For most companies, especially first-time business owners, the first marketing hire is an absolute fail.
For many, the second marketer doesn’t really work out either. And some end up in a years-long loop trying to hire who they think they need without success.
Yet, not many people talk about it publicly.
The truth is, most people don't know this is a common issue. It affects almost everyone at some point in their business journey. And because we think that we are the only ones with this problem, we are less likely to open up about it.
Lucky for you, I love taboo topics.
Hiring the wrong marketer for your business can result in a massive waste of time and resources, and of course, disappointment.
So, let’s prevent that from happening to you.
There are two groups of factors to consider when hiring a marketer: the scope of engagement, and the field of expertise.
 The scope of engagement
How many hours are they dedicating to you, what’s the nature of your relationship, and are you exclusive? You know--the common dating questions.
 Their field of expertise
Will you hire a generalist, a social media marketer, an affiliate marketer, or any of the 150 different types you might not even be aware exist right now?
In this article, we’ll focus on the scope of engagement
Engaging a marketer can come in many different shapes.
You can hire someone in-house, or you could outsource. On top of that, you can hire part-time, full-time, freelance, or go with an entire agency. Oh, and there are junior, mid-level, and senior in terms of experience.
With so many options available, how can you be sure you’re making the right choice?
First, you need to define:
- Your goals/desired outcomes
- Targeted timeframe
Bonus points if you also define the available budget for the targeted time period. But, knowing what you want to achieve is the core.
- I want to grow my business by 100%
- Timeframe: 1 year
- Budget: 30% of annual revenue
The goals, budget, or timeframe shouldn’t be set in stone.
They should remain fluid and adaptable based on expert feedback that you’ll gather as you interview marketers or agencies. As you do this, keep in mind: unrealistic expectations will kill your business, so always keep them in check.
Unpopular opinion time...🚨
Don’t hire anyone until you have a clear goal in mind.
If you’re having trouble even getting to point A, consider talking to a business coach, a senior marketing strategist, or a general strategic advisor. Not a content marketer. Not an ads specialist. And definitely not an influencer marketer.
Goals first, tactics second.
For the sake of this exercise, I’ll assume you have your business goals set.
Pen and paper in hand, folks! It’s workshop time.
Hiring the right seniority
Let’s determine the level of experience you should look for in your future marketer. Remember that goals talk? This is where it kicks in.
If you already have your business goals established, and you have previous experience growing a business, figuring out some initial marketing objectives will be relatively easy. If you’re unfamiliar with this term, marketing objectives are milestones that keep your marketing efforts aligned with your business goals.
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So, if you’re able to establish marketing objectives yourself with certainty, then you have an option to hire a junior or mid-level marketer to execute your plans.
If this is your first time growing a business, chances are, you never encountered marketing objectives before. In this case, you want to bring someone on board who has a lot of experience, preferably in the same or a related industry.
This means hiring a junior or even mid-level marketer isn’t an option for most businesses starting out, regardless of their attractive price tag. You want someone arriving with plenty of goodies to add to your business war table.
The biggest mistake I’ve seen small businesses make is hiring a junior when they need a senior’s advice. Usually, it starts with the owner or other decision-makers spotting other businesses doing something they now assume works and want to replicate. At this stage, you should be laser-focused on figuring out the next steps specific to your business.
Yes, experts also arrive with a price tag, but hiring an experienced marketer early on can save you a fortune just by applying their practical knowledge to your business.
Hiring an in-house marketer vs outsourcing
Both options can be equally attractive, with pros and cons.
Deciding between an in-house marketer and an outsourced talent usually comes down to a cost-to-value ratio. In other words, you’ll have to decide who will bring you more value, depending on your short and long-term goals.
Rule of thumb, you’ll want to hire in-house to achieve long-term goals and outsource when focusing on short-term gain.
In-house marketers come with the perk of having a fixed output (the salary or a retainer) that guarantees a certain level of commitment (full or part-time) over a longer period of time. Generally, when you just look at the price per hour, in-house marketers will cost you less than outsourcing, and their value will grow over time as they learn intimate details about your audience, business, competitors, etc.
The drawback of hiring in-house is that you need to budget for this person long-term, meaning it can be a steep investment for a small business that’s just starting out. Also, you need to think about compliance, health benefits, pension funds, and all other regulations that apply to you locally. If you’re hiring remotely, luckily there are companies like Remote that help you stay compliant, even if you don’t have entities in the country you’re hiring from.
