Hiring a digital marketing freelancer is a common practice nowadays for many businesses and has many advantages which we go into further on. The best freelancers are not newbies, most of them climbed the ranks working at marketing agencies or other in-house capacities for a considerable amount of time.
By the time they decide to break out on their own they are most likely highly experienced and confident professionals who have spent years learning and improving their skills to become experts in specific marketing roles and niches. By deciding to become freelancers, they have also taken on a role as business owners themselves and will dedicate the time and effort to establish and maintain their good reputation.
There are several reasons that would lead a top marketing professional to strike out as a freelancer. Flexibility is a major factor, the ability to set your own work pace, choose the marketing projects that interest you the most or that you know you can succeed at. Personal gain is another option, being a business owner means no longer depending on a paycheck as you set your own paygrade. Another final reason would be personal prestige, the ability to brand oneself for the sake of the title as a known expert in their field. Whatever the reason, their talents are open for your business if you choose, and are able to hire them.
Digital marketing expert roles and responsibilities
The vast world of digital marketing is continuously growing and with it the amount of knowledge and skills required to succeed. Digital marketing services have become fragmented into different specializations, each with their own technical and strategic knowledge base. Any digital marketer worth hiring needs to be more than just familiar with the various digital marketing roles and their part in the marketing strategy as a whole.
- SEO specialist
The primary goal of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is to rank a business’s website page/s on the top search engine results page in order to increase website traffic. This includes on-site optimizing of the website structure, speed, links, images, keywords, page meta descriptions and more. And also off-site competitor analysis to discover additional link building possibilities that will help with page ranking.
- Social Media Marketing Expert
A social media marketing expert is responsible for growing a company’s social media presence and engagement with its target audiences. They must be competent in each social media platform separately and possess the know-how to optimize engaging content across platforms to increase brand awareness and loyalty.
- PPC expert
PPC refers to paid digital marketing efforts based on the pay-per-click advertising model. Paid ads exist on most social media platforms and search engine results. A PPC expert’s goal is to optimize the ROI being spent on advertising. This is based on measurable goals, conversion rate optimization, audience targeting, and other marketing strategy derivatives.
- Content marketing manager
Content marketing has become a prominent component of any successful marketing strategy and can be considered the fuel for the digital marketing machine. Content such as blogs, marketing campaigns, ebook publications, email communications, marketing videos, sales page copywriting, etc is all used for SEO optimization, for social media sharing and promotion and for paid advertising. A good content marketer needs to be creative, and have a deep understanding of the target audiences’ needs and expectations.
- Digital marketing consultant/ freelance digital strategist
A digital marketing consultant should be a professional and experienced marketer, who has successfully coached businesses to build and execute their digital marketing strategy in the past. They must be updated on any new marketing trends and best practices to be used. They most probably won’t do the actual “dirty work” themselves, but can point you in the right direction and connect you with other digital marketing service providers to handle the tasks as mentioned above.
These 5 roles are really only the tip of the digital iceberg. Since digital marketing is getting increasingly complex to manage, several other niche roles are emerging as well, such as: Analytics managers, Copywriting experts, Landing/Sales page optimizers, Email marketing experts, Video marketing specialists, and the list keeps going.
Reasons for hiring a digital marketing freelancer
With the above-mentioned complexity of digital marketing, it is wise to hire a digital marketing expert to help manage the marketing of your business in order to get the best possible outcome. The main reasons for that are time, money and access to the valuable professional knowledge marketing freelancers possess from their past experiences.
Digital marketing takes up a considerable amount of time, which you cannot afford to dedicate to assignments that are not part of your core business. Add to that the time it would take you/your company to climb that learning curve and get it right and you are already wasting money as well. Professional and experienced digital marketers will get your there faster and will definitely be more cost-efficient.
Hiring marketing freelancers is optional regardless of your business size or seniority. So whether you are a local shop or a global brand, well established or reaching out to new markets, hiring a professional digital marketer is a smart move. The trick would be to find the right one for your business and budget.
