a year and set their own terms. Most of us aren’t in this group. When we hear someone say, “I’d like to work with you too, but I’m next free in three months”, we hear you passing on the gig. We’re not saying over-commit and end up unable to fulfil. But sometimes fitting in an important job will cement your reputation, much like making that 5:30AM conference call.
  6. Know and tout your niche – Most agencies and publications have very specific beats or industry sectors that they cover. Know what you do well. Position yourself as an expert. Counterintuitively, the more niche, the better – as long as it’s in an area with demand. Be the go-to contributor for subject X. You will be remembered and called upon more than the generalists.

Perhaps more than anything, relationships are everything. You are your network. And doing this well takes time. Good luck out there.

Follow us on Twitter – @ColContent

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Contact us

Contact us to find out how we can help you:

Email:  tony.hallett@collectivecontent.co.uk

Twitter:  @ColContent

Facebook: facebook.com/CollectiveContent

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/collective-content

Phone:  0800 292 2826