Freelancing is the fastest growing sector in today’s economy. Within 10 years, analysts anticipate it will become the primary method of employment. They can say this, because today, over 50% of millennials are already working in this “gig” economy. You’re looking for the right content marketing business to work with. You’re probably considering freelance content marketing and all it has to offer.
There are some benefits to this highly flexible work arrangement. That goes for both the freelance professional and your business. But there are some things you need to know to navigate hiring and working with a freelancer.
This Ultimate Guide has everything you need to know to have the best experience possible.
What Is Freelance Content Marketing?
When we talk about freelance content marketing, we’re talking about hiring a single person on a contract basis. They handle some or all of your content marketing related tasks.
In legal and IRS terms, this person is an independent contractor, aka, freelancer.
What a Freelance Content Marketing Professional Does
You may think of freelance content writing or freelance video production when you hear this term. But content marketing, and in turn freelance content marketing, is much broader than that.
Freelance content marketing can encompass one, or several, of the following types of content marketing tasks:
- Research & Analytics (topics, keywords, competitor analysis, market research, performance tracking, etc)
- Content Strategy
- Content Creation (video, photography, blogs, social media posts, etc)
- Content Distribution (Social media, AdWords Campaigns, 3rd-party websites, email marketing, etc)
- Content Management
- Website Design
- On Page SEO — What you do on your website to help search engines find your pages
- Off Page SEO — What you do off the site, like guest posts, backlinks, social media, ads, etc.
Given the wide array of content marketing tasks, you would rarely hire one freelancer to handle all of your content marketing. Rather, you’d likely be looking for several people. Each of them will be specialized in one or more aspects of content marketing.
As such, you’re still responsible for communicating and coordinating among these independent individuals. You ensure quality control. You determine whether or not goals are being met.
When hiring a freelance content marketer, the business determines the scope of a project to be done. After clearly defining the work to be done, the two parties negotiate an agreeable price.
When that work is completed to satisfaction, the business pays and reviews the freelancer. If you are pleased with their work, you may decide to start a new “project”.
Or you may decide to part ways.
There is no expectation of a long-term partnership unless both parties decide to create one.
Hiring Freelance vs Your Employees
When you hire an employee, you expect them to stay with the company and grow with you. You’re typically willing to invest in hiring. You’ll take some time training and retaining this employee, because of the long-term relationship.
You have more control in the relationship. You might define a dress code, where and when they work and how they perform their duties.
With freelance content marketing, the partnership is often much shorter. You have less control over how they do the work.
Your only focus is the end result.
The freelancer is responsible for any expenses they incur as part of the job even to the point of losing money. This is, unless, those expenses are for special requirements made by your business.
In this case, they would need to be laid out in the contract.
An employee typically works for one person at a time. In contrast, a freelance professional works for many people often on the same day. They set their own schedules based upon the priorities they have to complete by given deadlines.
There are some pros and cons to this that we’ll discuss a little later.
Hiring Freelance vs Content Marketing Agency
A content marketing agency is a business that includes more than one person. They may have several content marketing professionals. Each specializes in the various aspects of content marketing. These professionals work for their company as employees.
That company, in turn, works for you.
In the case of the agency, the various individuals are managed and overseen by the agency. You still have a say regarding the results. But you don’t have to manage them day to day to maintain quality.
All communication and collaboration takes place within the agency. Then summaries and progress updates are provided to you as the client.
Common Signs You Need to Outsource
For years, the term “outsource” had a negative connotation. But today, outsourcing is not only accepted. It’s valued as a part of our economy. We’ve even given it a clever name “the gig economy”, which refers to the fact that freelancers work per project or “gig”.
As a small business, the decision to outsource is usually pretty easy. There are many tasks in your company that aren’t full-time tasks.
It would be a waste to hire someone to do it who would sit idle a lot of the time. And asking the receptionist or other employee to pick up the work on the side is rarely a good idea.
They don’t have the know-how. It will take them a lot longer because of this lack of experience. They also often feel pulled in too many directions. This can cause overall performance to suffer.
