Content creation can be costly, whether you’re generating it internally or using external partners. In this article, we share advice on how you can budget effectively and some cost-saving tips that can help along the way.
Whilst it is costly, it can reap massive benefits. From raising your profile, to securing new supporters and members. By budgeting for your creating and sharing content, you’re investing in the future of your organisation.
Whether it’s the time it’s taken someone to produce a social media campaign, or the cost of creating a video to share on your website, content creating and sharing costs money.
To budget for content, you first need to identify how much each type of content will cost you to develop and share, and consider how this will contribute to your wider goals. For example, it might cost you more to make a video, but it has the potential to reach far more people than an article.
We recommend assigning a rough cost to each content type – factoring in if you’re bringing on freelancers or producing it internally and allowing for any hidden costs – and start allocating your budget accordingly. We will explain more about what you might need to spend money on below.
Meanwhile, here are five tips budgeting for content:
- Spend money on the strategies that work best for you and remember that these will likely change over time, so always monitor performance (e.g. the number of followers you gain vs the amount of money spent).
- Once your budget is allocated, create a spreadsheet with a complete cost breakdown of each piece of content and make sure the total adds up so you don’t overspend on the amount you have.
- Consult Excel experts for a bit of extra help. You can find free templates online for budgeting in Excel or Google Sheets, or equivalent software, and either update them manually or use formulas to do so. You can find a handy cheat sheet for formulas here, while the Instagram account CheatSheets also has some very simple videos that can help.
- Plan ahead. By keeping note of your events or special days coming up, you can budget for them and create a bank of content for them ahead of time. This also means you can potentially spread out your costs, if needed.
- Create a content calendar that tracks expenditure on all pieces of content using a spreadsheet. Include details such as title, content format (article, video, etc.), author, word count, publish date, whether it is published, whether a brief has been sent to external authors if necessary, and importantly, the cost. Create a new sheet for each month so you can track monthly expenditure and plan without suffering from overwhelm.
We’ve pulled together a list of the things that you might want to add to your creating and sharing budget. None of this needs to cost the earth, but it can soon add up if you’re not careful:
Good cameras, a tripod to steady it, a ring light for getting the right lighting during filming; these can all be excellent investments for your organisations.
With smartphone cameras being more sophisticated than ever, you may not need the above, but if you’re creating videos or taking beautiful photos of your conservation project on a regular basis, it may be worth considering investing in higher tech.
Paid versions of editing apps
There are lots of free versions of editing apps that can help your organisation with content, from audio editing apps such as Audacity to design apps like Snappa or Canva. These are free to sign up and use, but come with limitations. The free version of Snappa, for example, only allows five downloads a month, and functionality is more limited.
For every free app you use, there is almost always a paid version with more features that can help improve your content. It can be a different app entirely ( Audacity is always free) or the same (Canva and Snappa both have premium versions).
Whether you’re editing – a film, a photo, or a podcast – you need to think about your needs. Work out whether the additional features will benefit you or if you can make do with the free version.
For example, Audacity may be free, but it can be clunkier to use than other apps. The time you save might be worth the cost of paying for a better service. Similarly, if you need more than five images a month, paying for Snappa might be better than relying on the free version – and you’ll be able to do more with it, too.
Depending on your budget and internal capacity, you may want to reach out to external creators to help generate your content. You might need a blog article from an expert, or a host for your podcast, or maybe even a shiny new logo for your latest project.
This means looking for freelancers and paying them for their services. Content creation takes time and effort, so work out an appropriate fee, and agree to it with your freelancer.
The first step is working out what others are paying their freelancers – scope out the competition. Journo Resources has a list of rates paid by various organisations which can help you determine the right fee.
For reaching out to freelancers, try sites like Work for Impact or People per Hour, which links to freelancers with expertise in a variety of fields, including the heritage sector and the environment.
Depending on what your goal is and how many people you’d like to reach with your content, it may be worth considering paying for advertising online. This can be done on a budget but tread carefully – monitor what you get for the money you spend.
