So you’ve been producing content for your business for a while now. Things have gone well, and you’re getting a good bit of traction. You have new leads daily and your view and read counts are exactly where you want them.
Naturally, the next question becomes: how can I take things to the next level?
It might be time to start scaling your content strategy with a team.
Is It Time to Team-Scale Your Content?
While there are a number of different ways to begin scaling your content strategy, forming a content team is one of the quickest methods.
Fortunately, there are a few questions you can ask to see if it’s a path worth taking:
- Does my content production process feel like it’s well within my comfort zone?
- Am I feeling stretched with my current content production load?
- Has my content proven to be a significant source of leads or income for my business?
Answering yes to any of the questions above means it’s probably time to start considering adding to your content team. Why?
If it feels like you’ve mastered your production load, then you’re likely in your comfort zone. Unfortunately, staying in your comfort zone can lead to missed opportunities. It’s best to scale your content now before the comfortably automatic becomes mundane drudgery.
If you’re feeling stretched, you definitely need to begin building your content team. Consistency is key to any successful content-based venture. If you’re feeling overloaded, bringing on team members can help you sustain content quality while scaling up production.
And if your content has already proven itself, it’s a natural choice to hire content team members. If your baseline stats are solid, continuing to expand will only produce greater benefits as time goes on.
Convinced team-scaling is the way to go? Let’s dive into how to do it.
Step One: How Many People Does Your Content Team Need?
If you’re scaling your content, the first question that should be on your mind is: how many people do I need to scale?
The answer: it depends on a lot of factors.
First, consider your current load. If you’re a production “team” of one, you’ll know exactly how many hours are going into your content at the moment. If you’re a duo or trio, get together and discuss roughly how many hours you all spend on content per week. This will help you get a realistic picture of your content situation right now.
If content production is running at a comfortable level for everyone, anyone new to the team will be added to scale. But if you’re already overwhelmed at your current volume, you’ll need to hire to cover the overwhelm, then extra for scaling.
The second factor is how much you want to scale. Small jumps in your volume, such as going from producing two articles every month to four articles every month, can probably be handled by one or two new team members. Rapid scaling, however, will need more hands on deck to execute. And the shorter your production timeline, the more people you’ll need to stay up to speed.
The final consideration is likely the hardest cap on your scaling plans: the financial aspect. Examine your business’s current financial situation. Ask: is team-scaling realistic?
If it is, fantastic—you can proceed with your plans at full speed.
If not, you may need to reassess the scope of your scaling plans. Fortunately, reassessing does not mean you have to toss the entire plan out the window. Scaling is not an all-or-nothing affair.
Consider a gradual scaling schedule: increase your content production rate more slowly at the start, then up production to a more rapid pace once more resources become available. Don’t forget to re-examine current processes to look for opportunities to refine.
Once you have a solid idea of your content-scaling plan going forward, you can move to the next decision step.
Step Two: In-House or Outsourced?
The next step is figuring out whether your content team needs to be in-house employees or outsourced to an agency, independent contractors and/or freelancers. This call isn’t quite as clear-cut as determining how many people your team needs, so consider the following pros and cons.
- Culture cohesiveness: Employees often go through a much more rigorous interview process than freelancers. This rigor means you’ll be more likely to hire someone who works well with your company’s culture.
- Structural flexibility: Once you hire employees for your content team, their roles aren’t necessarily completely rigid. As time goes on, you can adapt roles to work to an employee’s strengths.
- Streamlined processes: You won’t be rewriting your operations manual from scratch each time you hire on a new employee to your content team, making each new hire easier than the last.
- More expensive than outsourcing: Full and even part-time employees come with considerations such as benefits and payroll taxes. This often means it’s a greater expense for the business. On top of this, content teams may require extra software applications to keep everything running smoothly, which the business will have to foot the bill for.
- Talent pool may be limited: In a company hiring only local employees, the potential hiring pool is limited to the local area. Remote work can be a great solution, but it may not be feasible for everyone.
- May limit creativity: While cultural cohesiveness is a great thing, team members may come to think alike over time, simply because they’ve worked together so much. This could lead to content staleness in the long term.
If you’re just getting started with content-scaling, outsourcing can be a great way to test the waters. Generally, outsourcing comes in two types: agency outsourcing and independent-contractor or freelancer outsourcing.
In agency outsourcing, a content marketing agency takes over your entire production process. Here, assume you’re dealing with a reputable creative agency, not a low-bid content mill (which tend to produce masses of low-quality articles).
- Done-for-you convenience: If you’re not a fan of producing a certain kind of content, it’s easy to hand off to an agency and not worry about the details. This leaves you open to work on content types you love, or to explore new mediums.
- First-rate finished products: Reliable creative agencies are used to producing top-notch content to fit any specifications. You can rest assured that everything is polished when it’s published.
- A professional perspective: Often, creative agencies offer more than content creation services, meaning someone can look over your entire content and/or marketing plan and provide an opinion.
- Expensive: Depending on your needs, this type of outsourcing can cost anywhere from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars.
- Less creative control: Because the agency is handling everything, you may not have as much control over the production process. The amount of control will likely depend on your contract with the agency.
- Adjustment struggles: Because you’re hiring someone outside of your organization for this work, it may take some time before the agency settles into your brand’s voice. Which means the first few articles may not be a perfect fit within your current content.
