How to Build and Manage an In-House Content Team by Michelle Lowery
Webinar recorded on June 22, 2023
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We hosted Michelle Lowery, a Content Strategist, for a webinar on how she builds and manages an in-house content team.
Michelle recently brought content production in-house after the company had been using an agency for several years. She not only saved the company around $600,000 a year, but she increased quality.
She unpacks how she builds the team (including compensation amounts), tools she uses to manage the team, and extra resources to support you along the way.
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About Michelle Lowery:
Michelle has been wrangling words as a writer and editor for more than 30 years, and doing so in the web space since 2008. Her superpower is turning complex, jargon-filled content into plain language to make it accessible to a broader audience. One of her favorite things to do is build and manage high-performing content teams.
She also enjoys training and mentoring writers to help them learn and improve skills they need to build strong careers as content creators. You'll find her at michellelowery.com, where she helps clients attain their business goals through high-quality content strategy and creation.
Follow Michelle on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/michellelowery/
Read the transcript
Michelle: We're gonna talk about today is why to create content in-house, what an ideal content team looks like. Excuse me. How to find your team, train your team, pay your team, and then finally manage your team. And by the way, this webinar is gonna dovetail pretty nicely with the clear scope webinar that John Doherty gave called Should You Hire In-House or Outsource Your SEO and Content Work?
So be sure to check that one out as well after today, not now. Don't leave. Just watch this one first and then go check out John's webinar. Okay. Now the first question, let's get this outta the way. Can't I just use chat G B T. Everybody's talking about chat G B T right now and how you can use it for everything under the sun, including content creation.
I do think it can be helpful for some content creation tasks. I'll come back to that a little bit later. But for now, we're gonna keep this webinar human-centric. So yes, you could use chat G P T to generate content and you'll notice I said generate and not create. But even if you do that, you'll still need people to write prompts.
And you'll still need people to edit, fact check, make the content sound more human, and ensure that it's in your brand voice. So no getting around the content team. So why should you create content in-house? First reason, it can be less expensive than an agency or a service. You're not paying for an intermedi, an intermediaries overhead or their profit margin.
The difference between using an outside content provider or creating content in-house is basically the same as the difference between buying your razors at the grocery store or signing up for a direct-to-consumer service like Dollar Shave Club. By cutting out that intermediary, the manufacturer can charge less, but still make more, and you can pay less and you get more bang for your buck.
So even though you spend less and the contractors make more, and a team of contractors will also cost less sorry, cost less than a team of employees. So this is how I've been able to save employers hundreds, literally hundreds of thousands of dollars in some cases in content creation.
In-house also entailed reducing the amount of content being created in favor of quality over quantity. It doesn't help to publish, you know, like 80 posts a month if 90% of them are of low quality. So if you take it down to say, 20 a month, you can get higher quality and better performance. In addition to that reduction in spending, that also frees up your budget for other types of content or for brand campaigns.
So instead of 80 blog posts, you could create say, 20 blog posts, five videos, and two eBooks. So even if you decided to continue to spend the same amount, you're getting a lot more for your money. But saving money and increasing quality is about a lot more than just cutting out the go-between, as you'll see by the end of this webinar.
Now, while you can pay less for content, it doesn't mean you should low ball your writers. So let me be clear, 10 cents a word is not an acceptable pay rate for high quality content. Content is definitely an area where you get what you pay for. And good content should cost money just like anything else in life.
You want to be of quality, but we're not talking about just anything here. We're, we're talking about your business. So be prepared to invest in content, which is also investing in your business' success. You'll see I've included a, a link to a search engine land AR article there. Excuse me. I highly recommend reading that article.
It's by Andrew Holland and it gets more in depth into about why good content costs serious money. And we are gonna talk about a little bit more about paying your team shortly. Okay, so why else did you create content in-house? Because you can hire the team you want. Hiring directly may take you a little bit more time, but you are the one making the higher dec hiring decisions based on your needs and your working style.
