Business owners’ guide to freelance or in-house marketing

  1. Do you have a strong understanding of who your customers and prospects are?
  2. Do you have a marketing strategy in your head, on the back of an envelope or written down?
  3. Do you, like most business owners, struggle to find the time to get enough marketing and sales done?  

If you answered NO to any of the above then a Senior Marketing Consultant could be a great help – I know and have used a few over the years for my business so please message me directly if you would like a recommendation.

If you answer yes to ALL the above then  you probably need a Marketing DOER – someone to get your marketing strategy actioned on a day-to-day basis.  But who could that be? And is a freelancer best or would someone in-house be more effective?

Over the years I have used lots of freelancers to get marketing done but I have come to the conclusion that in-house is often much better…why is that?

Integration and continuity is key…

For a start, I found that my marketing and sales were more successful if I had someone chipping away –  it’s little and often…the steady drip, drip, drip.

Relationships have to be built at the speed that the prospect wants to move at, so that when they are ready to purchase, you are still front of mind. I found that having someone inhouse enabled those relationships to grow at a steady pace and provided that vital continuity. Plus my in-housers understood the nuances of my business, the quirks of my customers, our philosophy and culture. Importantly, they could spot potential pitfalls and wrong moves that a freelancer, no matter how good, simply couldn’t. A freelancer can never know your business as well as you or your staff do and as they dip in and out of the business, they might miss potential stories and opportunities.

Experience has taught me that marketing and sales is the responsibility of everyone! It should not be something that is done to the business but rather something that is totally integrated to the function and processes of all aspects and roles. This can never be achieved by the limited influence an outsider can have.

Fresh perspectives…

But sometimes that outside perspective and industry knowledge from an agency DOES help enormously, especially if you are an SME with limited exposure to the latest digital marketing developments. The freelance or in-house marketing conundrum is never black and white (hence why I have tried both over the years and will continue to do so) but the simple guide below will help you navigate to the right path.

When should you use inhouse?

1. You want to grow sustainable sales

You are a long-term, strategic thinker who is focussed on sustainable sales using resident experts rather than someone who wants a rapid sales boost in the next month. Your business can’t handle the boom and bust of yo yo sales.  

2. You are willing to spend time on your team

Your inhouse staff will need a degree of nurturing and onboarding if you want loyal, driven workers. However the management of their training and marketing expertise can be taken off your hands so it may not be as onerous as you think.

3. You don’t want to coordinate external parties

You don’t want the additional responsibility of project managing and overseeing portfolios of work. Freelancers tend to specialise in certain elements of marketing eg SEO or Facebook or WordPress, etc – this might double or treble your time required to manage them all. You’ll also find yourself having to forward-plan a lot of meetings to move things along, rather than rely on the immediacy of communications within your team. 

When should you use an agency/freelancer?

1. You want results immediately

It can make sense to use an agency for fresh ideas and innovation- especially if your inhouse team are too tied up on everyday tasks. Freelancers or agencies will bring with them skills and experience to hit the ground running – or at least you hope they do! They are more likely to be up to speed with latest industry developments and tools unless your in house staff have access to good training opportunities.

2. You don’t want commitment

Freelancers can be hired on a pay-as-you-go basis or on a retainer – so no employment contract, no additional complications of PAYE, NI and other legal responsibilities (Here’s a useful calculator to work out how much by comparison your inhouse staff is likely to cost you). It’s also easy to test out a few before making a commitment to one.  If you need a freelancer in a hurry, People per Hour is a good place to find someone to help, but be aware you get what you pay for – never go for someone who massively undercuts the others! When testing out a freelancer, start them off with a really small defined project where you can measure their performance output and see if they will deliver to their promises.

3. You need marketing advice

The freelance model works incredibly well when you bring marketing experts in at the consultancy/strategic level to assess how you run your business and make recommendations to realign your strategy for better sales. But remember you still need someone to actually act on the strategy they create – to get the marketing DONE!

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