The Hidden Costs of In-House Content Creation

Discover the hidden costs and challenges of in-house technical content creation. Ensure high-quality, consistent content that resonates with your audience. Learn why partnering with an external content creation agency can be the key to success.

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The rapid evolution of our digital-centric business landscape demands high-quality technical content that establishes your company’s credibility, authority, and value. Your audience seeks educational, dialed-in content that distinguishes you from the competition.

On the surface, the internal approach feels enticing: Why trouble yourself with the costs and challenges of finding external content creation when you can lean into the deep expertise within your organization? You already have an internal reservoir of developers and subject matter experts (SMEs) with enough technical knowledge and writing acumen to lead the charge on technical content creation.

The answer is that generating consistent, timely, high-quality technical content can’t be a last-minute add-on to a job description. It requires a focused, strategic approach and the follow-through to implement it time after time.

Internal expertise doesn’t equal free content: It comes with a price. Read on to discover the real costs of tapping those internal resources.

The Direct Expenses of In-House Content Creation

Creating content is more than just putting pen to paper (or hand to keyboard). It’s a perpetual game of research, ideation, drafting, and revision. Allocating in-house resources to tackle all angles of this challenge has some far-reaching financial implications. Let’s look at some hurdles you might encounter when leveraging in-house resources to produce your technical content.

Developer Involvement

Meet Terry, an integral member of your remote developer team with substantial experience and sharp insights into the intricacies of modern development. This combination could make her an invaluable asset to your new content creation strategy.

Depending on factors like seniority, region, specific skills, and areas of expertise, as of 2023 you could expect to pay a developer like Terry anywhere from $72,000 to $105,000 US Dollars annually — a number that could reach nearly $200,000 for the most experienced team members.

Moreover, you need to consider the opportunity cost of diverting Terry from her primary functions. The hours she invests in content creation — including energy-intensive research, writing, and revising — could be spent debugging, coding, or enhancing product features.

And when Terry spends several hours per day writing your company’s latest and greatest tech tutorial, she has less time and energy for the last-minute bug fixes and tests before the team releases a critical product update. Of course, that’s assuming she completes everything on time. Realistically, asking Terry to pivot from her primary role is a guaranteed way to delay the launch altogether.

Editorial Oversight

So, let’s assume Terry is a good writer but not an excellent one. She nails the technical veracity of her pieces with a straightforward writing style, but there’s a challenge: Quality content isn’t solely about accuracy. It’s about presenting information engagingly and coherently, balancing utility and accessibility. And even if Terry were that rare combination of technical mastermind and witty wordsmith, her article could not go from concept to publication without an editor.

To attain that magic ratio of accuracy and readability, Terry needs editorial oversight, and there’s more than one way to provide it.

An in-house editor may represent an enticing option. Keeping someone on staff helps ensure a more consistent tone — critical for maintaining a cohesive brand identity — and quicker revision cycles with fewer editor handoffs. However, this approach demands consideration of hiring costs and training about the subject matter and your company’s products, services, or operations.

Alternatively, you could contract external editorial services, selecting a service with documented success and offerings that best suit your needs. And while contracted editors might need a primer to understand your company’s technical and operational nuances, they represent a flexible and highly adaptable option. Even with training, you’re unlikely to find an editor with sufficient knowledge to cover the breadth of content you want to produce — and not even Terry knows everything.

SMEs and Diverse Expertise

Say you’re ramping up a series of JavaScript tutorials implementing your company’s product. This enterprise requires crafting some hands-on guides using React and Angular, but Terry is more of a “vanilla” JavaScript whiz. Suddenly, you’re finding that even a single topic can span multiple areas of expertise.

Moreover, this pattern doesn’t account for the newest technology trends or the countless niche areas that define the field.

For comprehensive coverage, you might need to rope in several SMEs or developers. Obviously, diverse abilities enable greater content depth and flexibility. However, you’re now stretching your budget to accommodate your fleet of in-demand experts and specialist developers. For a few more afternoons each week, touching up the latest software patch takes a backseat to pushing out new content, and compounding delays hit your company right in the purse strings.

These are just some examples of the more visible costs of keeping your content creation (mostly) internal. However, you’ll likely encounter several indirect and less apparent hurdles.

The Indirect Costs and Challenges

While the direct expenses of in-house content generation are far from nominal, they don’t paint the whole picture. Let’s look further into the subtler challenges that can send you soaring past your budget.

