8 Must-Have Content Guides to Prepare Writers for Success

Brands often turn to freelance writers or marketing agencies to expand content production.

But it’s not always a smooth process.

One 2021 Semrush Report Share in-house content teams often encounter issues with outsourced writers:

  • Lack of practical experience or knowledge (49%).
  • Low-quality content (42%).
  • Multiple edits (36%).
  • Lack of consistency due to different writing styles (27%).

These issues mean your content team has more work to do – exactly what you don’t want and what makes you outsource content in the first place!

Now, you can try to find a word magician who can take your worries away and make things work.

But it doesn’t always work that way – you do run into some misguided wizards here and there.

Rather than letting things hit the ground running, try to prepare content guidelines that you can give to outsourced writers to minimize collaboration challenges

Content Guidelines 101

A content guide (or writing guide) is when an information brand or its in-house content team has its outsourced writers produce commissioned content.

These include style guides, product information and tool access.

Detailed content guidelines have several benefits:

Save time and money.

Writers may be professionals, but they can’t read your mind, especially when they’re outside of your team.

By sharing the required details with them, you can reduce revisions on both ends.

In other words, content guidelines give authors an idea and context for what you want and expect from the content before starting a draft.

This allows them to see the target before they try to hit the bullseye, and you don’t have to reorient the whole thing after the first draft.

Consistency is encouraged.

Content briefs ensure that writers and editors are aligned on content style, tone, and goals.

Set your work in the right direction: great content is the result of collaboration between brands and writers. By providing detailed writing guidelines, you can do your part to show the writer what you want from your content.

Helps you scale content production.

A standard set of writing guidelines allows you to expand and expand content production as you can easily include more writers and editors to write and edit content in your brand’s voice and tone.

So, if you provide content guidelines, your problem goes away?

No, that alone doesn’t solve the problem. Your results depend on the details you add to these content guidelines.

What’s Included in the Content Guidelines

  • Welcome pack.
  • editing process.
  • Brand style guide.
  • Visual guide.
  • brief introduction.
  • Character details.
  • product information.
  • Industry resources.

again, Outside writers can’t read your mind.

They are not part of your daily team meeting. To bridge this gap, you must provide detailed content guidelines.

1. Welcome Pack

When you start working with new writers, give them a welcome pack with all the details they need to know to create content for you, including:

  • Your brand and its value proposition.
  • your content goals.
  • Topics you often write about.
  • Frequently asked questions about working with you.
  • Authors can reach out to people on your team for content and billing issues.

Your welcome pack can help new writers onboard and get them moving in the right direction.

But you still need more guides to cover the day-to-day details.

2. Editing process

The editorial process details what authors should be working on on a regular basis — your brand’s content workflow.

It defines the expected timeline for each action after both parties sign the agreement.

For example, here’s how my team handles it from a client’s perspective:

Screenshot from TheBlogsmith.com, June 2022

The writing process will of course vary from situation to situation, but it’s best to set expectations with authors about what happens before, during, and after submitting a draft.

3. Brand Style Guide

If you’ve given writers one must-have writing guide, it’s a style guide.

A style guide covers the dos and don’ts of writing for your brand. It guides in-house and outsourced content teams and ensures your content aligns with the ethos of your brand.

This consistency enhances the customer experience and builds customer loyalty.

After working as a freelance writer for many years, I switched to a content agency model.

The first thing I did to successfully build an agency was to create Blogsmith Style Guide – A document detailing best practices I have worked with various clients over the years.

It helps authors capture The Blogsmith’s famous voice and tone, and provides editors with a straightforward standard for editing content.

The style guide covers:

  • grammar (active and passive voice).
  • Style and Formatting Requirements.
  • tone (conversational or formal).
  • Punctuation preference (Oxford comma or not).
  • word usage (use abbreviations, inclusive language, or jargon).
  • spelling preference (eg e-commerce vs. e-commerce).
  • opinion or pronoun usage (first person or second person).
  • Citation.

If you don’t have a style guide, Associated Press (AP) Style Book as a good baseline.

4. Visual guide

Most brands include visual guidelines in their style guide, but some like to keep them separate.

Regardless, visual guidelines are an essential part of content guidelines, as brand visuals influence the written aspects of content creation.

Not to mention, if you outsource your graphics, visual guides ensure consistent output.