Instead of leaving that to an agency owner or someone outside your company, this will all you also allow you to establish solid working relationships with your contractors, which can lead to better work. You can also assign topics based on experience, expertise, or just affinity. This is one of my favorite things about running a content team.
So you what you can do is survey your writers to find out four things. What topics do they have experience writing about? What are they knowledgeable about? What are they passionate about? And then what topics do they absolutely not want to write about? So if they have experienced already writing about a topic, well, they have experience.
So that's gonna be helpful to you if you need content about that topic. If they're knowledgeable about it, it's a hobby of theirs or something like that you get the benefit of that knowledge and they enjoy writing about it. So that's a win-win. If they're passionate about something, the content they write will be exponentially better because that passion will come through in their writing.
By the same token, forcing someone to write about something that goes against their principles or is just a topic they're uncomfortable with, is just asking for low quality content. It's not that the writer would purposely, oh, sorry, would purposely sabotage the piece. It's just that they're human and what they wrote, excuse me, wouldn't wouldn't be, it wouldn't sound as good or be of the best quality.
Not to mention the writer's just gonna be unhappy and happy people write better content and keeping your team happy reduces turnover. So this is for your benefit just as much as theirs. So when I do this, I survey a team. I keep all this information in a spreadsheet, and then if I'm with, with an agency, when we get a new clients or if I'm in house we get a new batch of topics, I can look at that sheet and match them to the writers or survey again, if we've got those new topics coming in.
I make sure that writers know they're not always guaranteed to get a favorite, a favorite topic, but they know I try to do that for them. One example I wanna share with you is that I ran a content team for a marketing agency and we took on HBO as a client and they needed, this was a while ago, they needed content for Game of Thrones promotions.
I knew one of the writers on the team was a huge G o T fan, so I assigned the project to her and part of her homework was to go home and watch Game of Thrones to get the content right. She called me, not emails, she didn't slack me. She called me to thank me and tell me how excited she was and how happy she was to work in a place that was considerate of her that way.
And I will never forget that. Plus the content she wrote was, yeah, it was pretty kickass. So, and H B O was really happy with it. So it turned out really well for everybody. The other reason is you have direct contact with the writers. You can give direct feedback. Which means it's also consistent across the whole team, and that keeps your content consistent as well.
Consistent and regular feedback also means your processes and quality continuously improve, which is gonna over time lessen the need for that feedback, which is eventually gonna save you time. You also have more control over your content. You can devise a production pipeline that fits your desired publication schedule, and you own and control the documents.
That second bullet is super important. Never ever let a freelancer own the documents that contain your content. I'll tell you why. I once had a freelancer try to hold content hostage over a payment dispute. She locked down the Google Docs that she had created and said we could have them back when she got paid what she thought she should be paid.
Unfortunately for her, after having worked with her for a while, I anticipated that move and I had already copied all the content into the company's drive, so that didn't work out too well for her. But had I not done that, she would've had the company over a barrel. So don't put yourself in that position.
You need to create every document that will hold any of your content and then give your freelancers access to them. Now, that might sound like a pain, but trust me, it's better than losing content and having to create it over again. To make it a little easier, what I do is create a writing template, and it's super simple.
All it is is a Google Doc with space for three things at the top, word count, title, and meta description, and then I run a script to make copies of that template and put them all in in one folder. Then whenever a writer receives an assignment, one of those copies can be moved into the writer's folder, and then they can change the document name to the title of whatever they're writing.
I'm gonna show you how that works really quick too, so if I can, hopefully this will work. All right, I'm over here now. Here we go. Are you seeing that writing template Travis? Yes. Looks good. Okay, awesome. Okay, so this is that simple writing template that I talked about and. This is the script I'm gonna use.
You'll see this instruction here is because you'll be getting copies of these templates that I'm sharing with you today for your own use. If you find them helpful and you wanna give them a try, you'll be able to do that. So the script, these are all instructions up here. This is the script down here.
