© 2022

A Content Creation Company: good idea, bad idea, or idea which needs work?

Idea #7 on my list was to set up a company which produces writing for website owners. This is a project I’ve been discussing with my excellent friend Imogen Harris, to operate as a partnership.

Initial hypothesis

The idea sprang from the realisation that everyone with a website to promote needs “content” (I wonder if I’ll ever stop hating that word), and that everyone with a business to run struggles to find the time to create content. So – ran the assumptions – there is a market for this.

On the supply side – we continued to assume – there are probably lots of writers who would be available for the work, and at a price level which would enable a profit to be made. We know that in the UK very good writers can earn 20-30p / word, so presumably quite good ones are available for around 15-20p.

The model which first sprang to mind was a monthly subscription model, where we would supply our clients with a fixed number of blog entries or articles per month in return for an ongoing monthly fee. Alongside the writing itself, other complementary services could be offered to the same clients: strategy, SEO, marketing, website monitoring, reporting and so on.

In the interests of a) operating ethically and b) making it fun (and actually a=b) we would concentrate on the mid to top end of the market. Neither of us wants to be paying people peanuts to pump hastily-written listicles into an already over-burdened internet.

Market research

My first discovery was that this is a way larger industry than I had previously thought. As so often, following an exciting new idea comes the disappointing discovery that someone else got there first. This is definitely worth knowing but not by any means the end of the world. Being first is often a disadvantage: none of Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Google were the first to their markets, but there is such a thing as stiff competition with deep pockets. You don’t need (or even want) to be the first vendor to an empty market but you do want to have a testable theory as to why the market could sustain your business (aka growth hypothesis).

The suppliers we found seem to be split between, on the one hand, highly-niched operations e.g. Audience Ops who supply content marketing services specifically to SaaS businesses for a few hundred US$ per article (following a lengthy onboarding process), and on the other hand a glut of extremely cheap ‘content mills’ like Copify who quoted me £120 for 4 x 500w blog entries (a miserly 6p / word). What there is left of that after Copify have taken their cut one can only guess at; in fact according to this third party analysis, writers for Copify would struggle to earn £50 a day even working fairly long hours. This is absolutely not where we want to be.

But is there room in the middle of this market for a quality producer at comfortable prices? We don’t yet know. But one thing is certain, we’re not going to get anywhere competing on price at the bottom end.

How it would work?

So would do you persuade clients to pay prices which aren’t their lowest option? By convincing them that you offer a high quality product. And, as a new outfit with no (company) track record, how do you prove that? I think the only thing you can do is to position yourself as the go-to expert in a particular area.

The conclusion to which I am inexorably drawn, in this case, is that the only way to compete effectively in this market is to specialise in highly specific niche. It could be an industry niche (e.g. content for web designers, which is an industry we know well) or a functional niche (e.g. content for e-commerce businesses, which is a mechanic we know well). But saying “we are experts in content marketing” without saying “content marketing for what” is impossibly broad.

A clearly-defined niche not only makes it easier to convey your expertise, with, by definition, much less competition, but also, for the same reason, makes SEO and other marketing much easier.

If you would like to receive a weekly-ish email with news of my SaaS adventure you can sign up for it here.