5 Reasons You're Not Getting the Content You Want

So you hired a writer… and it didn’t go well. Here’s what really happened.


Bad content is no fun for anyone. The writer, the business, the stakeholders, and the end customer all lose. As a content strategy agency, we often work with clients who come to us after having bad experiences hiring freelance writers. We also get to talk to freelance writers and hear their sides to the story, too.

Unfortunately, bad content comes in many forms — but the root causes of bad content are usually the same. If you hired a writer and had a bad experience, one or more of these five reasons could have been the culprit.

Find out what really happened, and what you can do to prevent it the next time you commission content for your business.


1. You hired the wrong kind of writer

Not all writers have the same skills or expertise. A creative writer whose portfolio is full of ad campaigns may not be the best fit to write technical web content for your SaaS product. Similarly, a writer who works on blogs and long articles might not write the best ad copy.

Try to get clear on what you want, so that you can hire someone who really knows how to create the kind of content you want. If you’re not really sure who to look for, here’s a quick guide:

  • If you need someone to help you get sales by writing ads, sales emails, sales pages, etc, hire a —> copywriter (or “sales copywriter” or “conversion copywriter”)

  • If you need someone to write long-form content like articles, blogs, white papers —> hire a content writer (or “SEO content writer”)

  • If you need someone to write the words for your entire website, look for a —> web copywriter

  • If you need someone to write the words that go within your mobile app, software app, touchscreen kiosk, etc, find a —> UX writer

2. You hired someone cheap (a beginner who needed support you couldn’t provide)

First let me say, I believe there is a need for entry-level writers. They can produce great work when and if they have the support they need in order to do it. They can be a great addition to your team when you already have senior level writers can offer guidance and direction.

However. If for any reason you’re only going to have ONE WRITER on your team… you can’t hire an inexperienced (cheap) writer and expect to really save money. This person will ultimately cost you more money in the long term, because they will take longer to deliver what you want, don’t have the experience to tell you what you need, and you lose time trying to replace them when it ultimately doesn’t work out.

3. You didn’t provide enough information

A company asks for an article about XYZ topic, and… that’s it. That’s all they say — until they get a first draft, and suddenly they have tons of feedback, requirements, and direction. The root problem here is that you were not clear about what you wanted in the first place.

“What about ______ keyword?”

“Actually, what we wanted was THIS angle…”

“This doesn’t match our brand voice, it should sound more like....”

“We actually wanted the blog to have this structure…”

Well, here’s some tough love. As the client, you should have said all that in the beginning, before the writer ever started a first draft. Writers do their best work when they are armed with information.

A writer can’t give you what you want if you don’t tell them.

The easiest place to start is using a content brief. You can use our free content brief template (no email required) if you need it. And if you don’t have a documented editorial style or brand voice, check out our article on content style guides.

4. The content could have been good, but your workflow ruined it

If I had a penny for every piece of content in the world that had been ruined by a bad workflow… eesh. You get the idea. I’d be rich!

Here’s what happens:

One person commissions a piece of content > writer creates and submits a draft > the original client plus three more stakeholders review it > all stakeholders have different opinions and goals > the writer is inundated with conflicting feedback and tries to piece it together > two more rounds of haphazard revision > legal review > brand review > more revision….

The end result is a piece of content that everyone signs off on, except for the end user. That content seriously stinks, friend.

So what’s the solution? You need a content workflow that makes sense. There is no one-size-fits-all workflow, and the ideal scenario is to have a content strategist design and own the process. If you can’t do that, just try eliminating anyone from the process that doesn’t really need to be there, and designate someone as an honorary content strategist — even if it’s not their job title. They need to have final say, and make sure that the end result aligns with the original strategy. (Of course, you could just hire us to fix this mess for you).

5. You got no ROI, also known as… you had no strategy

This one is probably the most common. Company XYZ hires a writer, the writer delivers content that is perfectly good, the company publishes it, and… nothing. The content doesn’t make an impact, and the writer is usually the person who gets blamed.

The truth is, content should just be the output of a larger strategy. When you don’t have that larger strategy in place, you’re just creating content for no particular reason. Your internal team might not even be aligned on content goals or KPIs, you’re tracking the wrong metrics for the wrong things, there’s no ongoing research, and everyone sort of forgets about the end user. Unsurprisingly, content created in this environment usually doesn’t make much of an impact.

Strategy is often seen as a luxury service, and something that you can skip if you’ve got a tight content budget to manage. But if you’re going to skimp on anything, skimp on the amount of content you produce. Spend on strategy. You can get better results with less content if the content you produce is insanely good.


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