Content is king, as they say, and businesses big and small are catching on. Of course, not every business owner or leader can write, or has the time to write, and that’s where outsourcing comes in.
Platforms such as Freelancer and Fiverr are no doubt the most well known for freelance writers, but newer players have emerged providing more specialised offerings and, in turn, promises of higher quality. Newsmodo, for example, connects businesses with professional journalists, while Adelaide startup Blogstock has created an online marketplace for buying and selling unique pre-written blogs.
Sydney startup Prozely has launched another offering, a marketplace connecting businesses with hand-vetted writers – essentially a Freelancer or Fiverr but without the niggling doubts about quality.
As with most startups, cofounder Adrian Cordiner said the idea for the platform came through his experiences working as a digital marketer in a B2B organisation, managing content creation. Despite the fact that the company employed around 300 people and content was becoming an increasingly big part of the space, it didn’t actually have any in-house copywriters.
“I was left with a couple of options. The first was to either try to get headcount for in-house staff, which wasn’t going to happen, look at a content marketing agency, which was going to be high quality but very expensive. The third option, which I’d used before, was Elance, now Upwork, or Freelancer, where the quality was kind of buyer beware, so there was no guarantee of quality. I’d have to do a lot of the work of filtering people out,” he said.
Cordiner ended up going with copywriting services overseas, which he thought provided the best mix between price and quality. However, when he was sent the completed pieces, Cordiner saw that while the writers may have had the technical knowledge, they didn’t know how to write to the Australian audience. Aside from tone and style, product knowledge was sometimes off; Cordiner’s client was an IT telco, and as such some of the writers referenced technologies that had not yet come out or were not prevalent in Australia.
From there, Cordiner teamed up with cofounders Alister Cordiner and Dominic Flannery to begin testing the market informally to gauge demand; while “it’s not quite the same as getting them to pull out their credit card,” Cordiner said the feedback helped the team figure out what people needed and what they wanted.
Then came arguably the most important part: recruiting writers. Cordiner said the team scraped other freelance sites to find Australians interested in joining the platform, also placing ads on Seek and trawling through LinkedIn to build the database.
“They had to guarantee they were in Australia, so have an ABN, and we gave them a writing task before they signed up to ensure quality was high. We rejected upwards of 20-30 percent of writers who’ve applied based on either location or quality,” Cordiner said.
The team also went to universities, posting on job boards looking for journalism students or English majors, figuring that these students would provide good quality on the lower end of the pay scale.
The platform works by having writers signing up create a profile detailing their expertise. Then, businesses submit a brief, detailing the industry they’re in, what kind of content they’re after, such as a blog post or brochure, and then decide on a sliding scale the cents per word they are willing to pay and the word count they need.
As you would probably expect, Prozely recommends businesses working in a specific niche looking to reach a professional audience should hit the higher end of the scale. The platform then matches briefs to a number of writers who will be notified based on their own criteria. If they’re interested, they can submit a writing sample to the business, which then chooses the writer they want to hire.
The samples are no obligation, so if businesses decide none quite hit the mark they can resubmit their brief and try again. Cordiner said the team has a few times told businesses that they won’t find what they’re looking for based on the pay rate they have offered, and recommended they up it. Once a writer is picked, Prozely gives businesses unlimited revisions on pieces, though Cordiner said no piece up til now has had more than three. If businesses are completely unhappy, the platform will give them a refund.
The platform is also set to implement a star rating system to help both businesses and writers choose who to work with, and recently launched a new paid plan or package function aimed at digital agencies looking to outsource their content creation.
As such, Cordiner said Prozely occupies “somewhat middle ground” between content marketing agencies and general freelance or outsourcing platforms, offering cheaper options than an agency and higher quality than other platforms.
“Of course you can find the needle in the haystack on those platforms, there are some great writers there at a great price, but we want to take that effort and legwork out of it for you. Prozely is still self service in that it’s not fully managed like an agency, so you’re getting the discounted price there as you don’t have an account manager doing it for you, but you don’t have to go through the risk of working with a freelancer who’s not up to your quality,” Cordiner said.
Despite the amount of competition, Cordiner is unconcerned.
“Content marketing is exploding, it’s a billion dollar industry and growing every year, and that’s why you’re seeing such an explosion of content writing services, whether they’re agencies or whatnot; the pie is growing bigger every day so it’s not a case of stealing market share from other businesses, it’s more a case of it’s all getting bigger and that middle ground is getting bigger too,” he said.
Cordiner said the prices businesses are paying for writing reinforce this view; he said his gut feeling before launch was that clients would all head to the bottom, paying 10c or less a word, but this hasn’t been the case. Small business owners outsourcing for the first time are those going towards the lower end of the spectrum, around 20 to 30c a word, while bigger companies with briefs submitted by managers tend to pay around 60 to 80c.
The Prozely team is now focused on customer acquisition, experimenting with different marketing channels to find the right mix. With the cofounders self funding the platform’s development thus far, working on it on the side while at other jobs, Cordiner said they will start to look towards funding in six months or so, and later on expansion.
Image: Dominic Flannery, Alister Cordiner, Adrian Cordiner. Source: Supplied.