How to Build and Manage a Team of Remote Writers by HubSpot

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The internet has dissolved the geographical barriers that used to constrain businesses, allowing them to create remote teams of contractors from around the world. In fact, nearly half of all global employees are part of a remote team according to Esna, a global communication solutions provider.

The rise of telecommuting has presented many opportunities for businesses that manage workers all over the world, but overseeing remote teams can also be very complex. At my digital marketing company, Louder Online, we rely on the services of talented contractors from different parts of the world to deliver top-tier services to clients in many different verticals.

While there are many benefits to having remote teams, we also face a variety of logistical challenges, including sourcing, hiring, and managing the writers that create content for our clients. So how do we build and manage our global workforce? Here’s a general overview of our process, which you may find helpful as you build your own remote teams.

Building Our Team

The process of providing high quality content to our clients begins with hiring exceptional writers and other content creators that can live up to our customers’ expectations.

While finding quality writers can be a time-consuming process, we’ve found that the following guidelines streamline the process and help to reduce problems down the road:

  • Don’t rely on low quality job sites. Many content marketing companies rely too heavily on bidding sites to find contractors. At first glance, these sites seem like ideal places to find quality writers — bu the quality of those freelancers is often subpar. You might occasionally get lucky and find a winning candidate, but we prefer using other sources to reach higher quality writers.
  • Find employees through word-of-mouth. According to a study from MBO Partners, 75% of freelancers are hired through word-of-mouth, proving that this is still the best way to find talented workers. Whenever we need to hire new writers, we begin by speaking with our existing writers, colleagues and others in our network to recruit new team members.
  • Prospect writers online. Most seasoned freelancers have their own websites, which allows us to easily search for contractors and review samples of their work. If we find candidates that we like, a simple outreach email is usually enough to get them interested enough in our projects to do a test article.

After identifying potential candidates, we take the following steps to determine which writers will be a good fit for our clients:

  • Test skill sets. A contractor may have great references and samples, but still lack the specialized expertise needed for a given project. To test for this, we conduct skill assessments that determine which candidates will work best for each project. We’ve found that the best way to determine candidates’ suitability is to give them a test project and see how well they perform in a live environment. If we find writers that are good, but that aren’t the right fit for a particular client, we may try to match them with a project that’s a better fit down the road.
  • Identify barriers. Our agency is based in Australia, but our clients are located around the world. As a result, we usually need both writers who use Australian English and those who use American English. Identifying these barriers and making sure we’re taking steps to prevent them from interfering with content delivery is an important part of keeping our clients happy.
  • Discuss prices. Obviously, we can’t afford to hire writers that charge more than what our clients have allocated for content creation. While we’ll discuss rates up front, we’ve also found that some writers are willing to negotiate their rates in exchange for the promise of steady work.
  • Reach an agreement. For best results, it’s a good idea to set up a detailed agreement for all of your contractors, specifying our terms on billing, quality standards, production volume, deadlines, and other factors. This ensures both sides will be happy with the arrangement and prevents disagreements down the road.
  • Monitor and provide feedback. Don’t just hire writers and leave them to their own devices. We continuously monitor our contractors and provide feedback for them along the way to make sure that they’re consistently providing the quality of work that’s required.

All of this might sound time-consuming, but remember that hiring the right contractors from the start can easily cut the time we’re required to spend on these activities by half or more.

Managing Our Writers

As you might expect, managing a remote team is very different than overseeing contractors in a traditional office setting, as we can’t always respond to questions immediately or offer feedback in real-time. To compensate, we’ve developed a set of internal processes and invested in tools that streamline efficiency and make sure that our workers can reliably produce high quality content.

Here’s an overview of the system we use to make sure workers have the resources they need and keep them on task.

Create a centralized communication system.

From our past experiences, we’ve found that email alone is an inefficient medium for communication. Instead, we use a combination of Asana and Google Docs so that all team members can easily share information and communicate with each other.

Provide clear content strategy and guidelines.

In particular, we use Google Docs to share an internally-developed content strategy template with all of our writers that tracks expectations and guidelines for content creation on a per-client basis.

Currently, our strategy template includes the following information:

  • An overview of our general content strategy for each client.
  • The content structure that writers must follow (including blog post length, tone, format and more).
  • Preliminary research that helps our writers get started.
  • Recommended headline structures that writers may want to follow in their posts.
  • An overall editorial calendar with deadlines for each piece of content to be created.
  • Resources that allow us to pull relevant forum threads from Reddit and Quora to develop content ideas.
  • Instructions on using tools such as BuzzSumo to find out which types of content performs best in our clients’ industries.

LouderOnline-content-strategy-template

Essentially, our content strategy template is designed to be comprehensive enough for workers to understand our expectations, without overwhelming them with unnecessary details.

In addition to the content strategy pictured above, we provide our writers with additional resources, such as links to the client’s website, suggested topics from the client and any special client requests so that they can hit the ground running and create content without requiring our input every step of the way.

Refining the Process

Overall, this process has helped us establish excellent working relationships with a vast network of contractors and ensure they meet our clients’ expectations — but there’s always room for improvement.

To refine our process, we’re constantly seeking feedback from our editors, writers, and other freelancers, as well as monitoring client outcomes on our end to find room for improvement.