With independent-contractor outsourcing or freelancer outsourcing, you’re outsourcing content production to individuals rather than an agency.
- Most flexible option price-wise: Freelancing contracts come in just about every budget available. So this type of outsourcing is fantastic if you’re beginning to experiment with scaling your content.
- Variety of perspectives: Each new freelancer added to your team can provide a new perspective on your content, leading to fresh spins you might not have considered before.
- Endlessly adaptable: Have more than enough writers on your team but need someone with an excellent editing eye? You can find a freelancer for that. This reduces redundancy while strengthening your content program overall.
- Content voice can vary widely: Unless you’re outsourcing content to a single freelancer, it’s going to be difficult to produce a unified voice across all of your content. Can it be done? Certainly, but it takes significant in-depth documentation and excellent communication between yourself and the contractor.
- Terms of working relationship vary: Some freelancers only take on short-term work. Some freelancers only accept long-term contracts. In any case, you’ll need to be prepared to adapt to your contractor’s preferences.
- Mixed contract types and expectations: If you’re working with multiple independent contractors, you may wind up dealing with multiple contract types. Without solid procedures in place, communicating expectations to new contractors may be tricky.
All three paths are excellent methods to begin your content scaling process. When selecting a method, consider the needs of your business, both content-wise and process-wise.
Remember, there’s also nothing to say you can’t mix methods either. You might have a small in-house team produce your business’s foundational content, then outsource to freelancers for extra articles. The most important point is having a plan in place as you move forward.
Step Three: Who Does What?
Now that you know who you’re going to produce your content with, you need to determine everyone’s roles.
There’s generally two types of batching involved in content production: article batching and task batching. In article batching, each individual is responsible for an entire article’s life cycle from first draft to final edits. In task batching, article production is more like an assembly line: each individual has a dedicated task focus (i.e. acting or editing) before passing the article to the next step in the publication process.
Article batching is more common than task batching as it can be accomplished with a smaller team. It’s also the most typical system used with freelancer outsourcing. However, since everyone is acting as their own editor, the individual with final publication say-so will need to edit carefully, which may result in a large workload.
Task batching can be slightly more efficient for large scale content production and can smooth over issues like a lack of voice unification or style consistency since all articles are run through a small set of editors. It can also be easier for an in-house team to accomplish. But, with all team members uni-tasking, it will probably require a larger team than article batching.
Step Four: Keeping Track of Your Content
With all these moving parts, you need a system to know what content assets are where and whether they’re on schedule.
Enter the content production workflow.
At the minimum, a content production workflow should have three components:
- A place to track new content ideas and assign them to team members
- A tool to track articles through each step of the production timeline
- A calendar to determine your final publication schedule
Now, these workflows can be as simple or as complicated as you’d like as long as they meet these core requirements.
At its most simplistic, a content production workflow might require a spreadsheet to track content ideas, another spreadsheet to track the production timeline then a team-shared calendar within a stock calendar app like Google Calendar or iCal to run the publication schedule.
But, if you need more control, extra features, or would simply prefer an interface that’s a bit more user-friendly, there are any number of content production tracking tools on the market, such as:
- Hubspot Marketing Hub (Hubspot has multiple products. This is the most relevant for content producers)
Keep in mind these tools do come with extra expenses, especially when managing a team. So be sure to weigh the investment against a more DIY solution.
With the technical side of your content production set up, you’ll then need to look at the human part of your process.
Step Five: Maintaining Team Communication
This may be trickiest part of any team content production process because it sounds so simple… until you start your system. Then unanticipated snags arise and you spend more time than you think you would on untangling them.
To nip this in the bud, establish clear communication expectations with your team from the beginning. During on-boarding, have a discussion and/or a document that outlines:
- How often everyone needs to communicate with each other
- When check-ins on content production might occur (i.e. checking in on the status of a draft that’s due)
- How everyone will communicate (e.g. face-to-face in an office, over video calls, in email, or through a messaging system like Slack)
This will ensure that everyone is on the same page from the beginning of the process and minimize communication breakdowns.
If you’re managing content production remotely, it’s another beast entirely. Consider reading more from remote-work experts on effective team communication:
- Balance Team Communication and Action with Twist from Todoist
- 5 Ways Remote Teams Can Communicate Effectively from Form Assembly
- How to Build Strong Relationships in a Remote Team from Zapier
- Remote by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
With your communication plan together, you're set to start team-scaling your content. But if you'd like to take things one step further...
BONUS STEP: Document, Document, Document
When you’re in the midst of creating a team, developing production processes, and charting all the new territory associated with content scaling, it can be hard to imagine adding one more thing to the list.
But, if you can begin documenting your processes and best practices in a manual, it can save massive amounts of time in the long run.
You should likely start with documenting:
- The processes/workflows you’ll think you’ll reuse the most, like hiring practices
- What documents your team would get the most out of having on hand to review, such as a style guide
- On-boarding that’s time-consuming to perform one-on-one but can easily be turned into step-by-step guides, such as tutorials on using your content management software
The earlier you’re able to begin documenting, the better. But for on-boarding documentation like tutorials, it’s a must to start early. It’s best to begin when you and your team are still learning a program or refining a process. That way, the issues beginners face are fresh in your mind and can be addressed appropriately.
Ultimately, scaling up content production with a team can be an exciting adventure. With the right steps and team members in place, anyone can get their content up to scale.