Super simple. I'm not gonna read all the instructions. You can read that later, but I already have this loaded here. So we're gonna go to app script.
There is the script. I'm gonna click Run. You'll see that the execution has started and I'm realizing that I closed my drive. You're gonna see my Google Drive here because I closed my folder before we started. Ah. There we go. And the copies of that writing temple are popping. Writing template are popping up.
I wanted to have this open so you could see them popping up in there, and I, I messed that up. So, but anyway, you can see there we go. One of them just popped in, so if you do a punch 'em, I'll usually do a hundred at a time. It can take a little bit of time for that to fill, but you can just go do something else while that's happening.
And then you have a bunch of copies and you don't have to make one every single time you assign something to a writer. Okay, now lemme get back to this. There we go. All right. So why else? There are a lot of reasons why you should create content in-house. We're not done with 'em yet. Production can also move more quickly and be more agile.
So this means revisions can be made more quickly. You're not. Sending something to the editor or the the agency, they're sending it to the writer. The writer sends it back to them. So back to you. No, you just send it directly to the writer and you get it right back. Much faster. Also short notice content can be created when needed.
If the business comes up with a new campaign, a social campaign, and oh my gosh, we need a blog post right now, or, you know okay, well, we've got the writers right here on staff. We don't have to send something away. Wait for an email. None of that. You've got everything you need right there. All right.
Moving into what an ideal content team looks like. Editor or content strategist, content manager, whatever the title is that that you're gonna give. This, the person in that position, it's up to you. An assistant editor, obviously the writers, a production assistant, a graphic designer, and a photographer.
Again, that's ideal. For the purposes of this webinar, we're gonna focus on the two most essential components for creating text content, which is the editor and the writers. So how to find your team, starting with the editor, because that should be your first hire. This is your first hire because once you have a good editor on board, they can help you with or even manage hiring the rest of the team for you.
So your editor doesn't necessarily have to be an employee either. They could be a contractor, that's up to you, but it's not impossible. I've done it both ways. I've managed content teams as an employee and as a contractor. And in fact, I've gone into a couple companies as a contractor, built the content team for them, created their processes, got them into a project management system, got everything on track, trained an editor to step in, and then I left just maybe like a three month, three or four month engagement.
And that's actually pretty fun. So your editors should have exceptional writing skills, obviously, but, well, maybe not obviously to some people because maybe you're not conflating editing and writing. But the best content editors are also content writers, and that makes them able to give writers actionable feedback.
They should also have, of course, excellent editing skills, be able to train and manage a team. Be able to manage and build, if necessary, a production pipeline if you don't already have one. Be able to manage a budget and be an advocate for the business and the team. It's the editor's job to keep everyone's best interest in mind.
Yes, the business is paying the bills, but without the team, there's no content, and you'll get much better results by treating everyone with respect. So remember that the, the editor is gonna be there for, for everybody. Now that's what they should be doing. They must, we're talking about web content here.
So they must have a basic understanding of SEO and content best practices. This isn't just any content, it's web content. If it's not optimized and written with search in mind, it's just words on a page. They also need to understand relevance and intent, be able to perform on page optimization and be able to perform keyword research.
And let me stress I'm saying this is at a minimum. So when you're interviewing your editor or content strategist, someone to manage your content team, there are two questions to ask. How important is domain authority and what's the optimal keyword density for a page? The answers are, domain authority is an immportant because it's a made up metric that no such search engine considers, and there's no such thing as keyword density.
So there's an interviewing tip for you. Anytime someone mentions keyword density no. They have to put a dollar in the jar for me cuz there's no such thing. All right. So that's everything that they have to have. They get bonus points if they understand intellectual property and copyrights understand fair use, understand the psychology of content.
Marketing can track and report on metrics and they're empathetic. Empathy is, I, I feel a highly underrated quality in any employee, and especially in managers. The person managing your content needs to be empathetic toward not just the, toward the team or their clients and coworkers or you, but toward your readers and your customers.