In fact, the current strategy template we use is the result of suggestions made to us by past clients and freelancers. As an example, the specific project structure we use in Asana comes from one of our freelancers, who brought it with her from a previous employer:

sample-project

 

It’s taken us time to develop all of these systems, but as a result, we’re able to produce exceptional content with minimal setbacks, due to our focus on consistency and continuous improvements.

Whether you use remote workers to produce client for your business or for any customers you serve, give the processes above a try. By focusing on building scalable systems and attracting high quality freelancers, you’ll be able to harness the power of a remote workforce to create great content in an affordable, efficient way.

Do you use freelancers to help create your content? If so, share any other tips or tricks you’ve developed in the comments section below.

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How to Find Accurate and Compelling Data by HubSpot

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No matter your message, including data to support your claims enhances the validity and impact of whatever you are communicating — but only if your data comes from a reliable source. Too often, individuals cherry pick data from a variety of … let’s say “questionable” sources, cobbling together a few statistics that are incomplete — or worse, completely irrelevant.

Whether you’re communicating to your boss or your consumer, all data starts with a good data source. In this post, I’ll go over what a good data source looks like. Then, I’ll list a few of my favorite places to look for reliable data and research.

The Components of a Good Data Source

A good data source is …

Original

Whether you’re working with internal or external data, make sure it is always coming from the primary source. If you come across an interesting data set on Wikipedia or in a magazine article, track down the original data. Without reviewing the primary data yourself, you’ll never know if the methods were flawed, the sample size too small, or the questionnaire biased.

And folks … friends don’t let friends cite Wikipedia. Remember: It’s your responsibility to represent the data in as close to its original context as possible.

Comprehensive

If you have questions unanswered by your data, your audience will, too. Your data source should provide enough information to get the big picture as well as any appropriate context. For example, let’s say your sales metrics show a significant jump in units sold between April and May — not too bad!

units-sold-data-set

But looking at the larger set, you see that jump came after a general decline. That’s the full story you want your data to tell.

Current

The world changes quickly. Oftentimes, data that was produced or collected ten years, five years, or even a year ago is obsolete. Always use the most recently published version of the data available. Some data producers, such as the Department of Labor, revise their data on an annual or even monthly basis — but this is not always the case for every data producer.

Ideally, you’ll want your data to be one or two years old at most. Beyond this, use discretion; and in all cases, be upfront about how old the data set is. For example, the graphic below uses data that’s a few years old, but they made sure to specify that it’s the most recent year available in the bottom lefthand corner.

older-data-set 

Reliable

Verify that the source you choose is relevant, legitimate, and as unbiased as possible. Strong sources include data collected/produced by government agencies, such as the statistics compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau or the Department of Labor. Other top-tier data sources can include industry white papers or academic publications. 

Remember that surveys conducted by polling agencies or think tanks, while usable, will often have a political agenda. Therefore, as with the case of aged data, use discretion. Avoid data that is anecdotal, user generated, or based on hearsay.

To judge whether or not a source is appropriate, ask yourself the following:

  • Who wrote this web page? Does the author have credentials?
  • Is this web page affiliated with a credible organization?
  • When was the website last updated?
  • What is the purpose of the organization that is hosting the website?
  • Does the author provide a bibliography?

Where to Find Good Data

Luckily, there are many reliable sources that can give you access to a wealth of data on a variety of subjects. Here are a few to get you started.

General Data/Research

  • UNData: A statistical database of all UN data.
  • Amazon Public Data Sets: A repository of large data sets relating to biology, chemistry, economics, etc., including the the Human Genome Project.
  • Pew Research: Public opinion polls, demographic research, media studies, etc. 

Academic Studies/White Papers

  • Google Scholar: A wide array of information, including articles, theses, books, abstracts, white papers, court opinions,etc.

Financial Data

Government/World Data

  • The CIA World Factbook: Global information on history, people, government, economy, geography, communications, transportation, military, etc.
  • U.S. Census Bureau: Demographics, geographic information, and education for U.S. population.
  • Data.gov: An open data source for U.S. government data. 

Social Data

Health Data

  • Healthdata.gov: Data on Medicaid, Medicare, clincial studies, treatments, etc.
  • CDC.gov: Public health data from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

Only when you have good data from a solid source can you craft a credible, informative, and persuasive message.

Where else do you go to find good data?

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Snapchat Has Raised $485 Million More From 23 Investors, At Valuation Of At Least $10B

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snapchat-still Back in the day, we reported that messaging app Snapchat* was raising over $100 million in a round led by Kleiner Perkins. And then the WSJ reported that it was $20 million, which left us wondering why a growth round would be so small in terms of total principle. Well, it turns out it’s not. Snapchat has raised a much bigger amount: Nearly $500 million in aggregate, according to an… Read More

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A Look Back At 2014

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shutterstock_236141542 2014 was an amazing year in startup news. In fact, we wrote more than 13,000 articles here on TechCrunch. That’s why we are giving you a handy TL;DR guide to remind you of all the big news from the past year. Apple: We predict that large phones will be the next big thing. WhatsApp: Sorry, I can’t hear you over the sound of all the $$$$. Amazon: Remember that one time we built… Read More

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