You know it’s time to outsource content marketing when:
- You don’t have the in-house skill for the task
- You don’t have the advanced tools for the task (some freelancers will & agencies definitely will)
- You keep pushing certain tasks to the back burner
- You’re not gaining any traction with your current content marketing efforts
- Your staff feels overwhelmed with duties out of their scope
- The time you spend trying to do things costs you more than outsourcing (it usually does)
- You’re growing quickly and don’t have time to hire and train
Pros & Cons of Hiring Freelance Content Marketing Help
There are many reasons that it makes sense to outsource. But to understand if and how to work with a freelancer, it’s important to understand the pros and cons in this partnership.
Pro: No Long-Term Commitment
You don’t have to worry about lengthy recruiting. Lengthy interviewing and hiring or paperwork-intensive firing. Freelancers are considered a short-term, per project employee. It only becomes long-term if you mutually agree to make it so.
Pro: Save Money
Freelance content marketing professionals will often cost you less than an employee or agency. Their hourly, or per project rates, may be higher. But consider total compensation, not paying for downtime, not being responsible for their expenses, and not adding them to your employee benefits package. You’ll usually come out lower cost with a freelancer.
Con: You May Pay More of Your Time
The freelance relationship is shorter. You may spend more time finding the perfect freelancer and reviewing their work. There’s not as much incentive for a freelancer to spend extra time (unpaid) to learn about your business.
This often leads to more misunderstandings about deliverables and goals.
You’re responsible for making sure everything is original and meets quality expectations. If we get really honest, a freelancer has less to lose if they plagiarize. They’d just lose that gig.
An employee would be fired. An agency would lose a big contract and take a ding on their reputation that might take a long time to overcome.
As a business leader, you know time is money. This is a big negative in the con column.
That’s time better spent growing your business.
You can offset this con by establishing a more long-term partnership with the freelancer. They learn more about your goals and business with each assignment. Over time, the work continues to improve, and they need less management.
Pro: Get Instant Expertise
Freelance content marketing professionals are often highly specialized. They’ve worked for many clients on many projects. This helps them see the whole picture. They provide expert advice and assistance you wouldn’t get by asking your receptionist to pull double-duty.
On top of this, working for many clients within one area of content marketing has allowed them to really hone their skills to deliver results.
Pro: They Often Have a Varied Skill-Set
It’s just the nature of freelancing. A freelancer learns how to do a lot of things along the way. That’s because they’re often adventurous by nature and always trying new things.
They bring this diverse skill-set to you when you hire them.
Pro: One Point of Contact
Have you ever called a huge business? You’ve just been transferred around to 2 or more people. They all say they’ll try to help you. But nothing gets resolved.
When you hang up, they’re onto the next caller. This is a common complaint among huge companies.
It’s nice to have a single point of contact, who works directly with you.
Con: Increased Chance of Delay
There’s a downside to the previous pro. Having a single point contact means you’re relying on a single person to get something done on time. If they get sick, have a family emergency or just get behind, there’s no one to pick up the slack. In a real emergency, you may not even be contacted because they’re incapacitated.
It’s like they just fall off the face of the earth.
On a daily basis, you may not always be able to reach them because they’re working for several people. Being one person, they don’t have the resources to hire a receptionist or even a calling service.
To head this off, set a deadline that’s not down to the wire. Plan ahead. Give them ample time.
Give yourself some wiggle room.
Manage your expectations regarding anything you need quickly.
They’ve already committed to complete something for another client? They may not be able to pick up another assignment that you must have today.
That’s not a reasonable expectation for a freelancer. But oftentimes, an agency can provide a faster turn around.
Pro: They’re Usually Extremely Flexible
Need something over the weekend or on a holiday? Your employees may grumble or refuse to work. If you give a freelancer some notice, this normally isn’t an issue.
The traditional 5-day work week isn’t a thing for freelancers. Labor Day may just be another work day to them.
They don’t have paid vacations.
Because they work for themselves, they set their own hours. If they have to complete a big project over the weekend, they may be happy to take Monday off to avoid over-working themselves.
If they need to work 70 hours one week, they may be willing to do it.
They just balance it out the next week.
Always talk to your freelancer regarding their flexibility. Don’t take advantage. They may have something planned just like the rest of us. But chances are they don’t work a traditional week anyway.
There’s no reason not to ask nicely if needed.
Are you thinking of hiring a freelance content marketing professional? As you can see there are some pros as well as cons. Maximizing the pros and minimizing the cons requires you to streamline how you hire and work with freelancers.