How to hire digital marketing professionals
Now that you’ve realized you need professional (marketing) help there are several other considerations and decisions that need to be made based on your capabilities and business needs.
Which way to go: agency vs. freelancer
The main distinction between agency vs. freelancer is that when hiring a digital marketing freelancer, you are getting an independent individual that works on a self-employed basis. When hiring an agency, you are essentially hiring a digital marketing manager who is in charge of a team of digital marketing experts (see roles above) that will be at your disposal.
The pros and cons of hiring a freelance marketing consultant or service provider.
On the upside, when hiring the right freelancer they will have subject-specific knowledge you need and passion for the work that is often unmatched when compared to agencies. They will also, most likely, be cheaper than hiring an entire agency with its overhead fees. And freelancers are more flexible and reactive to your business needs, so everything is completed faster.
However, it is difficult to find a freelancer with a broad range of focused skills, so you will most likely need to hire and then coordinate a few freelancers to execute a complete digital marketing strategy which can be very time-consuming and a job all on its own.
The pros and cons of hiring a digital marketing agency
Hiring a digital marketing agency means working with a group of marketers that will likely have a huge range of skills and the benefit of having them all managed by someone else. Agencies are easier to trust than a freelancer’s reputation and it is great having everything “in one place”, however, that comes with additional cost.
On the downside, working with an agency, you do not fully know how experienced each of their marketers is and how dedicated they are to your project. They are probably working on several accounts at once. Many times, the amount of attention your account gets depends on the size of the marketing budget invested.
Where to find freelancers
If you have concluded that hiring a digital marketing freelancer is the way to go, now the questions are where to find one. Your first step will most probably be search engine results. The top results here will most likely be Marketplaces, which have risen to power in the past decade as great websites to find and hire freelancers for any sort of marketing tasks, fitting a variety of budgets, payment options, long and short term contracts, correspondence, etc. The great advantage here being the flexibility to choose, negotiate, correspond and pay all in one place. The level of reliability of freelancers is created based on ratings from previous clients.
Take note, that the credibility of these hiring marketplaces may not entirely be a true reflection of the level of professionalism you can expect. Most anyone can self declare themselves as a professional marketing freelancer for hire, without any scrutinized vetting to prove their statements besides customer reviews and testimonials. Even those are not 100% reliable since not all customers leave reviews whether they are pleased or not.
Two other great places to find freelancers are Social media and Word-of -mouth. Several Social media groups are dedicated to finding and hiring freelancers, groups related to your business and industry will always have discussions about recommended digital marketing service providers, and it is more reliable when you see a recommendation by a fellow group member.
However, successfully working with a freelance marketer (no matter the source) also depends on compatibility between your business needs, your communication process and your potential freelancer’s alignment to both. They might be perfectly qualified and a great fit in theory, but it will be up to you to determine if there is chemistry to work with.
What you should check when hiring a digital marketing freelancer
Beyond a great reputation, it is critical that you conduct some sort of vetting for yourself to check the credibility and the match to your needs. Here is a short checklist of things to check:
- Ratings - as mentioned Marketplaces for hiring freelancers work with a built-in rating system, based on past client’s reviews. These are mostly reliable but not the only thing you should depend on (also you might be missing out on a newcomer to the Marketplace who has yet to gain ratings).
- Customer testimonials - these are also included as part of a freelancer’s profile on various Marketplaces or appear most likely on their website. It can help to find relatable success stories of businesses like you own that can indicate a good match.
- LinkedIn profile - their professional profile can be a helpful indicator of past relevant work experience, education or certifications that might be required for them to be able to provide digital marketing services you need.
- Past experience - either asking them directly or by cyber snooping (LinkedIn, Google, Social Media) find out if they have relevant experience not only in your specific industry but also with managing similar marketing budgets and marketing channels.
