When folks approach us to start an engagement, we try to explain our process in an easy-to-understand way. All of us learn differently, though. And we thought it might be worthwhile to have a reference point for folks to use whenever they need—as often as they need—for building connections with content marketers.
These considerations are based on our experiences with our collaborators and partners who are predominantly located in the Midwest. We do find, though, that other content marketers have similar feedback.
Here’s what we think you should consider when hiring a freelance content marketer, a content marketing collective, or a marketing agency:
Different budgets allow for different types of content marketers.
Like many industries, marketing help varies in price. You essentially have three options for folks you can work with.
Freelance Content Marketer or Contractor
A freelancer is typically used for companies or small businesses with lower budgets, or if you want to bring in a specialist for a specific project. There are outliers of course, but a freelance content marketer usually falls within a $500–$2,000 per month range for a retainer. A $500 budget could get you one blog, social media ideation (a one- to two-hour conversation with your freelancer about the posts your company can create without the marketer’s assistance), or both if the freelancer you select is just out of college or switching careers to become a marketer.
Projects that extend beyond the scope of the retainer need to be assessed and assigned an appropriate fee. Whereas you get the same or similar deliverables each month for a retainer, projects are one-offs with a singular goal. Most freelancers are willing to take on projects without a monthly retainer; however, that’s often not the case as they become more senior in their roles. At that point, if they choose not to start a collective or agency, their rates could rise to the level of a content marketing collective or agency.
Content Marketing Collective
A collective of writers is the next step up. Typically, if you have a $2,000–$10,000 budget per month, collectives are the way to go. Unlike traditional marketing agencies with a great deal of overhead, collectives take out the middle people (account executives) and allow specialists to communicate directly with clients.
For example, The Content Cornerstone handles book editing (developmental editing, copyediting, and proofreading), but we don’t come up with full business plans for authors. If an author comes to us ready to launch their book in the next year or two, we could copyedit their book, but we would send them to Eryka at Legacy Book Coaching to get a plan in place for launch. The author would talk directly to Eryka about their business plan rather than talking to The Content Cornerstone who would then interpret what the author said and tell Eryka.
Content marketing collectives can do special projects, but they often require a monthly retainer in addition to those projects. You can expect to work with these folks for a minimum of six months and for up to two years (or more, depending on your content marketing needs).
Content marketing collectives are beneficial for startups who’ve just acquired funding, small businesses looking to scale, or companies that have been around for a long time but need some help filling their pipelines through content marketing.
Marketing agencies and content marketing collectives often cover the same types of projects, but marketing agencies are often much larger entities with additional in-house capabilities beyond content marketing. You might be able to hire an agency for your web development, content marketing, and advertising all in one. A marketing collective would have you talk one-on-one with up to three different businesses for those projects.
When working with an agency, businesses communicate with account managers or account executives who then communicate with the specialists working at the agency. This is great for larger companies who need to funnel information through one person for a variety of projects.
Marketing agencies usually require a year-long engagement off the bat, but some of them take on smaller projects. If you want to work with a marketing agency, you should be prepared to spend about $10,000 per month.
A Quick Summary
Freelance content marketers are typically less expensive than content marketing collectives, and content marketing collectives require less overhead fees than content marketing agencies.
You need to spend time on your marketing as well.
While bringing in extra help will certainly alleviate most of the marketing responsibilities, you may need to supplement your outside hire with internal assistance. Think of hiring a freelancer, collective, or agency just like you would hire a team member. While those newly-hired team members can eventually stand on their own two feet, you need to make sure they understand company processes, tendencies, and values.
Your budget also comes into play when determining the amount of time you’ll spend on marketing. A company that has a $10,000 budget per month who wants to outsource every single facet of marketing is going to have an easier time finding someone to do that than a company with a $2,000 per month budget.
How much time do I have to spend with these content marketers?
Your content marketing partner will likely spend a great deal of time getting to know you first—and you should try to get to know them as well to see if they’re the right fit for your company. The first six months are crucial in building a sturdy foundation for both of you: understanding each other’s editing process, communication styles, and anything else that pops up.
Content marketing is most effective when everyone collaborates, so each project requires time spent on both sides. These are just a few examples of how much time you can expect to spend on common projects (not how much time your content marketer will be spending on those projects).
