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Melody Dawes

Keeping publishing flexible through outsourcing: interview with Just Content

Melody Dawes is the Managing Director of Just Content. With 20 years’ experience in educational and academic publishing, she set up Just Content in 2013, offering publishers and content providers an on-demand solution for outsourcing at scale. Here we interview Melody about her business.

What led you to set up Just Content, and how has the business grown since it began?

I was working as a freelance consultant, back in 2013, having recently left an in-house role. I was helping clients with strategy, market research and commissioning work and they would often ask if I could help resource the project work to follow, once a business case was agreed. What started as informally sub-contracting to a small pool of colleagues for a small pool of clients quickly took Just Content to full service provision, helping a number of clients to outsource projects and editorial work at significant scale. Last year, we made the switch from delivering our services via a freelance model to the hybrid model of  our in-house team (based at our offices in Braintree, Essex) and freelance network. We now have an in-house team of 8 and 300 freelancers, of which we typically use around 100-150 per month. The business has grown year on year since 2013 and since the launch of the hybrid model last year, we grew our revenue by 90%.  With our 100% repeat business record, our client list is growing all of the time too.

Why do you think outsourcing is becoming more important to publishing companies?

Like many industries, publishing has looked to streamline operations and create cost efficiencies over recent years and many companies have also had to review their ways of working due to IR35 restrictions. By using our services, publishing companies are able to access highly relevant skills and experience, on-demand, on a project by project basis. For our education and academic publishers, this is very important where having in-house subject specialists is not viable for any longer than market-drivers, such as curriculum change, will support. The skills and experience we have in our team bring such high value to projects, that outsourcing is helping many of our clients to publish more content than might be viable with ongoing in-house overheads, while knowing that they have an affordable solution to will deliver the quality needed.

Is there such a thing as a ‘typical’ project for you?

No! Some projects will be huge multi-component series, where we work on everything from proof of concept, right the way through to final files but we also deliver one-off editorial services on single projects and all sorts of variations in between. We also have a range of print and digital projects and work across all sectors and subjects for primary, secondary, higher ed and ELT. We always treat projects in the same way, by assessing the requirements and finding the best person or people to deliver. We don’t only work with publishing companies, either. We also support other content providers, such as training organisations, awarding bodies and media companies.

What’s the key to success for a good outsourcing collaboration?

It’s important to put the time in to understand client requirements and agree shared expectations early on, for every project. We aim to develop trust and want our clients to be able to think of us as an extension to their in-house team. That means working hard to build up an understanding of ways of working, company culture etc, in the same way you might when new to an in-house role. The key is working and communicating as one team as much as possible and being able to demonstrate that we have the project’s best outcomes in mind at all times.

Where do you see the business going in the next few years?

Hopefully, much more of the same! Also, we have recently been working on more non-traditional formats, such as apps, and for non-publishing clients such as the UK Government and the BBC. We’ve learnt a lot and have been able to take new ideas back to our publishing work as a result.  I am expecting more of this kind of activity to feature in our pipeline.  We have also been developing our client training offer. We have always supported clients with in-house training but have been exploring ways to harness the wealth of experience and knowledge we have to support in-house development and industry skills gaps.  Of course, we will continue to expand our network of content experts and maintain the quality of the Just Content service.

For more information about Melody Dawes and the Just Content team, visit their website at http://justcontent.co.uk/.

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