Hiring a digital marketing freelancer is a common practice for brands across all industries and has many advantages which we go into further on. The best freelancers are not newbies, most of them climbed the ranks working at 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 or clients themselves and will dedicate the time and effort to establish and maintain their good reputation.
In this article, we dive into the exact process of how a company should hire a digital marketing freelancer.
Let’s dive in.
For starters, why should a company hire a freelancer and not grow its own team in-house?
What is freelance digital marketing?
A freelance digital marketer is a professional with many talents, from content creation to social media management, SEO, ad campaign creation, website building, strategy building, social media advertising, and website design.
Why freelance digital marketing?
Digital marketing is a very broad field and it contains more than 20+ different specializations and types of online marketing jobs. Combine that complexity with nuances and differences for each industry and you can get a very rich diversity of talent.
So it’s become much harder for a brand to find a specialist for each area of digital marketing that they want to utilize. There are so many new social platforms coming out each with their own set of best practices, formats, and ever-changing algorithms that it’s really hard to find someone that has professional experience in all of them.
As clients, it’s much better and more cost-efficient to hire a freelance digital marketing manager (a generalist) in-house that would then manage marketing specialists as freelancers across all these different channels.
Sounds like a lot of work, why would people want to do this?
Why should you become a freelance digital marketer?
There are several reasons that would lead a top professional to strike out as a freelancer. Flexibility is a major factor, the ability to set your own work pace, choose the projects that interest you the most or that you know you can succeed at.
Personal gain is another factor, 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 brand if you choose, and are able to hire them.
One of the major advantages of being a marketing freelancer is the amount of flexibility that you get. You could be more of a digital marketing specialist and run marketing campaigns or you could take on more of a project manager role and manage a variety of digital marketing projects.
Skill sets and hourly rates vary significantly from role to role but what's great with freelancing is that you could write your own freelance digital marketing job description and change it up as you go.
Freelance digital marketing 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 freelance marketing services have become fragmented into different specializations, each with its own technical and strategic knowledge base. Any digital marketer worth hiring needs to be more than just familiar with the various roles and their part in the marketing strategy as a whole.
Types of Digital Marketing Freelancers
The primary goal of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) or SEM (search engine marketing) 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 optimization 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.
SEO specialists are responsible for:
- Conducting keyword research
- Optimizing the site content for SEO
- Building relationships and backlinks
- Conducting a thorough SEO audit
- Content writing for SEO
SEO specialists use a variety of tools to get their content to rank highly on Google search. SEO tools include:
- Analytics tools - Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager, Google Data Studio.
- Keyword research and backlink tools - Ahrefs, Moz, and Semrush.
- Site audit tools - Screaming Frog
- Content optimization - Frase
Social Media Manager
A social media manager is responsible for growing a company’s social presence and engagement with its target audiences. They must be competent in each social platform and possess the know-how to create engaging social media content for their target audience across platforms to increase brand awareness and loyalty. They must be able to create a successful social media marketing strategy and execute it properly.
They are responsible for:
- Creating a content strategy for each social channel
- Engaging with the audience
- Building the online community
- Creating and publishing written and video content
- Using social analytics, brand reputation, and social publishing tools
- Using design tools like Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator is a major plus
PPC refers to paid digital marketing efforts based on the pay-per-click advertising model. Paid ads exist on most social 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.
They are responsible for:
- Creating a comprehensive advertising strategy
- Setting up the paid ads campaigns
- Tweaking the audience targeting
- A/B testing ad types, formats, and content
- Launching new campaigns and making sure it’s all profitable
Other areas of advertising include:
- Social media advertising
- Native advertising
- Google shopping and dynamic ads
- Facebook advertising
- and much more.
Content marketing manager
Content has become a prominent component of any successful marketing strategy and can be considered the fuel for the digital marketing machine. Content marketing works hand in hand with social media and SEO.
For example, when a marketer creates a piece of content such as a blog, an ebook publication, content for an email newsletter, a video, or some sales page/landing page copy it can be used for SEO optimization, for a social media campaign, for social ads, or for a PPC advertising campaign.
Also, content marketing managers need to be organized. They can use Google Sheets or a more sophisticated content tool like CoSchedule to keep everything in order. Sometimes they also need to be proficient in Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager to properly analyze their web traffic and optimize various blog pages.
