I currently work with in-house writers, one writing agency and one writing service.
I’ve used all three types of content sources over the years.
I know the pros and cons of each.
And all three do have pros and cons.
Many publishers will tell you it’s in-house or bust.
In-house can be great, but it has its problems. I really like my writers but there can be hiccups.
Please note that this content writing source analysis is geared toward publishers, not freelance writers.
Table of Contents
Related: Best Blog Content Sources
Definitions distinguishing in-house writers, writing agencies and writing services
Before we dive into the “what should you do” analysis, let’s distinguish them.
In-house is obvious. That’s when you work directly with a writer. There is no middle person or service scooping up a big percentage.
A writing agency is a service that brings publishers and writers together. It’s a place where hundreds or thousands of writers go to get connected with publishers for work. WriterAccess is an example of a writing agency. Another applicable term is a content broker.
A writing service is where you buy a package of content, deal with a rep who then manages the writers for you. The writers work in-house for the service (usually).
Few things in this biz get people as excited as a good content source.
Good content sources for us is like divorce lawyers just before and after Christmas. Before Christmas lawyers duke out child custody matters in court for clients. After Christmas, lots of folks call it quits and file for the big D. Okay, that’s a bit dark, but I can tell you from experience that business booms for divorce lawyers before, during and after Christmas.
Or DUI lawyers the week after New Years’.
Or SEOs after a particularly brutal Google update.
We surely do love good content sources.
So what should you do?
In the long run you should try everything.
If you’re like me, ultimately, you’ll use all three as I do now.
Because each content source has its strengths, I use all three.
Here’s the analysis:
Where to hire: Problogger Job Board is my go-to hiring location for writers. FYI, I don’t pay the extra cost for a featured listing. It’s not been necessary.
Cost: Some things I have reserve for my course bundle. I reveal the best way I’ve come across to pay in-house writers that’s getting amazing results.
- Expertise: If you take the time, you can find outstanding experts for your niche.
- Cost: Without a service scooping up part of the money, you can get better quality for less cost.
- Flexibility: You can have in-house folks edit, update older content, write new content, find photos, insert affiliate links – anything you need (assuming they’re okay with it). This is one of the biggest advantages.
- Slower production: A person can only write so much. Moreover, they may get ill, take a vacation or quit. All of which slows your production. Expect and anticipate that.
- Hiring is a hassle: Hiring is a time-consuming, boring and risky process. Often you have to let folks go and start over.
- Must manage them: Unless you have a manager or editor, you have to manage in-house writers. It can be a fairly involved process.
Writing Agency Pros
Cost: I’ve come up with a very simple way to get better quality for less with writing agencies. I reveal that in my course bundle.
- Volume: If you need 100 articles next week, a decent agency can deliver. You have access to thousands of writers. I love this about agencies.
- Quality: You can build up a love or favorites list of your favorite writers which can improve quality dramatically. Definitely use the love list / favorites tagging from day one. Some agencies like WriterAccess have experts from all backgrounds that you can hire so you can get experts in your niche. This can be a huge perk. Just yesterday I had my WA content manager start the search for writers with a particular expertise. I’m confident she’ll find them and I’ll get killer content.
Writing Agency Cons
- Quality: This is mostly when starting out – you farm out content to unproven writers. You’re bound to get some bad content delivered. However, if you create a favorites list, you reduce bad quality quickly.
- Must manage many writers: With many writers working on your projects, you’ll field questions from many writers and basically deal with juggling multiple writers working on your content. It’s not that time-consuming but it’s part of the daily or weekly grind.
- Cost: The agency takes a hefty fee so you pay more and the writer gets less than if you hire in-house. It’s a transaction cost. I don’t like transaction cost but in this case, the cost does deliver some value – namely access to a huge pool of writers.
Writing Service Pros
Example: Brand Builders (I recently placed my first order with them)
Cost: $.08 per word seems to be a common price for writing services. You pay a bit more for hands-free publishing.
