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When to use AI and when to use freelancers to write your content

an image of author Giuseppe Caltabiano, accompanied by search-related iconography, including a play button and header HTML tags

No matter where you stand on the topic of AI, it’s safe to assume that it’s here to stay. The prevalence of these tools (as well as the hype) is compelling companies and marketers to ask the million-dollar question: can unsupervised AI-generated content match (or exceed) the quality of content produced by human writers?

As of right now, the answer is clearly no; but that doesn’t mean AI tools can’t be useful for content creation. In fact, it makes the most sense to utilize AI in tandem with high-quality writers.

So, with that in mind, let’s dive into the world of content creation and when to use AI vs. freelance writers.

Table of contents:

AI content creation: what we know so far

A significant reason why AI software is making such big waves is that it is generative. That means an AI program can take data from various sources and generate a new piece of content from it based on directions from you—the human digital marketer.

For example, Midjourney is an AI imaging tool that can take text prompts and turn them into photorealistic renders in a matter of minutes. The fact that these tools can deliver such content so rapidly has changed digital marketing—for better or worse.

On one hand, many businesses are capitalizing on software like ChatGPT to pump out content much faster than they would be able to themselves.

On the other hand, the content these programs produce is often of middling quality (if not outright terrible).

Generally speaking, just because AI software can write a web page or blog post doesn’t mean it should.

It’s also important to note that AI for content creation is still in its infancy, and there’s a mad rush to apply its potential for efficiency as widely as possible—particularly in the SaaS sector. Once the novelty of these programs dies down, we’ll be able to figure out what the future will look like for content creation.

That said, here are a few examples of how digital marketers are currently applying AI.

How content creators and digital marketers are using AI

Companies, both large and small, are taking advantage of AI tools in a big way.

For content creation, AI is often used to:

  • Develop targeted content ideas to increase user engagement

  • Generate article outlines that an editor refines

  • Identify potential keywords to target

  • Generate FAQs that an SEO refines

  • Generate social media posts based on articles

Beyond content creation, AI is also suitable for wider digital marketing tasks, like:

  • Talent sourcing — While AI-generated content isn’t as nuanced or rich as what a human can create, this technology can help companies connect with compatible writers. For example, WriterAccess uses AI software to match writers to brands based on writing samples. This way, businesses don’t have to scour a database of thousands of writers to find who’s the right writer for them.

  • Audience targeting — Some companies, like GumGum, are getting granular with audience targeting by using AI to determine where to place ads on web pages to capture users’ attention more effectively. This could help businesses dramatically increase their click-through and conversion rates.

  • Audience segmentation — AI can segment users based on their behavior. Such tools can also help develop ideas to engage with these audiences based on the same historical data. Bonobo AI (acquired by SalesForce) made predictive analyses about marketing campaigns based on user activity.

As you can see, there’s a lot of potential for marketers and content creators to use the power of AI in an ethical way. Keep in mind, though, that these examples only scratch the surface of what’s possible—and knowing when to use AI is crucial for getting ahead in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

AI vs. Human writers and content creators

The superior choice is obvious—for now, at least: as advanced as AI technology is, it can’t replicate the unique experiences and insights that a human can bring to a piece of content.

That said, there are many ways to incorporate AI into the content creation process. And, as AI-based tools continue to advance, marketers will utilize them more effectively.

Ideally, you’ll work with both AI and human content creators to develop content and optimize it more effectively for your brand or clients.

Here’s a breakdown of when AI works best and when you should rely on a good old-fashioned human content creator.

Content creation tasks that AI helps with

An infographic (titled “Evaluating AI for content creation”) listing pros and cons. In the pros section: Fast and efficient, Automate repetitive or boring tasks, Speed up the content creation process, Create basic outlines or ideas to be fleshed out by a human writer. In the Cons section: AI is only as good as its data source, AI programs need constant updating to stay relevant, AI tools may be expensive for smaller businesses.

The primary purpose of AI is to receive and digest mountains of data.

Even generative programs like Midjourney and ChatGPT only function because of the data they’ve consumed and “learned.” Basically, without getting fed information, an AI program would be extremely limited in what it could create.

So, with that caveat in mind, here are some of the ways AI can enhance your content creation process:

Task automation

AI tools are fantastic at learning how to perform different tasks as quickly and efficiently. Some examples include:

  • Generating subtitles or closed captions for video content

  • Adding trending hashtags to social media posts

  • Suggesting potential keywords (although ChatGPT cannot access search volume data)

Ideation and outlining

Generative AI platforms, like ChatGPT, can help you come up with fresh content ideas. In some cases, they may suggest some ideas that you wouldn’t have discovered on your own.