Outsourced talent, on the other hand, can cost more if you look just at the cost per hour, but it has a lot of benefits for a small business. A freelancer or a contractor will cost you roughly 3-4 times more per hour than a full-timer, but there's a reason for that. Because of the short-term commitment, they are taking a risk with every job. On top of that, they're also responsible for their own taxes, tools, additional training, etc. You get the picture - freelancing can be expensive.
But, for businesses, hiring a contractor can actually be more budget-friendly, despite the per-hour-spike. For example, you don’t need to budget for an entire year, so even if the price per hour is probably triple that of the in-house marketer, you’ll end up paying them less in total, as you’re budgeting just for the duration of a specific project.
Contracting out also means you can target a specialist, someone who packs a punch in exactly what you need. That means you’ll get to the value faster, in a more linear manner.
The downside of outsourcing is that the person is seldom exclusive. They will be available to you sporadically, so projects tend to drag out. Also, lack of exclusivity leaves an open door for them to work with other clients, so make sure you have a strong NDA (non-disclosure agreement) in place, to ensure whatever you discuss remains confidential.
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Deciding between full-time, part-time, and freelance marketers
Once you have the previous points down, deciding how you want to hire: full, part-time, or freelance, gets much easier.
If you have long-term goals, and the budget allows it, you’ll want to hire someone full-time. The advantage is in the obvious exclusivity of the relationship, as well as the commitment to your project. A full-timer will almost always grasp your business much better than a part-timer or a freelancer.
Important to note: a full-timer in my book isn’t necessarily working eight-hour days, five days per week. I am a strong believer in flexible hours, and that a healthy working day for a modern, digital employee sits in the range of five to six hours per day, or longer hours, but four days a week. An eight-hour workday is a dinosaur that has no place in the modern world.
Now, if you’re just starting out, the available workload might not justify a full-time employee. Hiring someone that’ll get bored on the job, or trying to fill in their time with the workload that wasn’t in the original job description is a recipe for disaster.
Part-time engagement can help here. You can fix a realistic retainer and in return still get a certain level of accountability and dedication.
Freelancers are a perfect choice when you know exactly what you want, you know that you don’t have the need/ability to hire full-time, and you want to bring it someone who can hit the ground running. On top of that, for some marketing jobs, like copywriting, it’s actually easier to find freelancers than full-timers, but that’s a topic for another time.
Hiring an individual or working with a marketing agency
Commissioning a marketing agency can have a lot of advantages.
You’re (usually) tapping into a team of experts, who can interchangeably contribute to your cause. Agencies are known to have a full spectrum of end-to-end services.
Here’s an example. If you hire an agency to handle your video marketing, they’ll probably handle the scripts, the shooting, the editing, postproduction, etc. If you would hire individuals for this, this would be 4 or 5 different people with different skillsets.
This also means that an agency can get you to your desired goals faster in a shorter period of time. If you have time-sensitive goals, hiring a marketing agency is something you should consider.
Because of the practicality of the agency system, it does come with a price tag that’s usually at least double what an individual might charge per hour, if not more depending on location. On the flip side, it’s saving you tons of time hiring, matchmaking competencies, and even with quality assurance.
Similar to hiring individuals, you might experience trial-and-error when looking for a perfect agency, and that’s perfectly fine but somewhat avoidable.
To lower the chance of this happening, here are a few things you should do:
- Start by asking for recommendations from your network
- Check online reviews
- Make sure the agency handled projects similar to your needs before
- See if they have experience in your industry (huge advantage)
- Look at the clients listed on their website, and see if you like whatever the agency has done for them
- When in doubt, ask for a reference, especially if it’s a higher ticket project
So, what kind of marketer SHOULD you hire for your small business?
Likely a senior. Especially if it’s your first marketing hire.
If you can afford it, full-time will bring you a lot of value over time. If you can’t, or don’t think you have enough work, part-time, freelance or even an agency can help you out.
If you have time-sensitive, complex goals, consider engaging a marketing agency.
If you’re still stuck, hire a business coach, or a strategic advisor to get you over that first bump.
And for the love of marketing, don’t haggle. Marketers set their prices for a reason. They spent their entire careers building their skill in order to increase the value of their work for businesses like yourself.
Now, go, hire someone amazing! 💛