A content marketing plan is a much more intensive project, requiring a lot of time overall to review whereas reviewing a blog is a fairly quick task depending on length and complexity. A complete website rehaul could take up to 20 hours of your time—not because your content marketer doesn’t know what they’re doing but because they need to interview you to get to the heart of your business.
You need to review content along the way to ensure you didn’t misspeak, they didn’t interpret you incorrectly, and their research is sound. Ultimately, the amount of time you spend really depends on your work style and delegation preferences.
Content marketing takes up to two years to monetize.
With steady growth comes a long wait time. And that can be frustrating for everyone involved. When you haven’t done any marketing (or have done very little marketing in the past), your content marketer will need to do quite a bit of testing. This means putting up different types of blogs, varying social media posts, and pitching to a wide variety of media outlets to see what sticks. Then, they can circle back with you, give you the results, and determine the most successful lead generators for you.
We see most businesses find their footing after a year and really hit the ground running in year two if they have everything set up from the start. That means having a business plan or content marketing plan in place plus putting in the time upfront to ensure your content marketers know what they can do to be most effective for you.
Hiring a content marketer can be just as intensive as hiring a full-time employee.
Before you look for people to supplement your team, there are a couple things you need to know so you can better analyze your prospective content marketers:
- Your budget per month
- How much time you can realistically spend working on marketing each month
- The basics about your target audience(s)
- A rough idea of what types of content you’d like to create
- How long you’d like to work with a content marketer before parting ways
These prompts should aid you in making a hiring decision. You have a process in place to onboard new team members; try to use that same—or at least a similar—process for bringing in outside help.
Once you hammer out the details, you’ll get a contract.
Once you’ve hired a content marketer, they’ll send you a contract outlining the nature of your business relationship. This will include things like an agreed-upon price, the current scope of your work, how to dissolve the contract, etc. You may also choose to send a contract for them to sign as well. Make sure that, no matter what, one of those contracts contains a way to dissolve your business relationship as well as an NDA. Your content marketer should have all those documents, but if they don’t, there are plenty of templates out there to use, including one in Google Docs!
A note on scope:
You may have heard your marketer friends use the term “scope creep.” Scope creep occurs when a client and a marketer agree on the terms of their business engagement, but the client tries to add on extra projects without compensating the marketer—whether intentionally or not. Sometimes, this slides by unacknowledged, and it can grow resentment between folks. So if you recognize you’re starting to go beyond the scope of the agreed-upon project, it’s worth asking your marketer if they feel that way as well. And if you’re the marketer in this scenario, gently remind your clients that the project or your retainer doesn’t include what they’re asking, but you’re happy to help if you can both agree on an additional fee. Sometimes, this “scope creep” charge stipulation will be included in contracts, but your marketer should always give you a heads-up before they tack on any additional fees.
Can’t I just do my own content marketing?
Absolutely! We love seeing people go off on their own and be successful; however, that’s not always realistic for folks. As a business owner or C-suite professional, you have a ton of other tasks on your plate to accomplish.
Before you make a decision either way, compare how much time it would take you, at an estimated hourly rate (based on your salary and hours you work), to complete the same content marketing project you’re considering offloading. If you’ll still make a profit after hiring outside assistance for a project or a part of the project, it’s worth considering! If not, you might need to take on that project for now and complete it to the best of your ability.
It’s also important to remember that content marketing never goes away unless you delete it. Your blogs will be on your site, helping with SEO and showcasing thought leadership, as long as your site is running. This is a long-lasting investment, so factor that into your decision. Additionally, think about if you’re going to follow through on the content marketing project you’ve assigned yourself. If you can’t incorporate content marketing into your schedule, then it might be best to hire it out.
We’re not immune to this thought process either! We go through this exercise all the time with our own marketing materials: figuring out if we can outsource design, considering if we can make written materials a mentorship opportunity, and the list goes on.
Hiring a content marketer can be a long process, but it can also alleviate some of your stress around lead generation. If you have questions about any part of the hiring process, please feel free to contact us! Just select “networking” from the drop-down menu, and we’ll do our best to give you the information you need to help you find a content marketer that’s going to be a good fit for you.