- No hassle: This is the beauty of a service – you let your rep or manager handle everything. You just give them a list of topics and they take it from there. It’s very hands-off which can free you up for a lot of things like binge-watching TV, video games, cycling, massage, building bigger biceps, sleeping in, etc.
- Full service: Many services will also get your content formatted on your site for your per your instructions. This further frees you up to focus on doing absolutely nothing.
- Keyword research: Some services will also do keyword research for you.
Writing Service Cons
- Cost: Because there’s a service involved, you’ll usually pay more per word. After all, your rep doesn’t work for free… and the big gun who owns the service wants to earn a profit.
- Speed: Services can spit out content faster than in-house writers but not as fast as a full agency. I’ve literally ordered 100K words with WriterAccess and received all the articles in one week. That’s hard to beat. No service I know can do that unless arranged before-hand. No in-house writer can do that (but imagine if they could – they’d earn a fortune).
- Quality: Generally, you won’t get any level of expertise with a service. The writers are generalist who write on any topic assigned to them. This isn’t always bad, but keep that in mind if you have topics that require a certain level of expertise.
Are you even more confused now?
Sorry if you are.
Like so many things in this business, there isn’t a one-size fits all.
You have to experiment to find out what works best for you.
Don’t expect perfection from any content source. You won’t get it.
And remember, part of the results you get is dictated by the quality of your instructions to the writers. The better the instructions, often, the better the content they can deliver.
What’s the best content source for writing product reviews?
By far the best content option for product reviews is an in-house writer. The reason for this is they can get the products, use them and write killer reviews. I work with a local writer to whom I ship various products in one niche. He reviews them and the reviews are fantastic. I’ve tried this with WriterAccess, but it was not a good experience.
What’s the best content source for updating and improving existing articles on my site?
Again, I’ve found in-house writers to be the best for editing and updating older content because it’s easy to give them direct access to the backend of my site and turn them loose on the older content.
Which content sources will use content analyzers like MarketMuse or SurferSEO?
All three will if you set them up with Access. I’m working with a content manager at WriterAccess who gives access to writers to MarketMuse to analyze all articles and achieve top content scores before they’re delivered to me.
And of course all my in-house writers have MarketMuse logins to analyze every piece of content they produce… whether a new article or improving an older article.
Which content source produces the best quality content?
They all can and do. Also, all of them can produce bad content. It boils down to the writers you hire or end up with via an agency (put together a favorites list which will improve quality dramatically). The content service you use will vary in quality as well. I’ve used good and bad.
Will content format content on my website?
Yes, but usually that would have to be discussed and arranged beforehand. Not all of them will so it’s a case-by-case basis. I actually don’t have WriterAccess format content for me and instead rely on VAs. However, my current content service formats for me on my site as do my in-house writers.
Can I use the bio and a profile picture of writers from all content sources?
For in-house writers, yes but you’d need to discuss this with them before you hire them. You’d have to make it a condition of the job.
For agencies like WriterAccess, you can but it’s restricted to 6-star writers.
I don’t bother with writing services because I have no idea who actually writes the article.
What is the cheapest content option?
Typically, in-house can end up costing the least just because there is no middle person taking part of the fee.
However, because of my ordering volume, I currently pay $.04 per word on WriterAccess which is a very economical rate for the quality I get.
The cost for hands-free content services will cost considerably more – $.06 to $.08 per word but they offer more of a hands-free experience.
Do content sources guarantee top rankings in Google?
No. No content source will guarantee top rankings in Google. SEO is much more than just content and articles so no writer or content source can guarantee SEO rankings. That said, you may hire an SEO agency that produces content for you as well as handles all your SEO needs that MAY guarantee rankings … but even that is rare. It’s rare for SEO agencies to make any guarantees.
Jon runs the place around here. He pontificates about launching and growing online publishing businesses, aka blogs that make a few bucks. His pride and joy is the email newsletter he publishes.
Hyperbole? Maybe, but go check it out to see what some readers say.
In all seriousness, Jon is the founder and owner of a digital media company that publishes a variety of web properties visited and beloved by millions of readers monthly. Fatstacks is where he shares a glimpse into his digital publishing business.