That's what's gonna help that content really resonate with your audience. Again, I've included a, a link here to an article that goes more in depth about the psychological insights insights, sorry, into content marketing. And you're gonna get all these slides too if I didn't mention that or if Travis didn't mention that.
So you'll be able to click through to all of these links. Okay. So where do you find this awesome editor that you're gonna be looking for? First place? Ask your colleagues. Even in the age of chat, G p T, word of mouth and personal recommendations are still the best way to find what you need. Anything you need really LinkedIn and Twitter.
Of course, you can search LinkedIn by profession, job title, or hashtag. You can also search Twitter by hashtag, but the advanced search is more effective and if you've never used that or you're not familiar with it, I've linked it there for you. Facebook groups. Facebook is not what it used to be, but there are still thousands of interest groups, including those for freelance editors and writers.
Content conference speakers. Is there a content conference about to happen? Check out that speaker lineup and see if anybody is any of their bios match up with what you're looking for. Content SEO and marketing site Guest writers look to your industry blogs. Find guest posts from content professionals and then professional associations.
E F A is the Editorial Freelancers Association, editor's Association of Canada. There are several others. They usually have job boards and member profiles, and they also often host conferences, both of the E F A and Editors Association of Canada Host conferences. So that's one of the places that you can look as well now, We talked about what you need from your editor.
This is what you need to do for your editor. You need to trust them, support them, provide the budget they need for your content, provide them with the tools they need to create, edit, optimize, manage, and monitor that content. And as I said, remember, they're looking out for you and the content team. All right, so that is the editor.
Now let's move on to finding your writers. They should have excellent writing skills, of course. Be able to consistently meet deadlines. Super important. Be able to accept and apply feedback, be able to do thorough research, know how to use search engines and be communicative and comfortable asking questions or for help when they need it.
Now, when I say know how to use search engines, I don't just mean typing in queries the way that most people do. Or even the way that we do when we're just looking for something very quickly. I mean, using search operators to narrow and refine results using the tools to add search parameters such as time period and performing image searches.
All of those kinds of things.
Again there's the shoulds and then there's the must because again, this is web content. They must understand relevance and intent as well. They must know how to build internal links. How to optimize that anchor text in those internal links. How to format content with headers, lists, et cetera. We don't want just a whole big block of text on a page.
Nobody wants to read that. And two, not to dos. They need to know, not to keyword stuff and not to spin articles, or obviously to plagiarize. Unfortunately I have seen that a couple times in my career. Writers you know, will, will copy content. And that's that's not good for anybody. They get bonus points if they understand the psychology of word choice.
Know how to use power. Words, understand fair use, and again, are empathetic because your writers also need to be empathetic towards your readers and customers, the rest of the team, and to your clients and their coworkers. I've included a link there to a list of 801 Power Words. Super helpful list from John Morrow.
So, where are you gonna find these fantastic writers again? First place is to ask your colleagues for referrals. It's, it's all the same places that you're gonna look for your editor, but the addition is from your editor. They may have built a network of writers, editors, and other freelancers in their time in, in the industry.
In my network. I have a handful of writers I've known and worked off and on with since 2008 when I first started. A few others I've worked with off and on since about 2012, 2013, around there. Then a few more I've just worked with in the past five years or so. So I keep in touch with them and when I have the opportunity to build a new team or a colleague reaches out to me for referrals, or I just happen to run across you know, what looks like a really good gig online, those trusted freelancers are the first ones I reach out to because I know their work and I can wholeheartedly vouch for them.
And what do you need to do for your writers? Again, trust them, support them, pay them well. We're getting back to that. No 10 cents a word, please. That is just way, way too low. Provide them with the tools they need to create content, make them feel like part of the team and respect their time. One of the things I do right now I'm communicating with my team via Slack.