An expert marketer needs to be creative, and have a deep understanding of the audiences’ needs and expectations.
They are responsible for:
- Creating the content strategy
- Creating assets (blog posts, landing pages, longer guides & lead magnets, video content)
- Managing a team of writers and/or editing existing content
- Content writing (if it’s a one-man show)
- Creating press releases and engaging with members of the press
- Using content management tools and systems
Email marketing expert
Another increasingly popular role (especially for eCommerce brands) is the email marketing expert. It’s a person who is responsible for creating the overall email marketing strategy and often for creating the email sequence themselves that the brand needs.
This is one of the most critical marketing jobs in the eCommerce industry and it’s super critical that each brand works with an email expert that has a proven track record in their niche.
The initial setup of the email campaigns or flows can be done in just a few months and is a great fit for a digital freelancer. After the initial setup is done, the in-house marketing manager or team can take over the ongoing optimization and testing of the email marketing content.
They are responsible for:
- Conducting a comprehensive email marketing audit
- Creating an email strategy
- Setting up the email campaigns + flows + segmentation
- Ongoing testing & optimization
- Using the latest email analytics tools
- Using the latest design tools like Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator
PR is an increasingly important type of digital marketing. A PR specialist typically connects with online publications and industry blogs to get them to write a blog post or article about their client. Sometimes these include affiliate relationships, especially in the eCommerce world.
PR marketers have to be able to service and promote many different types of clients. They often work with other members of the marketing team to create branded Facebook advertising campaigns and landing pages for each of their promotions.
A PR campaign could include:
- Video marketing
- Influencer relationships
- Collaboration with affiliate marketers
Digital marketing consultant / strategist
A 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 service providers to handle the tasks as mentioned above.
They are responsible for any of the following:
- Acting as a CMO to manage the entire team OR
- Help create or adjust the overall marketing strategy
- Manage a specific marketing channel or group of freelancers
- Manage development teams to carry out site redesigns and other technical projects
- Manage paid campaigns from beginning to end
- Bring a business idea to fruition
Interested to learn more about marketing strategy? Check out our complete guide on how to create and perfect your marketing strategy.
These 5 roles are really only the tip of the digital iceberg.
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, paid media specialists, email 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 specialist to help manage the marketing of your company in order to get the best possible outcome. The main reasons for that are time (it can take months to find the right in-house marketer), money (it costs a lot of money to fill those online marketing jobs), and access to the valuable professional knowledge marketing freelancers possess from their past experiences.
Not enough resources to expand the team
Digital marketing jobs take up a considerable amount of time, which you can not afford to dedicate to assignments that are not part of your core business. Add to that the time it would take you or your company to learn and get it right and you are already wasting money as well. Professional and experienced digital marketers will get you there faster and will definitely be more cost-efficient.
Need a certain specialty
Sometimes a business wants to expand into a new marketing channel and they don’t have anyone that has experience in that channel on the team. This is where a freelance marketer would come in and make a strategy for that channel and/or start managing it from top to bottom.
For example, Sally’s Shoe Store has seen a ton of success with Facebook and Instagram ads, as well as Google ads. They are getting new clients, making money, and have an in-house team of ad experts that have been growing their ad budget steadily.
Now they want to start doing Pinterest campaigns, but their Google ads manager doesn’t know the ins and outs of Pinterest ads and doesn’t want to spend the next 3-6 months learning as they go. So Sally’s Shoe Store hires a Pinterest advertising specialist that creates a strategy, shows the team some best practices, runs the campaigns for a little while, and quickly reaches profitability.
In this scenario, everyone wins.
The brand gets to expand to a new channel profitably and quickly and the Pinterest expert gets to continue doing what they love - which is Pinterest ads.
Need a strategy tuneup
A brand can also hire a freelance digital marketer to evaluate its overall marketing strategy. Let’s say it’s a medium-sized eCommerce brand that is making $1-5M in annual revenue. They have an engaged online audience, their Facebook advertising is set up properly, the site conversion rate is great, and their email marketing is polished.
They are entering their next business growth stage and want to get someone really experienced to look at their strategy and make sure that they are firing on all cylinders.
Again, they would need someone with proven experience in growing medium-sized eCommerce brands and a thorough understanding of their industry and niche.
