Don't Do It Yourself

A Simple Formula to Keep Your Staff Writers Pumping Out Fresh Content

Like many other web-based entrepreneurs that have come before me, in the beginning I struggled with keeping my virtual employees busy week after week. I'd send out a wish list of “things to do” to a virtual assistant in the Philippines and get annoyed when they'd need additional feedback or wouldn't complete the tasks in the way I had envisioned. Eventually, however, I figured out that it was more productive to have employees repeated or “processed” tasks.

One such task that used to be a pain point for me was on-going content development. Like other online publishers, I needed a steady stream of blog posts related to a specific topic, but I didn't know how to get that accomplished without sending a list of ideas each week to a handful of different writers. When content was finally written, I would often end up editing and formatting posts myself, which took up even more of my time. At first, outsourcing seemed to be a lot more work than it was supposed to be. Fortunately, through trial and error, I began to slowly figure a few things out.

If getting a steady stream of blog posts or articles written and published is one of your pain points, my content development process might help. The process I outline below could literally set you up with a month's worth of content after only one hour of effort on your part. Don't want think about blog content for a year? Dedicate one full day to setting up this process and you literally could set and forget content development for one full year.

On Hiring

This post is not about where to find the best staff writer. I think a lot of people are too worried about getting the “best deal” on an outsourced employee similar to the way they would brag about buying a cheap couch. In my opinion, this is the wrong way to go about finding an employee. From my experience, I've gotten better results by hiring writers that charge competitive rates. When you pay competitive rates you attract employees that will stick around longer, produce better results, and require less hand holding on your part. That means you can safely forget about using for this process. Sorry.


The first step in the process is training writers in the style and format you want them to write in. I do this by separating content into three different content types. Each content type serves a unique purpose for my blog or website. As a result, my writers know exactly what I'm expecting from them for each project. Below is an explanation of the three basic content types I currently outsource.

Structured Content Types

Video Commentary: A video commentary is simply an article that summarizes a YouTube video. I refer to the Youtube video as a “Source Video” since that is the original source of the content. Expert speakers often post their well-researched presentations online. As a result, you can have your writers watch a video and write a basic 300 – 500 word commentary on a variety of high-quality presentations that will end up being useful to readers.

This is an extremely fast way to create high-quality blog content since your writer won't have to spend time looking up information about the blog post online or in books. All the information is right there in the video and all the writer needs to do is summarize it and maybe add their personal opinion on the topic. I always have the writers add the video into the post too in case people want to watch the video. This is huge for you as a business owner because your writers will spend more of their time writing, not researching.

Regular Commentary: A regular commentary is similar to a video commentary, except that you're basing the post off of a news story or blog post. To be clear, regular commentaries are not re-spun or copied articles. Writer's simply take a few general ideas from the source article and use it as a topic to write a new article in addition to adding their own spin or opinion for your blog.

Don't think this is ethical? This is exactly what major news publications have been doing for decades. 1.) They identify a story (Right now, a common story idea could be the 2012 presidential election.) 2.) Write about the story in their own words. (CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, Rolling Stone and others will all have unique stories that are all written on the topic of the presidential election this year.)

Article Submission: I still do a small amount of article submissions for website promotion. Mostly, I figure it's still a good way build a few additional back links to websites. Articles for submission can be written by using source articles or source videos. However, articles are written in a slightly different format that allows them to be published on places like Ezine Articles.

Setting Up The Process

FYI: This is not some half-baked content development plan that I've dreamed up and have never used. I'm actually using it right now to develop (almost) daily content for a future authority website of mine. Here's how to set up something similar for yourself so you can slash the amount of time it takes to get content developed for a web-based business.

Step 1.) Create a Google Docs Spreadsheet

Create a Google Docs master spreadsheet that you will share with each content writers on your team. Create three spreadsheet tabs at the bottom of the master sheet. You can label these Video Commentary, Regular Commentary, and Article Submission as illustrated within the Google Docs screenshot below.

staff writer content types

Step 2.) Collect Source Videos and Articles

For the second step, you will be identifying different videos and articles that you'd like your content team to write about. This can be a simple process, but I find it to be most effective when I focus 1 – 2 hours on the task of just finding these videos and articles. When I find a source video or story I like, I then add the URL to the master spreadsheet I've created under the appropriate spreadsheet category. Again, this ensures that my writers are creating the correct type of content for my blog.

At this point I will add unique columns within each of the spreadsheets I've created in Step 1. These columns will instruct the writer 1.) Where to locate source content to write about, 2.) a suggested article title, 3.) add a date completed column so that the same article topic is not written twice. An example of how this will look within your spreadsheet is below.

staff writer post tracking

Step 3.) Provide Suggested Titles

Titles can be created by the content writer, however, I often write down sample headline ideas as I'm collecting the source articles and videos. This helps speed up the writing process a little bit and ensures that the writer will be on the right track topic wise. You don't need to do this. This is simply what I've found to be most effective.

Step 4.) Writers Update the Spreadsheet

Finally, make sure each one of your writer lists when they've completed a writing task in the Date Completed column. Again, this will help prevent the same article being written twice.

Making it All Work

Finally, make sure that each writer is provided with their own username and password so they may enter their posts into WordPress or another CMS directly. This will liberate you from copying and pasting information from Word documents or email, which can become quite time consuming.

As you can see this content development process is simple, but it's also an extremely effective way to quickly source content development topics and conduct research for blog post articles. Find about 100 high-quality videos and presentations and you'll have a good 3 months worth of regular content if your goal is to publish one new post per day. If keeping your content writers busy was a problem before, this shouldn't be the case for much longer if you decide to follow through with this process.

Got questions about this process? Feel free to leave them in the comments section below and I'll be happy to respond.