How to Find and Motivate Writers for Your Blog
Most technical blogs have a surprisingly small staff, and many of the most prolific ones rely on contributions from freelancers or volunteer contributors. If you’re just starting out, you might wonder what options you have for finding and motivating writers for your technical blog.
Option 1: Write everything yourself
“You can’t do everything, and if you try to you’ll do even less.” - Josh Steimle
In the early days, you might have to manage, plan, and write everything yourself. While this will give you a lot of control over the content, it’s hard to produce more than a few pieces of content per month this way.
There are a few tricks you can use to maximize your output when you’re the only writer though:
- Publish interviews with customers or team members
- Transcribe conference talks and turn them into blog posts
- Ask partners to collaborate with you on posts
- Republish (with permission) content from the community
I usually recommend these methods for companies that aren’t sure if they really want to invest in content yet and just want to test the waters.
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Option 2: Solicit contributions from your coworkers
Your coworkers may enjoy taking a break from their typical workday to write a blog post.
If you’re looking for technical walkthroughs, ask your company’s engineering team if anyone would like to contribute. If you’re looking for high-level thought leadership pieces, you can ask a founder or executive to write a post. If they’re too busy, you can write it for them as a ghostwriter.
The challenge here is that other people in your company have a job to do, and it’s likely not blogging. It might take an engineer 8+ hours to write a robust technical blog post - not to mention revisions and editing - so they’ll have to justify not shipping any code for a day. The challenge is even more acute with executives as they often have a manager’s schedule full of meetings and light on focus time.
Option 3: Hire community members or freelancers
“I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” - Blanche DuBois, A Streetcar Named Desire
If you have a budget for creating content, you can probably find customers, community members, or freelancers who will be willing to write content for your blog. Many companies have paid writing programs that you can reference for inspiration.
Hiring outside freelancers is a great way to get new voices, but it presents its own challenges. You have to manage writers who probably have a full-time job. Even if they’re good writers, they aren’t going to jeopardize their job for a few hundred bucks.
Second, to cover a wide range of topics, you’ll need a variety of writers. The more writers you have to manage, the more overhead you’ll incur. If you hire people outside the country or in certain states, you might have to worry about the legal ramifications of sending them money or whether they’re considered a “contractor” or not.
Option 4: Work with a technical blogging agency
When you realize how much work it is to manage freelancers, you might consider hiring an agency. I’m biased because that’s what my company Draft does, but it is a good option for some companies.
Typically, an agency will work with you to decide on a list of topics each month and then deliver that content to you. They’ll usually take care of the editing and may even help with promotion and distribution. You will have one bill to pay each month, one contact to interact with, and you will likely get higher quality content.
The downside to an agency is cost. While they will save you time, you will pay a markup on the content they produce, so you should be committed to building a blog before you engage them. I only recommend the agency model if you’re looking to build high-quality, long-lasting technical content as a business asset.
Option 5: Hire in-house technical writers
“I hire people brighter than me and then I get out of their way.” - Lee Iacocca
Finally, the most expensive option is to hire a team of in-house technical writers. This is usually cost-prohibitive for all but the largest tech companies, but it gives you a lot of control over the quality and quantity of content on your blog. Companies like Microsoft, IBM, and Google have teams of developer marketing and developer advocates producing original blog posts, videos, and conference talks.
Whichever option you choose, your blog will grow faster with a range of voices and topics. Using external writers is a great way to do this, but you’ll have to weigh the overhead of managing them with the cost of working with an agency or hiring someone full-time.
Have you found great ways to find and motivate writers for your technical blog? Share them with me on Twitter and I’ll add them to the list.
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