And that’s rare to find in an agency.
So hiring a freelancer is often the perfect solution.
Hiring marketing freelancers is done by brands big and small. 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 is to find the right one for your business and budget.
How to hire digital marketing professionals
Now that you’ve realized you need professional help, there are several other considerations and decisions that need to be made based on your capabilities and 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 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 be cheaper than hiring an entire agency with its overhead fees. And freelancers are more flexible and reactive to your needs, so everything is completed faster.
Pros of hiring a freelancer:
- It’s more cost-effective
- Specialized experience
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 different people to execute a complete strategy which can be very time-consuming and a job all on its own.
Cons of hiring a freelancer:
- Hard to find an experienced one
- Difficult to coordinate
- Hard to track progress
The pros and cons of hiring a digital marketing agency
Hiring an agency or a digital marketing consultancy means working with a group of marketers that will likely have a huge range of digital marketing 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.
Pros of hiring an agency:
- Greater range of skills
- Variety of experience in one place
- Easier to trust based on reputation
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 and hustling to try to increase their client base. It’s built in to their business model.
Often, the amount of attention your account gets depends on the size of the marketing budget invested. And trying to chase down the right point person on the agency’s team becomes a full-time job.
Cons of hiring an agency:
- Less dedication to your company
- Less transparency
- Can get very expensive
For more information read our beginner’s guide on the advantages of hiring a freelancer working with a digital marketing agency.
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 online marketplaces for freelance jobs, like Upwork or Fiverr, 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, publish your specific jobs requirements, etc.
The great advantage with places like Upwork is 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.
Advantages of marketplaces:
- Greater variety of freelancers to choose from
- Marketplaces handle the payments and guarantees
- You can view examples of the marketer’s labor for previous clients and jobs
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 declare themselves as a professional marketing freelancer for hire, without any scrutinized vetting to prove their statements besides clients reviews and testimonials.
Even Upwork clients' reviews and testimonials are not 100% reliable since not all customers leave reviews and they are very easy to fake.
Challenges with marketplaces:
- Vetting is almost nonexistent
- Reviews are not reliable
- They only do matching in most cases
- No monitoring is included
- A lot of specialties are missing (such as paid ads)
Social media & referrals
Two other great places to find people to acquire are social media and word-of-mouth. There are a ton of Facebook groups that are dedicated to finding and hiring freelancers. Some are related to specific industries while others recommend service providers
It can be more reliable to get a recommendation from a fellow group member. You can find people that are much more experienced and have a proven success record. It’s a better bet than posting a job post on an online directory.
Pros of finding a freelancer on social media:
- It’s more reliable than on a marketplace
- Get recommendations from your friends
- More cost-effective
- More flexibility
However, successfully working with a freelance marketer (no matter the source) also depends on compatibility between your needs, your communication process, and your potential freelancer’s alignment to both. They might be perfectly qualified and a great fit in theory, but only you can determine if there is chemistry to work with.
Cons of finding a freelancer on social media:
- It’s super subjective
- Expertise can vary dramatically
- Very difficult to verify quality & experience
Find a freelancer with Mayple
Not to tout our own drum, but we’ve really developed a platform for hiring and managing digital marketers that has the best of both worlds.
Mayple has a revolutionary and rigorous vetting process. We look at the marketer’s past experience and their actual data. We test their knowledge in a series of tests and only pick the top 10% of freelancers that apply to work on our platform.
On the business side, we match eCommerce brands with top-performing eCommerce marketers that have experience in that company’s industry or niche.
So in our previous example, we would match Sally’s Shoes Company with a Pinterest specialist that has 10+ years of proven experience running Pinterest ads. And once Sally wants to expand into other channels we would be able to match her with more experience and vetted marketing experts for things like email marketing, SEO, conversion rate optimization (CRO), PPC, paid ads, Facebook ads, and digital marketing strategy.
The advantage with Mayple is that we not only match you with the experts but we also help monitor the entire process. We handle the payment processing, communication, back-office tasks, and monitor the actual work that’s being done on your behalf.
We look at the number of tasks that the marketer has accomplished each week, how frequently he/she has logged on to the system and we regularly send both the brand and the marketer new ideas and best practices.
Mayple is your objective watchdog that makes sure that the freelance marketer is meeting your goals.
