We Looked For a Full-time Content Manager, But Ended Up With a 14 Person Content Team

15. October 2015



In March I wrote this post on our blog “We’re hiring a Content Marketing Manager“. It was a time, where things were starting to take off slowly (at this point I had worked full-time on Refuga for approx 5-6 months). I thought it was a great time to invest in a bit more long term marketing strategy.

I’ve been a blogger (in danish) myself for years and that has opened a lot of doors for me. I like the idea of creating value through content and I find it super aligned with what we’re trying to do here at Refuga. At the same time we’re doing things super bootstrapped, so overall having content as one of our major marketing channels in the future is the way to go.

So I started out with creating the post, looking for one full-time person. The position was remote and since I’m remote working myself and always use freelancers around the world I know we could find someone super talented within a pretty small budget. The salary was set to $2.000 a month. We only got one “complaint” about that, from a guy from Scandinavia, who wrote that we were crazy for only offering such a low salary. What he didn’t think of was that the position was aimed at for example a person living in the Philippines or a person from the West that wanted to live a year in Thailand or at Bali.


127 applications later…

Even though maybe a few questioned the salary, we got 127 applications within a very short time. I also got a lot of emails about potential partnerships, opening local branches in different countries etc. So I just started out looking for one person, but ended up with way too many opportunities, so I was starting to become unsure about what I wanted to do.

At the same time there was a clear distinction in the applications. Some were clearly just looking for a job while others really wanted to get involved in the project. Some even offered to work part-time for free. At this time I must admit that I wasn’t completely sure what way to go, so this is the email most of the applicants got (note, Refuga was Called Workaway at the time)

We Searched For a Full-time Content Manager, but ended up with a 10 person Content Team (and now, we're looking for 40 more writers)

When reading through all of the applications, I was super happy that a lot of people wanted to get involved and work with us and it kickstarted the idea of doing something different instead of just hiring one person. With that many people who wanted to get involved I thought it would be too bad to just hire one person. At the same time all of the opportunities I was receiving via email had me wanting to start out with a smaller investment in content. And yeah I know – $2.000 is not much, but it’s difficult for a small startup to do everything at the same time.

So the conclusion was:

  • A lot of people want to get involved in Refuga
  • We don’t just want to hire one
  • We want to try to make these people more than just writers, we want them to really be a part of the project
  • The financial investment should initially be small

This lead to me defining the concept of having a content team. The idea was simple: A member of the content team writes a post per month for us and each year they earn credits to go on of our trips.

The positive sides of doing things this way was:

  • We only get to work with people who really like our product
  • We get a bunch of writers instead of just one (different angles and type of posts)
  • We get a bunch of ambassadors, who will spread their own articles growing our overall reach
  • We get more people on the trips. Our experience is that when people have tried being on a trip they come back and share it, so the more people we can get on a trip, the better!
  • The value for the writer is the $1.000 a trip cost, but our costs are of course lower than that


Creating a remote content team

The above email was sent out to 118 people and 24 people wanted to be a part of the team. Everyone was super positive and understanding and I think being open about it and just telling people about all the thoughts behind it was the right thing to do (I’m a big fan of complete transparency). Having more than 20% respond and wanting to be a part of the content team was great and better than expected.

I started out writing down a process for the content team (I have written down processes for everything we do more than once) and we started out. We quickly learned a lot and needed to adjust a lot. After a lot of testing and adjustments, we’re now 14 super talented writers. Some were just not good enough, others didn’t have time enough and in the beginning we were just not good enough at explaining the way this should work and what kind of quality we were aiming at.

After an initial phase where we started out from the bottom with no experiences creating a team like this I sat down to improve our process, so things would run more smoothly in the future. The process will of course be adjusted more in the future, but I think we have come a long way. You can find our complete process for the content team right here – it’s 14 pages long :-). Feel free to copy and use it yourself.

We Searched For a Full-time Content Manager, But Ended Up With a 14 Person Content Team (And Now, We're Looking For 40 more writers)

We use to Trello to manage the Content Team and in general I can really recommend it. I have a board for all processes in our company in Trello and we include all history when we update processes in there too.

To get an idea about how we manage the Content Team here is a screenshot from our Content Team Trello Board:

We Searched For a Full-time Content Manager, But Ended Up With a 14 Person Content Team (And Now, We're Looking For 40 more writers)


Now it’s time to scale the content team: We’re looking for 40 more writers

I must admit the beginning of the content team was difficult. The communication wasn’t perfect and the majority of the articles we got wasn’t good enough. I knew it would take some time to get those first learnings, but it took more time and energy than expected.

It’s been a long, slow process but now we have a the first experiences, we have a defined process that we know works (it can be better and will of course be optimized as we go, but for now it’s good) and we also got some numbers that shows us that creating content can be a really good source of traffic.

Right now we only have 23 blog posts live, but we get almost 1.000 visitors per month who enters the site via the blog. A bit more than half comes from organic search, the rest from social. I know these are incredible small numbers, but that is exactly why we want to scale it.

So we know it can be a good source of traffic for us, we have a tested and proven process now and we know a lot want to get involved in Refuga on this basis. So it’s definitely time to scale this thing. We’re looking for 40 more writers. You can read more and apply right here.


Will the content team be good business for Refuga?

We know that it can be a really good and cheap source of traffic for us, but finding a post like this, this or this on Google and to buying a trip there is quite a long way. For now our only focus is just to make something cool, build the community and focus on creating value through content.

Right now people are staying on the blog for quite some time (+3 minutes), but we have a bad bounce rate (+80% – auch) – These are the numbers from the last 30 days:

We Searched For a Full-time Content Manager, But Ended Up With a 14 Person Content Team (And Now, We're Looking For 40 more writers)

So we know the content works, people are actually reading it (we also see a nice levels of shares and comments). Right now we don’t do anything to get people more involved on the blog. There are no related articles, there is no widget / boxes with upcoming trips, so this is definitely something we will focus more on in the future, but you need to start somewhere, so right now we will focus on creating good content and growing the team and then the next step will be to get more out of this traffic.


Our challenges and focus with the content team (short term)

So we have decided to focus more on the content team and to really scale it, but overall there is still a bunch of challenges and things we need to focus on. Here are some of the things we will focus on in the near future:

  1. Growing the team to 50 writers, adding 1-2 AWESOME posts each day
  2. Improve our process even more. It really need to be working smoothly when having 5 times as many writers
  3. Being better at defining our themes. Right now our content is very broad, but with more data and experience we have to focus a bit more (to create better and more relevant content)
  4. In my opinion we have had a bit too many writers who started, but dropped out again. I think we can do more to create a community around the writers and to engage them more in what we’re doing. In the future I will use the content team to also get feedback on some strategic things (to involve them more and to get feedback from a super talented bunch of people).

Got any questions about the content team or how we do stuff? Feel free to ask in comments! I’m already looking forward to doing the post after we have had 50 writers for some time 🙂