So in addition to the team channel where we talk about business and I, I give them training and updates. We have a water cooler channel and that's just. To share means or pet photos or what I did this weekend or anything that that they wanna share. And it's too, you know, we're all remote. We don't have the break room to go to and, and run into each other, you know, during lunch or, you know, pass each other in the hallway and chit chat.
So this is where we can go and get that team interaction and feel like we are a team and not just individuals all sitting behind our, our computers alone in our houses. Excuse me. So in addition to that when I say respect their time, what I'm talking about is if you're gonna have meetings or training, whether it's live or you record videos for them, pay them for their time.
Remember that if a freelancer isn't working, they're not getting paid and saying, that reminds me that something I meant to mention in the beginning. Your team can also be, and an in-house team can all be employees too. I'm talking about freelancers mostly because that is one of the, the cost saving measures.
And I'm gonna talk about that in a little bit too. So, but just let me clarify that real quick because I'm mentioning freelancers a lot. So how are you gonna train this team once you have it all assembled? Excuse me. You wanna set your team up for success? So create an environment, an environment where questions are welcome.
Create and maintain an in-house style guide. Create image guidelines, offer initial training to get them started and then additional training is needed. Provide them with other helpful resources. For example Chicago Manual of Style access, if that's the style guide that you're using, and provide constructive feedback on a regular basis.
Creating an environment for questions. I always tell my teams, I would much rather you ask questions, even the ones you think are silly than have to do work over again, because that just wastes everyone's time. This is especially important if you're paying your writers per word. If they have to write 500 words over again because they didn't answer, or sorry, they didn't ask a question, they're still only getting paid for 500 words.
So questions are never a waste of time. That's how we learn and improve. Even if you're using an established style guide like AP or Chicago Manual of Style, you should have an in-house style guide that covers the brand voice, web content, specifically conscious language, any content consideration specific to your vertical or industry.
For example, legal or medical fields that may have strict parameters for wording image guidelines. Things like whether images should be P n G or jpeg, and pro tip should be jpeg for faster page loading. Ideal file size, naming conventions, how to write captions, how to write alt text everything like that.
For training, I always start writers with a live training session with me when they first join the team and I record it so they can refer back to it if they need to. Then, if I need to cover things later that are gonna be longer than just a quick message in Slack say we need to review anchor text optimization.
I create videos with Loom, so I only have to do that training once, and then they can watch the video as many times as they need to. The writers I work with get feedback most often right in the Google Docs when I'm editing their work. And when I'm doing that, I always try to include the why with any kinds of corrections.
It's not enough to just tell someone This is wrong. Why is it wrong? How can it be fixed? What sh how should it be done instead? This is what helps them learn and avoid those mistakes next time, which again, is gonna save you time. How to pay your team, pay them fairly pay your editor by the hour. Editing is going to vary depending on the length of a post the, the topic, how complex it is, how easy it is.
So you wanna pay your editor by the hour. I recommend paying your writers per word, though. This saves you money and it levels the playing field for the writers. If you were to pay your writers by the hour let's say one writer takes an hour to write a thousand words, but another takes two hours to write a thousand words, you're paying the slower writer double for the same deliverable.
Also, the slower ride rider is making double what the other rider is making for the same deliverable. That's kind of not fair. So by paying per word, you save money and both the writers make the same amount for those thousand words. Excuse me. You want to pay an hourly rate for training though? I have writers invoice for the initial training I do with them.
And then for time they spend watching any of those training videos that I may create. They only get paid for one viewing though. There's no, there's no playing those loom videos on lube and just invoicing. One viewing only. Also if you expect them to find or create images for the content that they're creating, you need to pay them for that time.
What I've done before is I create three pay rates for writers. There's the per word amount, there's an hourly amount, and then there's a per image amount. And it's not to pay for images themselves because I usually will have a stock account that they have access to if we're using stock photos. But that's just for the time that it's gonna take them to sift through those stock photos and find what they need or take screenshots.