Motivational Hurdles

Creating engaging content requires more than just knowledge. The writer’s passion and interest are what keep them plugging on through the process’s more rigorous or tedious stages. Even then, excitement for the subject matter doesn’t necessarily translate to captivating copy.

That’s to say, Terry’s love for technology doesn’t guarantee the consistent motivation required to produce articles of the caliber your content strategy demands — let alone churn out new ones week after week.

Whether due to the workload, cognitive fatigue of endless context-switching between programming and authoring, or general burnout, disinterest manifests in anything from missed deadlines to subpar content quality.

Coordination Complexities

If you’ve worked virtually anywhere for long enough, you’ve likely experienced that getting a two-person team to meet a deadline is a miracle unto itself. Now, imagine this team includes internal personnel, contracted editors, and SMEs distributed across multiple geographic regions. Each individual has unique availability, communication skills, and workflows.

Wrangling your players into a content-generating dream team becomes an increasingly convoluted exercise in herding cats. Coordinating multiple experts, writers, and editors requires a massive investment in personnel and technical resources. It necessitates comprehensive strategies for scheduling meetings, ensuring efficient feedback loops, and smoothing revision processes.

Anything less can result in inflated project timelines and general logistical chaos. An SME takes a three-day weekend, and suddenly, there goes your meticulously planned content schedule.

The Stakes of Inaccuracy

Where technical content is concerned, the margin for error is razor-thin. Even Terry has the occasional off day, but if her latest tutorial instructs the reader to download a month-old version of a library instead of the version released with a critical security patch, the consequences can range from a disillusioned sect of potential customers to an unrecoverable loss of your company’s authority and reputation.

While avoiding inaccuracies altogether is virtually impossible, minimizing their occurrence and consequences requires substantial up-front investment — training, testing, and fact-checking — in your team’s collective expertise.

Next, let’s explore how much all of these factors could cost.

Visualizing the Costs

Imagine a scenario in which Terry now works to create content with four other developers, each salaried at $100,000. They each spend one-fifth of their time writing and revising articles and building sample projects to serve as bases for tutorials, costing the company a combined $100,000 in salary expenditures.

Without a dedicated content coordinator, Terry becomes an informal leader, spending additional time orchestrating content schedules, wrangling members from several departments, working with the marketing team, and keeping all parties informed.

Looking to leave no margin for technical error, Terry pulls SMEs from three separate teams to review several in-progress tutorials, removing them from their primary duties and costing the company overtime so they can catch up. These costs rack up quickly, and Terry’s organization ends up spending an extra $20,000 directing SME resources toward content creation.

The combination of split responsibilities and overlapping deadlines makes it difficult to prioritize tasks, leading to a delayed product release, which violates the terms of an agreement between the company and a client. The financial penalties of the delay amount to another $20,000 — an unexpected and hidden cost of in-house content creation.

Finally, the content team finishes a substantial batch of articles, but their tone and voice vary, muddying the brand’s image. With the support of the marketing team, Terry convinces her boss to bring in a skilled external editor, whom they agree to pay a $65,000 annual salary.

As demonstrated in the expenditure breakdown below, Terry’s organization spends over $200,000 annually on content creation. Yet, factoring in the editor’s time but undervaluing the time other team members contribute and overlooking hidden costs, they might estimate their expenditure at roughly half this amount.

Expenditure Breakdown

While every company’s internal content creation costs look different, underestimating required resources and other expenditures is all too common. If an organization manages to avoid product delay, for example, perhaps they encounter higher turnover as team members are pulled in too many directions. When it comes to in-house content creation, there are always hidden costs.

Next Steps

The appeal of in-house technical content creation is hard to deny. It promises consistency, expertise, and control. It might even seem like a cost-saving no-brainer. However, it’s vital to examine any potential in-house strategy with a discerning eye.

Without a comprehensive assessment that accounts for obvious costs and subtler resource sinks, you might find your content strategy bogged down with unforeseen expenditures and operational stumbling blocks.

You might find this complex terrain completely navigable — but it may not be sustainable. Partnering with an external content creation agency ensures specialized expertise and streamlined processes. They pave the way for top-notch technical content.

Dive into content creation without the hurdles: Contact ContentLab today and let your content truly resonate.

Picture of Max Eidelman-Baum
Max Eidelman-Baum
Max Eidelman-Baum is a professional writer and copy editor interested in accessible technology and full-stack development. Max has worked with ContentLab as a freelance technical and copy editor since 2021 and is key member and leader of the editorial team. He lives in New Brunswick, Canada, with his husband and their golden retriever, Cassidy!

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