Paying too little for content could cost your business dearI’ve done it, you’ve done it, I’m sure at some point we’ve all done it.

You’re in the market to buy something. Grabbing your laptop you start to explore the options. At first you look at established brands and high quality products or services your online contacts recommend. Then, suddenly, a much lower cost alternative pops up in a search results page and you’re lured away.

At such a low price it’s too good a deal to pass up. You give it a try; after all, you only have a few dollars to lose.

What could possibly go wrong?

Effective content is priceless, cheap content could cost you everything

Invariably when you buy at a “too good to be true” price it ends up being… well… too good to be true.

The customer experience turns out to be marginal. The product breaks. The service doesn’t live up to the promise. The quality is mediocre. The after sales service is non-existent. Disillusioned and disappointed you go back and buy one of the more expensive, high-quality options on your original short-list.

Most of the time it doesn’t really matter. When you’re buying something like a spare USB headsets, online social media monitoring, on-demand training or downloadable software you simply move on… down a few dollars, a little disgruntled, but none the worse for wear.

Unless of course you made the mistake of buying (and then using) cheap content.

Balancing unprecedented content demand with finite resources

Demand for content has reached unprecedented levels. In a digital landscape where content is pivotal to business success, you and your team (if you have one) are under pressure to create, create, create. But you only have finite time and resources at your disposal, and there are so many other things you need to do.

A cheap source of readily available content can be very alluring. But think carefully before you head for the rash of “freelancer for a dime” sites out there. There’s a reason the rates are so low!

I don’t care what anybody tells you, there isn’t a professional writer worth hiring who will deliver a blog post, landing page or any other piece of decent online content for the $5, €10, £20 the purveyors on these sites promise. Nobody! Nowhere! Nohow!

Your content IS your reputation; don’t short-change yourself

The big problem with cheap content is that it sucks. And when I say sucks I mean it really sucks.

When you publish content to your online platforms it becomes a direct reflection of your business, your brand, your values. In the battle to win attention, build trust and establish enduring relationships with customers the content you publish IS your professional reputation.

In the quest to attract customers, boost social sharing, future proof search rankings and improve online results, diluting your reputation by using sub-par, bargain-basement content isn’t something you should flirt with, even in passing.

Quantity is good — but don’t sacrifice quality

Publishing a lot of content can get attention, it’s true. Research shows that businesses publishing more content to their blogs and other online platforms tend to get more traffic. But what those studies fail to take into account is what happens next.

Traffic, in and of itself, is a pretty useless metric for online success.

Visitors only turns into something of value to your business if they like and engage with the content they find when they reach your site, and then take the next step… whatever that is.

Publishing content for the sake of it is a pointless exercise. Every piece of content you create should have a purpose, and every piece needs to deliver value for your audience AND for your business.

More content is better… but only if it’s aligned with strategic business goals, gives a true reflection of your organisational values, and delivers genuine benefit to potential customers. A lower volume of high quality content is ALWAYS going to be better for your business than pages and pages of mediocre, poorly constructed drivel.

DIY or professional content writing

So should you pay to hire a top-flight freelance writer to create your copy for you? Well, that depends.

For a specific project, when you need a crucial piece of content to really sing, absolutely. Good writing isn’t cheap (if it is cheap, run away… run away fast!), but it is a worthwhile investment for critical core content — as long as you:

  1. have very clear goals for what you want to achieve with that content
  2. understand your audience intimately and
  3. can communicate both of those things clearly to your chosen writer

(and if that’s you, drop me a line about your content project here)

But for more regular content, writing it yourself is not only a viable option, it’s the preferred option.

That may sound like odd advice for a professional writer to give, but it’s absolutely true. In many situations it’s much better to write your own content than to hire somebody like me to do it for you.

Writing your own content takes time, sure… and at first it can be really hard to do. In the end though going through the process of crafting your own content forces you to think things through, develops your own authentic voice, gets you closer to your customer’s needs and reveals how best to align those needs with your business goals. The result: content that delivers value on all levels.

So I suggest you save the professional writer for special content projects. For regular content like blog posts and social media updates work on improving your own writing skills. It’s a much better long term investment.

Never risk your reputation with low quality content

Your reputation is hard-won, but easily lost. Cheap, low quality content is a sure fire way to undermine that reputation… and the cheaper it is, the more it’s likely to cost you in the long run.

If you’re going to pay for content, go for quality over quantity. Pay more for a better writer who knows his or her craft and understands how to create valuable content that speaks to your particular audience AND reflects your business in an authentic and engaging way.

For the long term, think about investing in your own content writing skills. Find your own voice, learn to develop your ideas into material that truly resonates with your customers. Do that, and you’ll be well on your way to a successful online business.