- Proximity - While not a must in today’s global market where everything can be managed remotely, it is helpful to find out if the freelancer is close enough so it is simpler to coordinate and communicate with them. If you are not in the same geographic proximity, even being in the same or nearby time zones can support responsiveness.
- Expected results - Find out how they intend to monitor their performance, and make sure it is aligned with your KPI’s. Agree upon expected results timelines, and what they might require from you to keep up their end of the deal.
Holding on to a good digital marketing freelancer
Now that you have found the right freelancer, it is important to hold on to them. This relationship will succeed only when expectations on both sides are met. This means:
Establishing a communication protocol
Define when, how and how often you would like to keep in up with progress such as weekly conference calls, monthly progress reports, strategizing phone calls or actual face-to-face meetings.
Set the right expectations
Some digital marketing activities might produce quicker results than others. A new ad campaign will hit those success indicators faster than SEO optimization of a product page which can take a couple of months at least.
Define a clear strategy
Make sure your digital marketing freelancer is clear on your business goals and has an approved concept of how to achieve them. For instance, what marketing channels will be used? What is the recommended budget size and how should it be distributed to various campaigns?
Measure your progress to succeed
You must be able to view the results of your marketing efforts in order to make future marketing decisions. Maintain and cultivate a working relationship with structured communication via scheduled reports, live shared dashboards and weekly discussions.
Keep up your end of the deal
Demanding a high level of service should also apply to yourself. You need to be cooperative and work along with your freelancer. They depend on marketing materials, direction, expectations, and feedback from you to provide the results you seek.
Warning signs - you hired the wrong freelancer
While there are many skilled and talented digital marketing freelancers your company could work with, talent alone does not ensure your freelancer will get the job done successfully. The following are some warning signs that your digital marketing freelancer is not providing you with the best service.
Not using the right marketing channels
There are many marketing channels that should be used to promote your business and help you reach your success indicator goals. However, not all channels are necessarily relevant to reaching your relevant target audience, or some might not be feasible due to budget and competition limitations. Issues that your digital marketing freelancer must be aware of and act upon. On the other hand, focusing too much on one or two marketing channels is detrimental as well, as he is doing you a disservice, and your business is most likely missing out on potential new revenue sources.
No a/b testing
As part of your freelancer’s continuous effort to provide better results, A/B testing is crucial to test the ad campaign’s effectiveness, sales page copywriting and more. If your digital marketing freelancer is not doing any A/B testing you could be missing out on opportunities to reach and engage with more potential customers.
They don’t initiate an action or change course
If you have to constantly remind them to do their job or if they are just running the same ad campaigns without adjusting them or not offering a content strategy approach that is another indicator that they are not interested or motivated enough to provide you with deserved results.
They aren’t available when you need them
Quite simply, if communication is down, nothing good can come of it. You are investing money and deserve to know how it is being spent, you need to be able to get in touch with your freelancer easily and often.
Non-transparent about their work
If your digital marketing freelancer is not willing to share how your money is being spent that is a big flashing red warning sign that you are getting a dis-service, and reason enough to terminate the hire.
Hiring a digital marketing freelancer can have a great positive impact on your business’s bottom line. By designating time and talent consuming marketing tasks, to those with the professional knowledge to succeed at them, you will be able to focus on growing your own core business activities instead.
Most freelancers are professionals who have accumulated considerable knowledge and experiences over time. There are many places to find and hire digital marketing experts, most commonly Marketplaces and Social media. However, the trick is finding the right digital marketing freelancer for your business needs and one you can build a successful work relationship with.
Successfully working with a freelance marketer depends on two-way compatibility between your business needs and work practices with their expectations and process. It is important to look beyond qualifications and recommendations and find out for yourself if they are a good match based on how they intend to assist you to reach your business goals. This relationship will succeed only when expectations on both sides are met.
If unfortunately, you do encounter too many warning signs that your digital marketing freelancer is not a good fit, and these cannot be bridged with proper communication, it is better to cut your losses and move on. You will have learned a hard lesson perhaps, but your next hiring process will be better for it.