Let’s go there next.
Steps to Hire a Freelance Content Marketing Professional
Here’s what you need to know.
Start with referrals. Ask around. Have any of your colleagues or LinkedIn connections had good experiences in the freelance content marketing department?
Get recommendations. Ask about their experiences.
But be mindful. Anyone, and we mean anyone, can be a freelancer.
A referral doesn’t always ensure the perfect fit.
When possible, starting here will help you more quickly narrow down your list to find the perfect one for you. But you’ll still need to complete some screening to ensure they can handle the scope of your job.
Define the Scope
Don’t try to hire a freelance content marketing professional until you have an idea about what you need. As we saw earlier, content marketing includes many facets.
If you hire someone who is primarily a content marketing writer to distribute your content, you may not get the best results.
Freelance is always project based. That project needs to be clearly defined. You may modify it as you begin working with the perfect freelance content marketer.
But have a solid idea about what you’re outsourcing before you begin your search.
Establish a Budget
How much are you willing to spend? Will you be outsourcing all of your content marketing, or just one-off projects or campaigns?
Research what people are paying. Look at the quality you can get for that price. In content marketing, quality is everything. Mediocre doesn’t get results.
When we say quality, we’re not talking about whether there’s a typo.
That matters. But more importantly, quality is accomplished when the following are taking place:
- The person knows your branding inside and out and represents it well
- They know your audience
- They take time to research what’s out there and what’s working
- They apply comprehensive strategies
- They think globally. No piece of content is an island.
- They achieve measurable results, based on the scope of their work
Set a reasonable budget based upon what you need. Don’t fall for low ball offers.
You’re not guaranteed quality by paying more. But you’ll very rarely get it when you’re going the cheap route.
You’ll often spend more time editing and re-hiring than it’s worth.
Define Your Goals
Set clear goals. Do you want more quality social media followers? You may need a content marketer to help you achieve that.
Do you need to increase conversions through your website?
Determine what you plan to achieve. Set a SMART goal that you can communicate with your potential freelancer. That’s Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timebound.
Discuss with your freelancer whether the timeline is attainable. As experts, they should have a good idea about what’s possible and what’s not.
Prepare Your Style Guide
A style guide, or branding guide, allows you to show a consistent face to your customers. A freelancer will need it to deliver the best results.
As applicable, it includes things like:
- Social media channels and how you use them
- Sites where you have a presence
- How you respond to reviews (think Wendy’s sarcasm vs more professional responses)
- How you connect with customers
- Color schemes
- Font sizes/styles
- Types of imagery
- And so on
Keep this guide concise. Focus on what’s important. Their time is money just like yours is. It’s not reasonable to ask someone to read a 10-page document just to write you a short $100 article.
Have you established a longer-term partnership with a freelance content marketing professional? It’s time to help them better align with your brand. Longer style guides make sense.
Develop Written Buyer Personas
You wouldn’t try to market without knowing who your target audience is. Freelance or not, you’ll always get best results when a marketing professional knows who they’re intended to connect with.
Write it out. Be clear on who you want this person to reach. What are this audience’s challenges and goals? What are their interests, income levels, educations or job types?
All of this impacts how a content marketer works their magic.
Start Your Search
There are many places to find freelancers. Avoid bidding sites. These are usually a waste of time for you and the freelancer. People rarely read your project brief and simply try to under-bid their competition.
Look for sites that are more exclusive. Sites that have a vetting process will cost you more. But you’ll save time because they’ve weeded out freelancers that are less likely to deliver results.
LinkedIn is also a great place to search. There, you see endorsements and get a feel for the content marketer’s skill level, experience and expertise.
Actually Read Reviews
Read reviews before choosing a freelance content marketing professional. A person can say all day long that they know what they’re doing. Don’t put your business in the hands of someone who was “all talk”.
Get the validation from people who’ve worked with them.
While we need reviews to ensure this person knows what they’re doing, Don’t get taken in by fake reviews that aren’t really representative.
Be on the lookout for suspicious reviews.
Reviews may be fake if:
- They use lots of positive industry catchphrases
- The reviewer only writes positive reviews
- Most of the reviewer’s reviews look the same or similar
- Several reviews are left within a few days
- Strange use of language. Eg, states that a reviewer is in the US. But there are subtle language choices that suggest that they’re not from the US like putting a $ after the amount or specifying US dollars. Unfortunately, writing fake reviews is big business in some countries.