And that may require a little bit of editing. So I just wanna make sure that they get paid for their time in addition to the words that they're writing.
Okay, high quality content costs money. Remember that you're not paying for words, you're paying for results and value. You're buying, you're not really buying content. This is an investment in your business. What is this content gonna do for you? It's gonna reach out to your audience. It's gonna give you brand awareness.
It's gonna get shared on social. It's something that you can repurpose into other types of content. So also you want to temper your expectations. Paying them now for a good piece of content is what's gonna allow you to do all of those things and get results for months or even years to come.
You, I'm sure you have seen. This somewhere before maybe many times. Good, fast, cheap. You can only pick two. This is the one that I like. You can have high quality. It can be reasonably priced, and it can be crafted with care. All of those three things, they're not mutually exclusive. You can have all of that.
You do wanna stay under your budgets. The way that I do this is create target word count, ranges, estimate costs with the upper end of the range. Remember to account for images and any hourly invoicing, and if you've stayed under your budget, pay an end of your bonus if you can. That's, that's kind of something nice that you can do for your team if you want to and if you're able in order to do those things, you can use a budgeting template, which I have right here.
I'm gonna walk through this super quickly cuz I see we are getting close to time. I didn't think that was gonna happen, Travis. So this is what I use to plan content every month. So I will have a topic and I'm gonna estimate that this topic is gonna be it's gonna take 12 to a hundred to 1500 words to cover.
So I'm gonna put a one here. Now, watch the right side over here when I hit enter. Okay, so now it's put one post here. In the 1200 1500 word range, it has created a cost for that. And that is the one post by the word per word rate at the upper end of the the word range 1500 to make sure that there's, there's cushion.
It also removed one post from the remaining target. Now I know I have 19 posts to go, and, excuse me, it also added the amount down here in the projected. This is just an example. You know, if you have $10,000 a month, now, you know, okay, I've got 9 95 50 left, and you just keep going. And then I will mix and match.
If I get to the end and, oh, I've gone over by, you know, a thousand dollars, okay, I need to rearrange. Or maybe this post can be a little bit shorter. Maybe I need another topic that's not quite as long. This is what's gonna help you plan that content and stay under your budget and you will be getting a copy of this budget template as well.
Okay, so how to manage your team, treat your contractors as well as you treat your employees. There's no reason not to foster a supportive team environment, communicate and maybe be, and maybe over communicate. Everybody's remote now. Excuse me. We're relying on things like slack and email to communicate.
So make sure that you're getting your points across very clearly and instructions especially. Be available, be flexible, be respectful. Respect. Ugh, respectful. I normally don't talk this much in a day. I'm sorry. Be respectful. And again, be empathetic and yep, there is empathy. Again, I talk about that a lot when I'm talking about content.
Remember that these are people, they're not faceless freelancers. Same for your audience. They're not just you know, clicks on a computer. They're not clickthroughs, they're people. They have lives and families. Your freelancers are gonna get sick. Sometimes. They're gonna go on vacation, at least they should.
So you need to have contingencies in place for those events. If a writers go on vacation, see if one or a couple of the other writers on the team can pick up the slack for one thing, they're gonna probably welcome the extra income. But if you fostered a team environment, you'll also they're also gonna want to support that team member, and they know they're gonna get that support in return when they need it.
How to manage your editor. They're your partner in this. So keep your editor informed so they can keep the team informed, help them tackle any personnel issues when necessary. And then empower them to make decisions. Things can move much more quickly if they don't have to wait for permission for every decision that they need to make.
Help the writers feel comfortable, provide clear and thorough writer briefs. And this is the template I use. You're also gonna com get a copy of this. It's very simple. I use Google Docs and Google Sheets for a lot of things. It's simple but effective. You can get really fancy with, with briefs and pro production pipeline and Airtable, which is, is what I'm using at Skillshare right now.
My assistant editor built it. She's amazing and it is phenomenal. This is what we started with and it's still a very effective tool.
