marketing project manager trying to decide when to bring on a freelance writer

When (Exactly) Should Marketing Project Managers Onboard Writers?

Whatever the project—from new websites to print pieces to email campaigns—marketing project managers have to make calculated decisions about how to make the best use of freelance writers.

For many MarCom projects, an outside marketing copywriter can be a critical investment.

But where in the process should you bring one on? When should you release them?

Engaging too early or retaining too long can be costly.

And from a client experience standpoint, cutting corners too much can be even costlier.

Let’s look at the marketing project process and ask, where (and how) should the writer come in?

Marketing Project Manager POV

There are essentially five phases to any marketing project from your bird’s eye point of view as PM:

  • Planning – determining goals and outcomes
  • Organization – identifying deliverables
  • Execution – outlining tasks
  • Control – keeping the project on schedule 
  • Delivery – turning final deliverables over to the client

You could potentially have a writer on board for all five. Is that a good idea? Maybe, maybe not. It depends on the usual factors: budget, time, and people.

  • How big (and flexible) is your budget?
  • How much time can you give to your writer to accomplish the objective(s)?
  • What other talent do you have available that could supplement the writer’s work?

If we consider these questions at each phase, it should help us figure out not only when to bring a writer in, but also what kind of writer, and when you can plan to release them from the project.

1. Planning Phase Hire: Creative Director of Content

Budget: Larger, flexible

Experience: 10+ years

Client-facing: Yes

Duration: Through Phase 4 or 5

If a writer is involved at this early stage, you’re tapping into their expertise working with teams, allocating budgets, and overseeing the work of others.

The buck stops here when it comes to all creative decisions, at least those relating to content development. Others may provide direction on artwork and design.

This may be a good option for larger projects that your in-house marketing director (or equivalent) doesn’t have the capacity to oversee directly.

2. Organization Phase Hire: Content Strategist

Budget: Larger, fixed

Experience: 5+ years

Client-facing: Yes

Duration: Through Phase 3

Let’s say you’ve got creative direction tackled. You or your marketing director have already established a high-level creative direction. What you need now is content strategy.

Say you’re redeveloping a website. You have a messaging guide, but you need help planning its implementation. Like, which pages will need new copy, copyedits, or straight migration?

The reason to onboard a writer at this stage, and not earlier, is to contain your budget. You’re taking care of most of the operational responsibilities to limit the writer’s scope.

3. Execution Phase Hire: Content Writer or Copywriter

Budget: Small to Medium

Experience: Varies

Client-facing: Maybe

Duration: Through Phase 4

If you’re hiring a writer at this stage, you gotta have your ducks in a row. As the marketing project manager, prepare to be very hands-on to supply your writer with everything they need.

Even when the task is clear, your writer hasn’t been a part of the planning or strategy development. You’ll need to supply all of that through discovery materials and lots of Q&A.

There’s more work for you. But if you’ve got a clear messaging foundation and a solid strategy in place, and you can communicate it well, this may be the most cost-effective approach.

Release your content strategist. If you hired one in Phase 2, you can probably let them go toward the end of Phase 3.

4. Control Phase Hire: Copy Consultant or Copyeditor

Budget: Small

Experience: Varies

Client-facing: No

Duration: Phase 4 Only

By now, everything is in motion. You already have an in-house or freelance writer banging out great copy. So why would you bring someone on now? Two reasons:

  • Something about your writer’s approach isn’t working for the client. In this case, you might bring on a copy/content consultant to share ideas from a fresh perspective.
  • Your writer is generating a lot of content, and the client doesn’t have the capacity to provide thorough editorial feedback. This is where you would engage a copyeditor.

This would be a limited engagement, perhaps a week or two. A consultant’s hourly rate would be high but they likely wouldn’t spend very many. A copyeditor’s rate would be much lower. 

Of course, if you hired a freelance creative director early on, an outside consultant may not be necessary. They can also provide editorial review.

Release your creative director. If you hired one in Phase 1, their work might be done by the end of Phase 4. It depends on your budget and how confident you feel about dismissing them.

5. Delivery Phase Hire: Proofreader

Budget: Very Small

Experience: Minimal

Client-facing: No

Duration: Phase 5 Only

Once you’re delivering content to your client, it’s too late to bring in a “writer” per se. But some writers also do proofreading, and their writing experience could be beneficial.

Proofreaders are particularly important when you’re working on a print piece. They’re your last line of defense against embarrassing typos before a 1,000-piece print run!

This would be a very limited engagement. Depending on the volume of work, you may only need your proofreader for a few hours, maybe a couple of business days.

And with that, you’re done. You and your writer(s) got the job done. Woo-hoo!

Hey Marketing Project Manager, We Like Making Your Job Easier

I’ve worked with several PMs on projects, budgets, and teams large and small, so I understand the need to be flexible. Sometimes you need a little help—other times, a lot.

That’s why I’ve cultivated my own small team of writers. Together, we have a flexible capacity to take on MarCom projects and help you in whatever capacity you need to get the job done.

So no matter what stage in the process you need the support of marketing writers, you know you can always call on Matthew C. Bloom Content Marketing!

Ready to chat about an upcoming project? You know what to do!