- A negative reviewer complains that they don’t understand how this person has such great reviews. In this case, this person is probably a real reviewer pointing out that other reviews are fake.
Don’t write someone off. Sometimes something that looks like a red flag is just an honest reviewer who happens to write suspicious looking reviews.
These red flags should, however, cause you to take a closer look.
Review Portfolios & Case Studies
How do you know the person is a good fit for you? Do they have a style that can be adapted to your needs? If you’re paying for strategy, distribution or SEO, can they show that they get results?
Take a look at what this person has to offer. Consider whether or not they’ll be able to deliver what you need.
Speak to References (when possible)
If you’re finding freelancers on an anonymous site, you may not have this option. But speaking with references who you can verify as real businesses will help ensure you hire the right person.
Contact the Freelancer
Once you’ve narrowed it down, reach out to a freelancer. Make sure they’re available. Again, because they are only one person, there’s a chance they can’t take anything else on right now.
Get a feel for how the freelance content marketer works with clients. Provide them with a brief of the work to be done and find out what they charge for these services.
When working with a freelance content marketer, sometimes it’s a good idea to start small. In content marketing, that would be a project under $1000. This gives you an opportunity to see the person’s work specific to your company.
But do have reasonable expectations. For some content marketing services, results build over time. Focus more on the quality of the work and what little you may be able to measure this early.
The best content marketer in the world won’t double traffic overnight and they’d be charging much more than $1000.
Establish Communication Expectations
How does the freelancer communicate? Do they use message systems and email? Are the available to schedule a call or video chat if “face to face” is needed?
If analytics are involved, how will these results be presented to you and how frequently?
To avoid misunderstandings later, it’s best to make communication needs clear up front.
Freelancers are generally task-oriented. They’re not responsible for managing across projects or long-term results. They don’t have the capacity to offer quality control.
This doesn’t mean they shouldn’t send you quality work. A top-notch freelance content marketing professional will deliver consistent quality.
But as a single individual, and not an agency, they don’t have teammates to collaborate with or proof their work. Unless you’ve been working with a freelancer a while and really trust them, you need to sign off on everything before publishing.
Failing to review work could cause this kind of social media disaster.
Review and results management stays with your business in the freelance relationship. Are you looking to hand your marketing over to someone? Do you want them to manage it across campaigns over the long-term with little day to day involvement from you?
Freelance may not be your best option.
Your goal when working with freelancers is to develop a longer-term partnership with one or a handful of people. This reduces the day to day involvement and helps ensure you and your freelance partner get the ROI on the partnership.
Feedback is always important even if you’ll never work with this person again. But if this looks like it might be a good long-term partnership, it’s worth your time to take some notes. Provide more detailed feedback.
The partnership will strengthen because of it. And the professional’s deliverables will continue to improve.
While freelance is by nature a short-term “gig”, if you find a freelancer that delivers high-quality work, nurture that partnership. Expand upon it if you can. As you do, similar to an employee, the professional becomes more invested in your business.
Write a Review
A freelance professional is a one-person business. Like your business, reviews impact their ability to get new clients. 90% of people now look at reviews before making a buying decision. 84% of people say they trust reviews as much as recommendations from a friend.
When writing a review, do consider whether it’s just not a good fit before leaving a bad review. Whenever possible, work with the professional to resolve any concerns before writing the review.
If you had a great experience, share that with others.
Hire a Content Marketing Agency
Hiring freelance has its pros, but it also has its cons. It may be less expensive sometimes, but as the saying goes – you get what you pay for. It also comes with an extra time investment requirement on your part. When you hire a content marketing agency like ours, then these cons are diminished.
Our content specialists do all the research, writing, editing, and publishing for you. You never have to lift a finger. Our clients are very satisfied with the quality work they receive and are thankful for the amount of extra time they have to dedicate to other areas of their growing business that need them most.
Are you ready to grow your business without having to dedicate anymore time to yet another channel of marketing? You need a partner who can help you develop and implement long-term, proven strategies for success. LYFE Marketing is the solution you need. Contact us today to schedule a consultation about your content marketing plan.