The output from a chatgpt prompt to suggest content marketing topics about donuts for a donut shop’s local business. The output reads: “Certainly! Here are some engaging content marketing topics for a local donut shop's website: The History of Donuts: Dive into the fascinating history of donuts, from their origins to their popularity around the world, and how they've evolved over time. Behind-the-Scenes: A Day in the Donut Shop: Take your audience on a virtual tour of your donut shop, showcasing the process of making donuts, the ingredients you use, and the dedication behind each delicious treat. Donut Flavor of the Month: Introduce a new, limited-time donut flavor each month and create content around its creation, inspiration, and taste profile. Local Ingredients and Community Partnerships: Highlight your commitment to using local ingredients and collaborating with nearby businesses, farmers, and producers to create a unique, community-focused experience. Donut Decorating Tutorials: Create step-by-step guides or videos showing customers how to decorate donuts at home, sharing techniques and creative ideas. Customer Stories and Testimonials: Feature stories from loyal customers who have special memories associated with your donuts, sharing their experiences and love for your shop. Nutritional Spotlight: Address common misconceptions about donuts and provide information about the nutritional content of your offerings, emphasizing moderation and balance.

From there, you can create basic outlines centered around a topic or keyword (or ask ChatGPT to do it). Finally, you can polish and refine the outline or outsource it to a writer to make it pop.

Non-creative content creation

Sometimes, a piece of content is little more than a data set presented in a visually appealing way. For example, an infographic can take facts and statistics and make them more engaging to the reader.

An example of a data set (in this case, typical search volume trends mapped against conversion rate) visualized as an infographic-style chart.
An example of a data set (in this case, typical search volume trends mapped against conversion rate) visualized as an infographic-style chart.

For these content pieces, AI is especially helpful since you don’t have to create anything unique or captivating. The data itself is the message, so the AI platform can deliver that information however you prompt it to.

Editing and proofreading

You may not think of a spellchecker program as an example of AI, but these tools have only become more refined in recent years. AI editing programs can spot errors in real time and help you correct them before they go live.

“Once we identified the samples, we then fed them into statistical learning algorithms—along with “correct” text gathered from high-quality web sources (billions of words!)—to help us predict outcomes using stats like the frequency at which we’ve seen a specific correction occur. This process helped us build a basic spelling and grammar correction model.” Jayakumar Hoskere, software engineer, Google Docs

Since proofreading can be so time-consuming, these tools can speed up the editing and publishing process.

When to use human content creators instead of AI

An infographic (labeled “working with freelancers (instead of AI) for content creation”), listing pros and cons. In the pros section: Richer, more nuanced and relevant content, Insight and authority on YMYL topics, Can create content according to brand guidelines, Better ROI with high-ranking content. In the Cons section: Slower than AI, Higher upfront costs per content piece

Overall, human writers are better at actually creating valuable, thoughtful content that engages target audiences. While working with humans isn’t generally as fast as AI (or as inexpensive), the output is typically far more authentic—which really matters in high-competition verticals.

Here are some tasks that are typically strengths for the right freelance content creator, but risky to entrust to AI:

Writing nuanced or niche content

Search engines like Google prioritize relevance over all else, so you need to create content that speaks to the searcher’s intent.

An infographic of the marketing funnel. There are content types for each stage, including: awareness — blog posts, webinars, guides; interest — homepage, contact page, blog posts; decision — product pages, free trials, case studies, reviews; and conversion — shopping cart, “get quote” forms, “contact us” submissions
Various content types that users may expect to see in the search results, depending on the intent of their search query.

Some topics and industries—due to their nuance or complexity—have to meet higher standards to rank well on Google (Google refers to these as Your Money or Your Life [YMYL] topics).

“Where our algorithms detect that a user’s query relates to a ‘YMYL’ topic, we will give more weight in our ranking systems to factors like our understanding of the authoritativeness, expertise or trustworthiness [E-A-T] of the pages we present in response.” — Google, How Google Fights Disinformation, February 2019

So, for industries that can potentially affect someone’s choices regarding, for example, their health, finances, voting, and so on, Google mandates that your content show a high degree of experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-E-A-T).

The bottomline here is that AI simply does not possess the experience or expertise necessary to authoritatively create content in high-stakes industries. Fortunately, you can always rely on a human writer that has hands-on experience (preferably even decades of it) to speak to your audience.

Applying brand voice and styling

One way to make content more engaging for a particular audience is to stylize it to reflect that audience’s values (which would ideally align with your brand’s values). AI programs can only repackage the data it has to work with. The human mind is far more creative and can take a message and turn it into something that truly resonates with your audience.

Basically, when it comes to brand voice, a human content creator is still your best option. Fortunately for those on a tighter budget, you could rely on generative AI to create the first draft and hire an in-house editor to make it sound like what your potential customers are expecting.

It’s up to you to find the right balance between AI and human talent

The decision to use AI or human talent isn’t an either/or situation—it’s best to leverage the qualities of each to create something superior for your brand and audience.

Developing the right balance of each element for your particular situation and workflow may seem like a tall task, but keep in mind that you don’t need to have all the answers right now. In many ways, generative AI brings with it a new frontier for digital marketers, so take meticulous notes on your experience as you test out its capabilities so that you can take advantage of all its strengths without falling victim to its weaknesses.


Giuseppe Caltabiano

Giuseppe is a global marketing leader with 20+ years' experience. He excels in crafting content and marketing strategies for SaaS enterprises. Recognized as 2-time influential European B2B marketer, he has an MBA from SDA Bocconi and is trained in M&A at London Business School. Twitter | Linkedin


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