A good way to do this is to divide how much you’ve spent by how many clicks you’ve received on an article, for example, or how many views on a video. You can do this using online calculators such as The Online Advertising Guide’s Cost Per Click (CPC) Calculator.
Work out how much you’ve spent per click, and Google averages so you can compare results. For example, this article tells us the average spent per click on Facebook advertising is 78p. Knowing this, you can make an informed choice on whether you want to continue spending money on that channel in the future.
Now you’ve got your budget, the question is: how to spend it effectively? Here are some ways of creating content without breaking the bank, so you can ensure that any money you do spend is focussed on areas you really need it.
1. Ask volunteers
Volunteering doesn’t always need to be physical – especially in a post-COVID-19 world, where some volunteers may not be comfortable doing so in person. Think about different ways they can help – writing an article for your website is just as valid as running a tour.
Also signpost the fact that you’re looking for volunteers clearly on your website so people know they can do so when they’re finding out what you’re about. Look at this example from London Canal Museum – volunteering is included in their navigation panel at the top of their site.
2. Make use of user-generated content
Not all content has to come from you. Visitors or supporters may very well have their own photos they can share – all you need to do is repost and credit them accordingly. It has the added benefit of acting like a recommendation, too, showing people why others choose to engage with you.
A good example of this is Nottingham Heritage Railway’s Twitter account. They retweet images from visitors and train enthusiasts, thus filling their feed with content at no expense to themselves.
You can also encourage people to post about you by giving them permission to do so in signs around exhibits and attractions or at events, ask people to tag your account, and regularly engage with people who do. The more people see that their content is likely to be reposted, the more they’ll get involved.
Remember: your content doesn’t have to be particularly polished to pack a punch. In fact, quite the opposite – people often respond better to content that is authentic, rather than something fancy but that doesn’t reflect who you are.
Take, for example, in 2018, the Museum of English Rural Life grew its audience by posting an example of its livestock portraiture on Twitter with a funny caption.
The museum now has more than 159,000 followers and, as Adam Koszary, former Programme Manager and Digital Lead there, wrote: “Writing in a friendly and humorous way doesn’t destroy the museum, and it’s simply one of the ways we reach our end goal: involving everyone in our heritage.”
You can read more about how heritage organisations can develop an online personality in this blog post: Should museums have a personality?
3. Use free apps
Not all content needs to be polished, but not all content needs to be generated quickly either. If you have planned ahead effectively, you have time to perfect it.
Image generating sites like Canva or Snappa have free, basic options, as well as more premium, paid versions. You can find stock images and templates to create content for all your needs, whether it’s an invite to an event or a thumbnail image for your latest article.
As mentioned above though, the free versions of these apps often have limitations – on the templates or images you can use, for example – or on the amount of downloads you can do per month.
Having said that, here are a couple of “always free” options that can help:
Unsplash – Unsplash is a website full of free images that organisations can use for whatever purpose.
Creative Commons – Creative Commons is a not-for-profit organisation that provides rights to images and audio that users can repost and repurpose as needed. But make sure you give appropriate credit for any media you use.
4. Social media advertising
If you do have a little bit of budget left after content creation, promoting it on social media isn’t always as expensive as you might think. You can see a rough guide of social media advertising costs in this article: How much does social media advertising cost?
Instagram, for example, allows its business and creator accounts to boost individual posts for a set amount of time, with users able to set the money they’d like to put behind it which can be as little as a few pounds.
You can set your goal (more profile visits, more website visits, or more messages) and your budget, and the app will tell you how many people you can expect to reach with that amount.
Facebook has similar options. But always keep in mind the objective of your content when employing advertising tactics. Social media ads might not always work towards your goal.
The reason we budget is to make us more efficient with our money. Even if the amount you spend is small, make sure it’s documented in your budget and monitor the success of each campaign so you can be sure you’re not spending money unnecessarily.
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Please attribute as: "How do I budget for content creation and sharing? (2022) by Laura Stanley, Charity Digital supported by The Heritage Fund, licensed under CC BY 4.0