Make sure to include the following in your visual guide:

image orientation

Includes everything writers and graphic designers need to know when creating or choosing images for your website, such as: image properties, featured images, custom images and stock photos, text and no text in featured images .

Preferred format

Share your favorite image and video formats, such as .PNG, .JPEG, or .webP.

Image resolution and size

Share your preferred image resolution and file size. For example, it’s best to limit the file size of images to 250–300 KB in order to load them quickly on your website and get better scores in Core Web Vitals.


Includes branded palettes and Hex, RGB, CMYK, and Pantone color codes to illustrate print vs. digital (and more). You can also include the purpose of each color (for example, main vs. accent, heading vs. body content, etc.).


Include fonts that you use for different purposes. For example, Kinsta uses Brandon Text for headings and Roboto for body text.

Logos and Icons

Include all versions of your logo and its correct use cases.

You can share your visual guides on your website for freelancers and agencies to reference – e.g. Kinsta.

Screenshot of Kinsta's visual guide.Screenshot from Kinsta.com, June 2022

V. Introduction

A content brief is a writing guide that freelance writers can follow when creating specific content for your company.

Compared to the other content guides on the list, the topics of the content briefs vary from assignment to assignment – but they are critical to creating great content.

Screenshot of Afoma Umesi's tweet, emphasizing the importance of synopsis.Twitter screenshot, June 2022

The content brief must include basic information such as:

  • client’s name.
  • topic.
  • word count.
  • Type of article (blog post, case study or white paper).
  • speed.
  • expiration date.

More detailed briefings also include additional information that provides author context, such as:

target audience

Who are you writing for?

Adding your target audience is crucial, especially if you have multiple target audiences.

It will tell you the angle you are going to take.

For example, content for C-level executives is different from content for entry-level employees.

While some brief details such as competitors may be reusable, target audience and content goals may vary from segment to segment.

It’s a good idea to fill in all the information, whether it changes or not, to make sure you don’t miss any.

Content goals and objectives

What is the purpose of creating content snippets?

One look at the content marketing matrix suggests that the four main purposes of content are to educate, entertain, inspire, and persuade.

Whatever the content goal is, share it with the author.

Clarifying your content goals and objectives also makes it easier to conduct keyword research, determine search intent, and develop a relevant call to action (CTA) for your posts.

Additionally, you can add a short summary that highlights the main points you want to make in the article, or provides a suggested outline for the author.

keyword research

If you’re creating SEO content, include the main keywords you’re trying to optimize for along with instructions or best practices.

For example, you can ask authors to include:

  • Title and main keyword in the first 100 words.
  • Lots of keywords in subtitles.
  • Low volume keywords in paragraphs.

Your writer or agency will usually provide this information. But you should still plan to review and approve it so everyone is on the same page before drafting.


Competitors and top-ranking blogs are included to help writers benchmark their content.

It allows authors to observe how other brands are doing and how they are solving problems.

Not to mention, it helps them identify missing information to develop a strategy on how to make your content stand out.

6. Role Details

Buyer personas represent target audiences at different stages of the buyer’s journey.

Including this information in your content guidelines can give authors a better understanding of what your customers want and need. They can fill in the gaps and customize messaging for each role.

If you haven’t had a chance to define your character, HubSpot’s make my character Tools are a good place to start.

7. Product Information

If you ask freelance writers to create product-led content, give them the tools they need to be successful, such as:

  • virtual accounts where they can play And take a screenshot for the tutorial.
  • Case studies showing how customers use your product and achieved results.
  • Opportunity to interview SMEs (subject matter expert) about the product.

In other words, the author should have enough knowledge of the tool and the problem it solves to address the customer’s pain points and get them to convert.

8. Industry knowledge

For thought leadership content, give authors access to information from industry thought leaders and SMEs.

As a courtesy, before you provide the writer with details of an SME they can contact, please let the SME know that the writer will be in touch to arrange an interview.

Some SMEs may be reluctant to talk to others (or are too busy to time a live interview), so give them the option of conducting the interview via a meeting, email exchange, or pre-recorded video or audio responses.

It is convenient for both parties to obtain the required information.

in conclusion

Good writing is often the result of collaboration between brands and writers.

Don’t be a hell of a customer. Improve the experience of working with outsourced content teams by providing writing guides that you can use to create content closer to your goals.

More resources:

Featured image: sutadimages/Shutterstock

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