Pros of finding a freelancer through Mayple:
- Vetted marketers with proven experience in your industry/niche
- 24/7 monitoring + best practices
- A large pool of vetted marketers in many specialties & industries
- Much more cost-effective than an agency
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 freelancer’s credibility and how well they match your needs. Here is a short checklist of things to check:
Marketplaces like Upwork for hiring freelancers work with a built-in rating system, based on past client 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).
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 your own that can indicate a good match.
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 the services you need.
Here’s how you get this info. You can either ask them directly or search for them online (LinkedIn, Google, Facebook, Twitter) to find out if they have relevant experience not only in your specific industry but also with managing similar marketing budgets and marketing channels.
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.
Find out how they intend to monitor their performance, and make sure it is aligned with your KPI’s. You could have leading indicators (like how many google ads you want to launch) and lagging indicators (like your churn rate or sales over a period of time). Agree upon expected results timelines, and what they might require from you to keep up their end of the deal.
How to keep working with 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 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 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. Press releases, for example, can take 6 months to a year to really have an effect. There are many different types of digital marketing campaigns and it’s important to set the right expectations for each one before any work begins.
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 channels will be used? What is the recommended budget size and how should it be distributed to various campaigns? Make a plan and just stick to it.
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. It could be a simple dashboard for Facebook ads or Google ads or a content calendar on Google Sheets.
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.
Interested to learn more about managing freelancers? Here’s our complete guide to freelance digital management.
Warning signs - you’ve hired the wrong freelancer
While there are lots of 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 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 Google ads 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.
Not 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.
Your ultimate guide to progress should be your ROI goals. The questions you should be asking yourself about the marketing freelancer that you’re working with should be:
- Is this person bringing me closer to my ROI goals?
- Is this channel(s) profitable?
- Do I have clarity about what actions they take every day/week?
- Do I have clarity about the account setup and overall strategy?
- Is it a pleasure to work with this person?
With the remote culture booming worldwide it’s quite possible that you could establish a long-term relationship with a freelance digital marketer for the next 6-12 months. You may even want to grow an entire distributed team of remote digital marketing professionals working on different channels.
It’s always difficult to monitor progress with a remote or freelance marketer and that’s why it’s such a game-changer to use one platform to manage them all and make sure that everything is done properly.
How to become a freelance digital marketer?
Growing your freelance marketing business is not as hard as you think.
Build your skillset
First, you need to get the necessary skills. You could do that through real work experience or taking any of the online courses available. Are you more creative or analytics? If you are a creative type then you could go for things like content writing, video editing, or graphic design. If you are analytical you could try lead generation, marketing automation, or digital advertising.
Find your niche
Then, choose a niche or industry that you connect with. It’s important for any digital marketing professional to work in an industry that they are passionate about.
Build your website
Now it’s time to build your own website. Personal branding is key. Some freelancers use their website to display their work experience and success stories while others use their profiles on online marketplaces (like Upwork or Fiverr) to showcase their work to potential clients. It doesn’t matter which one you choose as long as you optimize it.
Continue getting clients
Client acquisition is one of the most important things for anyone that is trying to establish their freelancing career. Getting started is always the hardest but often a freelancer can hit a plateau and get stuck. If they don’t work on their client retention they may find their business shrinking. That’s why it’s important to constantly update your website and continue to look for new clients.
Continuous learning is super important in the digital marketing world because marketing trends change all the time. One way to find out what you’re missing and what you should learn next is by looking at the Linkedin profile of someone that is ahead in their digital marketing career. You could learn by reading digital marketing blogs, taking online classes, or doing an official degree program or certificate.
Hiring a digital marketing freelancer can have a great positive impact on your business’s bottom line. By hiring a freelancer to do those tasks that they do best, you will be able to focus on growing your own core business activities instead.
Most freelancers are professionals who have accumulated considerable knowledge and experience over time. There are lots of places to find and hire experts, most commonly marketplaces (like Upwork) and social media (Facebook groups). However, the trick is finding the right digital marketing freelancer for your needs and one you can build a successful work relationship with.
Successfully working with a freelance marketer depends on two-way compatibility between your needs and work practices with their expectations and process. It is important to look beyond qualifications and recommendations and find out for yourself how they intend to assist you to reach your 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.