Dear E Me: Marketing – what to outsource to a freelancer, and what to keep in house

Are you toying with the idea of outsourcing your marketing to a freelancer? Good for you. Before you take the leap, read our agony aunt column first
20th July 2018

Welcome to TechSPARK’s digital advice column, Dear E Me.

Every month we look at digital marketing problems affecting tech businesses. To submit your own question, just email us at ([email protected] / [email protected])

Dear E Me,

Hello! I’m Sarah. I’m one of the founders of a small e-consultancy specialising in retail. Me and my co-founder are thinking of hiring a marketing freelancer. We’re too busy doing client work to bother with it, we don’t have time to start writing newsletters and blogs, so we’ve decided to assign some budget for this.

Before we go ahead, can you advise us on:

  • Where do we find a good freelancer?
  • How do we manage that person?
  • Should we bother with a contract?

We’re all really tired, so as long as it takes the pressure off, I’d like to get this sorted asap. Thanks,

Sarah

Hi Sarah!

Good for you, you’ve decided to get some help and alleviate the pressure on your team. I’m guessing that your business is SME sized, without an internal marketing department. So, if I’ve got this right, you’re a growing business, but you’re not yet so big that you can afford in-house specialists.

I’ll happily advise you on all the things you asked, but before you go ahead, can I suggest an alternative? There’s never been a better time to hire an apprentice. The government offers huge financial incentives for businesses like yours to get a new marketing apprentice, and with external training support provided, you might find this is a valuable way of getting your marketing done, for limited outlay. To find out more about your options, check out this link, although there are loads of agencies around the South West who provide this service.

But if you don’t want to hire an apprentice, because you’re set on the idea of a freelancer, then here’s my advice on finding the right person.

  1. Start with word of mouth

Although the temptation might be to publish an ad on Gumtree, don’t. You’ll be overwhelmed by un-vetted applications, and this will only add to your workload.

Ask around in your network, speak to people in your position in other companies, or (failing all that) post on LinkedIn, asking for referrals only. This will give you a small but vetted pool of people to reach out to.

Interview your favourite 5 applicants, and take time to find the right fit. Think about your company culture, the attitude you’re looking for, and ask detailed questions about the candidate’s experience. It’s completely acceptable to

  1. Have a really, really, really specific plan

A lot of companies hire freelancers and leave them to it. I’ve seen so many poorly managed marketing hires flounder in this situation, and it’s not their fault. It’s your job to set out a detailed plan of action for the new hire.

Don’t expect them to know the company key messages, tone of voice or audience profiles. Give them as much support, background information and time with the sales team to get inside your customers head.

Then plan ahead, preferably with them, so they know exactly what’s expected in the coming weeks and months.

  1. Yes, get a contract

Working without a series of terms is unfair on you, and the freelancer. Just because someone is not a permanent, PAYE employee, doesn’t mean they should work without protection. And without a solid contract, you won’t be able to execute your plan.

So, let your freelance know what’s expected each month, and write their KPI’s into the plan. Make sure that you cover a basic NDA, copyright of written assets, and a sign off process so that it’s clear from the start how you will work together.

If this sounds over-zealous, it’s not. It’s so important to be really thoughtful and detailed at the start of a working relationship. Without this protection, I would expect weaker outcomes for you, and for the freelancer you hire.

Finally, don’t rule out smaller agencies, like mine  (hint hint). Whereas freelancers may offer execution of tasks for limited investment, working with a small, local agency might get you more steer, more leadership and a better long-term ROI than someone who doesn’t yet have the experience to get you results. But of course, I would say that.