How Design Pickle Integrates In-House and Outsourced Content

by Claire Karjalainen

Oftentimes when we talk to startup founders and busy entrepreneurs about content marketing, they think they’re faced with only three choices:

  1. Do it all themselves
  2. Hire a freelancer for the writing and do the rest of it themselves
  3. Hire a content agency or done-for-you content service and stop doing any of it

A lot of founders love the idea of no. 3, and we work with many founders and business owners who prefer to be hands off as we take care of 100 percent of their content.

But what if you’re like Russ Perry, founder of the flat-rate, done-for-you graphic design company Design Pickle?

What if you want the done-for-you content service and a consistent, quality content system that moves along like a well-oiled machine…and you want to be able to create content so specific to your company that it can only be done in-house? (Think: webinars, podcasts, feature-specific articles and more.)

As it turns out, there is a fourth way.

Through a savvy combination of working with Audience Ops and honing in on creating very specific in-house content, Perry has created the best of both worlds – and his skyrocketing engagement shows the results.

“I’ve seen an obvious increase in engagement,” Perry says. “In our social share column especially, people are tweeting and liking, sharing and adding to Buffer – all of that stuff. That never happened before working with Audience Ops.”

So how does Design Pickle do it?

Interested in combining outsourced and in-house content? Make sure you read these 5 lessons we’ve learned from our experiences before you do!

A Startup Founder’s Pickle: Executing Those Best-Laid Content Plans

Perry and his team understood the importance of content marketing early on. “The more informed our clients are about design before they sign up for our service, the better clients they are,” says Perry. “They’re coming in to work with us understanding more about how it works and with a better mindset.”

With the goal of providing educational content on macro design topics and writing content about Design Pickle itself, Perry and his team built out content calendars and topic ideas to try to stay on track.

“I think once we spent half a day building a Trello board and mapping out the content we were going to do,” Perry laughs.

And then he ran into a universal issue for founders: “The actual process of writing got in the way. It was chaotic. It got to the point where it was like, ‘Oh great. It’s Tuesday. What are we going to write?”

Feeling trapped by their own editorial calendar and strapped for time as they focused on clients and building out the business, Perry knew the Design Pickle team needed backup.

Successful content marketing requires three main ingredients: a game plan, consistent execution and quality writing.

Freelance writers didn’t always provide all three. “I’ve tried hiring writers before,” Perry says, “but there wasn’t a system like there is with Audience Ops.”

After hearing about Audience Ops, Perry decided it made sense to try a “done for you” service.

The Combined Power of In-House and Outsourced Content

After trying the “do it all himself” approach as well as “hire a freelancer for the writing” method, Perry found the right formula through outsourcing some of his content operation and keeping some items on the to-do list for himself or his team.

The Audience Ops + Design Pickle content workflow looks like this:

Audience Ops’ Part

Every other week, Audience Ops publishes an in-depth, well-researched, high-quality blog article to the Design Pickle site, complete with a valuable content upgrade to help grow Design Pickle’s list.

Audience Ops’ articles focus on design education – everything from how to work with designers to understanding color theory.

Perry can offer suggestions or feedback if he wants to, otherwise the Audience Ops team carries on creating high-converting content from the carefully built-out content strategy.

Design Pickle Post 1

This is an example of the type of posts Audience Ops focuses on creating for Design Pickle. Credit: Design Pickle blog

Design Pickle’s Part

On the in-between weeks (Perry calls them Audience Ops’ “off weeks”), the Design Pickle team or Perry himself has the option to post an in-house content piece that requires company insider information to produce.

For example, Perry recently posted some tutorials on integrating Design Pickle with Trello and Slack, both of which required insider knowledge of Design Pickle to create.

He also wrote a “State of the Pickle” post with insights about the company’s present and future that would have required the additional step of an interview if he wanted to outsource it.

Design Pickle Post 2

This post is an example of the type of content founder Russ Perry and the Design Pickle team create in-house with their inside expertise. Credit: Design Pickle blog

“On the weeks when the ball’s in our court, we work on more sales- or marketing-focused messages. For instance, we recently talked about an upcoming branding webinar,” Perry says.

He also adds that the partnership with Audience Ops gives him more time to write while still knowing there will be consistent and quality content posted. “I only have to work on things half as often as before, which is really nice.”

Perry also has come to recognize an additional benefit of working with an outside content consultant: It removes his own potential biases from the equation.

“Sometimes I write content that I would be interested in,” Perry admits. “And I’m not necessarily my own target audience. It’s huge to have a third-party person generating content ideas and articles. They can be more objective about it and also not assume too much about the reader, which I can sometimes do because I’m in my business so much.

“I’ll read things sometimes and think, ‘That’s too basic,” but then I remember that for my target audience, it isn’t at all. And I wouldn’t be able to take that step back on my own.”

Want to know more about how you can integrate outsourced and in-house content like Design Pickle does? Grab these 5 free lessons we’ve learned from experience first!

Mission: To Become the Most Helpful Graphic Design Company in the World

Design Pickle’s successful business model is something of a rarity in graphic design. They’re a flat-rate service where anyone – including small businesses who might otherwise have a hard time affording high-quality design work – can sign up and work with a designer as much as they need for a flat monthly fee.

Perry sees a lot of exciting times ahead for Design Pickle. “We’re moving beyond that early startup phase,” he says. “We have a good business and a good model, and now it’s time to grow and scale it.”

Some of the initiatives Perry anticipates working on include educational design and branding courses, design coaching tools and other ways people can work with Design Pickle beyond looking for specific design work.

Design Pickle’s mission? “To become the most helpful graphic design company in the world,” says Perry.

As for Design Pickle’s partnership with Audience Ops, Perry is loving the results and the freedom of combining his team’s work with done-for-you content.

“I just don’t have to think about it,” he says. “It’s automatically done and we’re seeing increases in our engagement and consistency. It’s super organized. I can provide as much content and direction as I want to, and it keeps coming through.”

To any founders on the fence about trying a done-for-you content service, Perry has this to say: “I would say that Audience Ops is a rock solid company that delivers exactly as promised. There’ve been zero surprises – in fact, Audience Ops over-delivers, which has been huge to me,” Perry says.

And the most important part of it all? “And let me add – the writing is great. Let’s not forget that: The content is really great.”

Interested in learning how you can partner with Audience Ops to create high-quality content in a system where we take care of everything? Set up a free consultation and we’ll talk it over!