#71 – The Big Debate: Are Content Agencies Worth It?

What you will learn

  • Why the rising cost of content makes agencies a viable option
  • Some of the key benefits of using an agency over freelance writers
  • How to get the most from agencies by becoming an A+ client
  • How much to pay an agency (and what to expect for the price)
  • Why your brief is one of the most important pieces of the puzzle

In todays podcast, we’re talking about agencies.

Specifically, Mark and Perrin discuss the pros and cons of working with content agencies in comparison to other means of outsourcing content production.

The Rising Cost Of Content

With the price of content steadily rising, it does makes sense to question the financial viability of using an agency nowadays.

PERRINS TAKE:

The cost of going to an agency (like WordAgents) isn’t much more expensive these days with the rising cost of content… especially if you value your own time.

You also have to consider that agencies work in much higher volumes, and that allows them them to operate on smaller margins.

Some agencies are lot more expensive and others, and that’s likely because they’re targeting large companies with big budgets. It’s understandable that many agencies will gravitate in that direction, mostly because low-end clients are generally much harder to work with compared to the big fish.

That said, there is still a market for smaller website owners so you can still find reasonably priced agencies catering for that.

Keep in mind, you can of course train someone upfront and manage it all yourself, but an agency is a good ‘out of the box’ solution.

MARKS TAKE:

The price of content has definitely gone up significantly, and I agree that most agencies aren’t interested in the small fish.

It’s possible that the cost of hiring an agency becomes comparable when you factor in everything Perrin said, but I find that having motivated staff often yields much better results in terms of content quality.

Overall, I’m still not convinced it’s the most cost effective approach.

Benefits Of Using An Agency

It’s not inherently clear why some people choose to hire an agency over a freelancer, or staff member. So what’s the big deal?

PERRINS TAKE:

With a good number of agencies out there, you will naturally get varying results depending on who you go to.

I tried few other agencies but I’ve since moved everything over to WordAgents. Not to say they are the only one you should consider, but a good relationship was already established with their team, and it just made sense.

Moving everything to a single agency is beneficial because you can order whenever you like, and more importantly, KNOW that it’s actually going to get done. Freelance writers, on the other hand, are generally less reliable if you’re unable to offer them regular work.

There’s also the time element. If you order a large batch of content, agencies have the resources to delegate several writers to the project which really speeds things up.

MARKS TAKE:

I agree that developing a good relationship with your agency is super important for the best results, and I think being tactful with your communication is key to that as well.

One thing that worries me about agencies, though, is that you kinda feel “hostage” to them. For example, if they were to double their prices overnight, there’s very little you can do about it.

Being An A+ Client

Being a “good” client comes with it’s own benefits, and that’s even more true when it comes to working with agencies.

PERRINS TAKE:

Building a strong relationship is key to success when it comes with agencies.

You can’t expect to throw money at them and expect great content in return. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work that way. Instead, you need to realize that working with a new agency, project manager or team of writers will produce some rocky results. It’s all part of the process.

As long you understand that being an A+ client is necessary for you to align expectations and get things to where you need them to be. That means being flexible with your requirements and working WITH them to get things on track when they start to fall of.

Beyond that, it’s important to build a genuine relationship with the people you work with. Don’t be afraid to venture outside of regular business talk. And try to understand them on a personal level when things aren’t going to plan. That alone will go a long way, trust me.

Overall, it takes a fair bit work upfront before you can be (mostly) hands-off with an agency, but it can be done as long as you commit to being an A+ client.

MARKS TAKE:

Again, I agree with a lot of the points Perrin made.

When I used WordAgents, I was probably a little too direct with them, and that’s maybe why I didn’t get the best results.

How Much To Pay

One of the most common questions about hiring agencies, is just how much you should be paying. So, let’s find out…

PERRINS TAKE:

How much you should pay really depends on the type of article you want written, the ndustry you’re in, and whether or not you require any additional work, like uploading the article to WordPress, etc.

Of course, the cheapest way is to supply your keyword, have the writer write it, and then edit it yourself after. It’s not the most efficient process, but it can be done for around 2-3 cents per word.

If you want the luxury of having a project manager with potential revisions to the work, you can do that as well. Assuming you provide a solid brief, you can get higher quality work for around 5-6 cents per word.

(Remember, quality content will net you the biggest ROI when it comes to building out an authority site. Don’t pinch the pennies on this one.)

MARKS TAKE:

In terms of quality, price doesn’t always reflect how good the end result will be, especially when you exceed around 5-6 cents per word.

For that reason, it’s always a good idea to do a test batch when you first start using a writer, or in this case, an agency.

As an added tip, it’s always a good idea to get the writers names who are working on your project, so you can get an idea of which writer is better suited. (Though some agencies will be reluctant to share that information.)

Tracking & Management

Tracking is important, especially since agencies rarely have a backend for you to see everything that’s going on behind the scenes.

PERRINS TAKE:

You can use Google Sheets with details of all articles in the queue, and share that with your project manager. The PM can also assign articles to writers from directly within that doc, and mark them off as when they’re completed.

To keep everything organized, it’s a good idea to link your briefs here, as well as have writers link to each article (via Google Docs). That way, everything is accessible in one place.

Again, make sure this system works for them, and be prepared to change it if necessary.

MARKS TAKE:

In my experience, some agencies are quite flexible with using your own tracking and management system, and will happily spend time working in your environment.

Others will be more rigid about that, often requiring you to integrate with their system instead.

Content Briefs

Content briefs are possibly the most important aspect of hiring an agency.

PERRINS TAKE:

Many writers that work for these agencies are making roughly half the going rate. For that reason, it’s important to them to pump out as many words as possible in order to make a decent living.

This is wh y having a clear and concise content brief is essential. Not only to get back what you’re expecting, but to make their lives easier and keep everyone happy.

Be aware, no templated brief will work straight out of the box, and in most cases, it will need some degree of customization depending on the niche.

  • Write a couple yourself for that website (use as examples in brief)
  • Compile sources you want writers to use
  • Potentially other types of media sources (i.e. YouTube channels)
  • Style notes for consistency

Note: Your brief will define a good base for everyone to work form initially, but it will almost certainly require continuous tweaking.

MARKS TAKE:

We know how important content templates are when hiring anyone to write for you, which is why we use them all the time in our own businesses.

Pro Tip

If you’re an Authority Hacker PRO member, we have pre-written content briefs for almost any content type imaginable. You can get them by clicking here.

When To Hire An Agency

It can be hard to know when it’s the right time to hire an agency, or if you even should.

PERRINS TAKE:

I think if you’re just getting to a place where you have the capital to outsource, that’s a good time to hire 1 writer for a few articles a month.

And on the other end of the spectrum, if you have a ton of capital to kick things off with, you would probably benefit more by building out your own team.

So, in our opinion, the optimal place to be is right there in the middle. If you have a mid-range budget, it’s definitely worth considering a content agency.

The only exception to that is if you have a large budget and you’re looking to hard launch a site with a LOT of content. In that case, an agency might be more effective at getting it done in less time. (Though not everyone agrees with this logic.)

MARKS TAKE:

I’m not sold on an agency being better at handling very large order, for the simple fact that they’re unlikely to have dozens of writers on hand for your order.

They will most likely need to hire people, the same way you would.

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