Oh, back to this. Okay. Okay. So clear and thorough writer briefs. Give them as much notice as possible for changes. Plan for the long term with them. Lower turnover means the team is more productive and more stable, and that makes for better content and lower stress for everybody including you. And also let them flex their creative muscles.
You will be surprised by what writers and editors can come up with on their own if you just leave them to their own devices. Okay, this is my recommended content team management tech stack. Super quickly, as I said, Google Docs. Got that writing template and the copy doc script, Google Sheets, there's a writer brief template and the monthly content budget you're gonna get yes chat, G P T.
Okay, fine. Use chat G p T. But what I recommend you use it for is ideation, outlines, and briefs. And I, if you're gonna do that, I recommend, I highly recommend I just did this and I'm so glad I did. I upgraded to chat JPT Plus in order to access GPT four because it is more sophisticated and more effective.
But remember, you need somebody to write those prompts and you need somebody to edit that output because it's not perfect. For project management, any tool like Asana, Airtable sorry Trello or Airtable Communications, slack MS. Teams meetings. Obviously Zoom, slack huddles are also really good for that.
You can use Cameron, you can share your screen in Slack as well. Training videos, as I said, I use Loom super easy. The reason I like it is because I am not a video editor by any means, and they're, it video editing tool is very easy to use. I love it. Simple graphics, Canva, if you don't have that graphic designer on your staff.
Photo editing, if you do have a photographer, Photoshop. There are simpler photo editing programs out there as well. For editing assistance and pledge plagiarism checking, I recommend Grammarly. And notice I said editing assistance. Don't leave everything to Grammarly. It does not get everything right.
Content optimization and monitoring is obviously gonna be analytics Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and then guess what, A tool like Clear Scope, because it is amazing for that. And I'm not just saying that it really is. And these are the resources that you're gonna be getting at the end of this webinar.
And thank you so much for your time. I appreciate it.
Travis: Awesome. Yeah, great job, Michelle. I know everybody's looking forward to getting those templates as well. I hope so. But to kind of kick it off, you kind of mentioned some opportunities for AI content generating tools. Do you use like any AI content checkers with any of your writers?
Michelle: If you consider Grammarly to be a content checker, then yes. You know, a lot of programming, it's. Every AI is on everybody's mind and, and on everybody's lips. Now, because of chat, G P t AI has been around for a long time. It's, it's inherent to a lot of software and a lot of data program sorry, data, data management software, there we go, and programs.
So yes, we will use things like you know, obviously there's very simple checking in Google Docs for grammar and spelling. We do use Grammarly for a little bit of help with the more complex grammar. So, But ultimately I am, I have to admit, I'm old school. I, I would much rather. Just read and, and edit and look over a document myself.
Because I, I trust myself more right now than ai. I don't think it's quite there yet. It's, AI right now to me is like machine translation. It can translate something, but it, it's not gonna sound perfect. It's not gonna get the colloquialisms and idioms and sense of humor and, and things like that. So right now I'm, I'm relying more on my eyes and my brain.
But as I said, I will use it for things like outlines and and content ideation. Sure.
Travis: Awesome. And then Susan had a question, should articles, have the freelancers buy it or byline, or is it essentially ghost
Michelle: writing? Ah, that is a really good question. It depends. What I do right now for this Skillshare blog is if it's a, a news post where we're announcing a new feature on Skillshare excuse me.
Then the byline is Skillshare. Even if one of the writers writes it, it's, it goes to Skillshare. For the guides that we write, like how to watercolor paint a landscape, yes, the writers do get credit for that. They do get bylines. It's content they can add to their portfolios. I'm a big proponent of that, of giving writers credit for their work.
And they work hard. They work hard on that content. And some of the writers, as I was saying You know, surveying your writers for the things that they like to do or the knowledge that they have. One of the writers on my team right now is really into sewing and embroidery, and she gets so excited when we have sewing and embroidery topics that she can write, so I have to give her credit for that because she's bringing her own knowledge, she's bringing her own passion into that content, and it shows.
So, yeah, it's just gonna depend on what type of content it is. But if you can, yeah, I, like I said, I fully believe in giving writers credit for their work.
Travis: Awesome. And then next question would be if you have a writer on staff who meets deadlines, et cetera, but frequently it requires massive edits to bring their content up to snuff like multiple revisions or several calls, how would you advise on handling that.
Michelle: Okay. This is the part I don't like about managing content teams. That writer would not last long with me. I give very detailed feedback. Like I said, I don't just tell the writer, Hey, this is wrong. We do it. I explain This is wrong. Here's why. Here's the rule for it. If it's a grammar rule this is how you fix it.
The style guide that we use is 21 pages long. It's, I mean, it's a, it's a ref reference manual. It's a how to manual if after, you know, weeks if I let it go for months, if they still can't get it, they're not gonna, they're not gonna be there for much longer. They're, I'm, I'm, I'm trying not to say I'm gonna fire them, but that is what's gonna happen.
You know, it's not everybody's a fit. Writing isn't for everybody. Some people I have had run into writers before where they don't like getting feedback. They think their, their writing is fine and they will not incorporate suggestions. You know, it's, you run into all kinds of people in, in you know, our professional lives.
And no. I, I can't, I don't have the time for that. I, you know, I do everything I can to support my writers, give them the information they need, the training they need, answer their questions, give them this detailed feedback. If they still, after all of that are, are costing me that much time. No, it's, it's, something has to change.
Travis: Yeah. Yeah, I agree with that. And then Colby and Susan asked very similar questions. Colby asked, what is a typical starting salary for a content person? And then Susan was asking, is there an average price per word as like a starting rate?
Michelle: The last few teams that I managed, including the one I'm managing right now, I started them at 25 cents a word.
And then after about six months, provided that they have been performing well and their writing is good and they're taking that feedback, they're good to work with everything. I'll bump it up. Right now they're at 30 cents a word probably in another six months, or, you know, at the beginning of next year.
If, if I'm able budget wise, I'll bump it up again. That is, From what I see when I look around in, in this industry and in this, in this space that is about average starting I will hammer home the 10 cent word. 10 cents a word thing. Please don't do that. That's awful. So yeah, 25, 25 to 30 cents word, I think is a good starting place.
If you have really, really good writer, I, I start all my writers at the same rate. As long as they're all performing at at the same level as well, then they all get raises at the same time. If for some reason, you know, there is one rider who they're a little bit weaker, they're not, you know, not performing, they're not not performing, they are gonna stay on the team, but maybe they're writing just isn't, as, you know, it doesn't have that oomph as, as much as some of the other writers.
They might stay at that rate for a little bit longer while they build up their skills, whereas the, the writer who is really knocking it outta the park gets a little bit of a bump. So it's just like it's just like having you know, a team of employees too. Usually not everybody makes the same amount.
It depends on experience, it depends on you know, workload and, and things like that. So and as for starting salary, That's a really good question. Most of the teams I have worked with have been, the majority of them have been freelancers. The one time I did have employees, I wanna say they're starting, but this was like 12 years ago though.
So starting salary was like maybe 50. Thousand a year. But that was a while ago and it was a, it was a marketing agency, so, you know, an in-house writer for a marketing agency is gonna be different from an in-house writer at a hospital or, you know, so it's, there's gonna be a, a wide range there. The e f A that I mentioned, they have a rates page on their website.
In fact, I'll add that before I'll add that to that resources page before this gets sent out and you can check that out. And they're pretty good about keeping that updated. So that's, that is a guideline though. That's not. You know, the, the Bible for paying writers and editors, it's a starting point.
That's something I would ask colleagues about as well. You know, people you know, who have writers on staff, what are you paying them? How's, how are you working that out to get a feel for what the, the average is and then make sure that you're at least at average, if not above it.
Director of Marketing, Clearscope
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