Marketing Strategy

When to Hire an Independent Contractor for Your Team

Hiring an independent contractor can be a great move if you need results fast.

“How am I going to hire somebody that fast?”  We’ve all been there: you have an urgent need to build a new marketing capability and you know it’s going to take at least three months to hire a new team member.  But you need to launch something just weeks from now.  An independent contractor or freelancer can be a great option to bridge the gap.  Here are three great times to hire an independent contractor onto your marketing team.

You need to test a tactic

Let’s say you’ve been curious about the effectiveness of acquiring new customers with paid digital advertising. You think running ads could be a growth lever, but you won’t know until you try and see the data.  Hiring a full time manager could be risky because if the CPA is too high, you may stop running the ads.  But you’ll never know the cost and impact of paid ads unless you try!  

This would be a great time to hire an independent contractor with deep expertise and agency relationships. You could run ads and get the insights you need without making a permanent commitment.  Once you run and optimize a few tests, you’ll be much clearer on whether you need this capability in house and add a full time team member.

You need results fast

Sometimes you realize it’s you need to ramp up a new marketing capability because something changes last minute. Maybe you’ve realized there is a new channel to engage your users or your competitors make a big change. Or maybe you have a peak season and if you miss the window to launch something now, you have to wait a whole year to seize the opportunity. If the role was not already on your hiring roadmap, it could be months before you’re able to get someone hired and delivering.

When I was at Handshake, we wanted to have college campus ambassadors spread the word about our app and drive downloads. But we greenlit the program just weeks before the back-to-school season started in September.  Finding an independent contractor who had a great track record of launching ambassador programs meant that we could get the program running the next month. We could reap the benefits and get the learnings before the peak internship application window closed.  Hiring someone full time probably would have meant we would have had to delay launch for 6-12 months.

You need to pace your spending

Every hiring manager knows that they only have approval for a few new headcount at any given time.  You always have to make tradeoffs based on what functions are absolutely critical now versus what can wait.  But when you need to get a new capability going and there’s limited budget, a contractor can help.  

A good example is when companies want to get their SEO content strategy off the ground.  You may not have the budget to hire a full time writer.  But waiting until you have an FTE allocated could mean months of missed opportunity to rank in search results and drive traffic.  So you hire a freelance writer now to get the momentum going, working the hours that fit a budget you can afford. Then you make the business case for a full time employee later as your SEO traffic grows.

One more thing: how to get results when you hire an  independent contractor

While your new team member may not be with your company for much longer than a few months, you’re still relying on them to drive results…fast.  So be sure to create an awesome onboarding plan that helps them ramp up quickly.  An independent contractor is expected to deliver results at the same level as the rest of the team, so they need support when they join.  Here are a few things you can do to make sure your contractor is able to do their best work:

  • Prepare an onboarding plan.  A great onboarding plan includes links to key documents, lists key meetings, and suggests intro meetings with key team members.  Plus it lays out a 30 day plan with clear goals so there’s not confusion.
  • Make sure they have the technology they need.  Sometimes contractors don’t get full access to Slack, Google Drive, team calendars, and more.  Check in over the first couple weeks to understand what they still need and help them get access.
  • Include them in team meetings and social events.  Your full time team members get important context and build relationships through the meetings (and happy hours!) you host.  Invite your contractor so they get those same benefits.
  • Check in on their work plan and milestones.  Make sure your contractor has a clear game plan to accomplish their goals and has clear milestones mapped out.  While you may want to stay hands off (they were hired to be independent, after all), you’ll still need to understand their plan and track their progress.
  • Celebrate their work and give them visibility.  Create opportunities for your independent contractor to share their results with the team.  You hired them for their unique expertise, so let your expert shine and teach the team!

Time to hire an independent contractor?

Now decide whether you should hire an independent contractor or move forward with hiring a FTE.  Being realistic about what your team needs and when is critical to making a decision.  If you’re not sure that your organization will need this role and capability forever, hiring an independent contractor can be a great option.

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I work with VC-backed startup founders and leadership teams to define the most effective marketing strategy.  I’ve built and scaled highly-engaged marketing teams, all with limited resources and tight timelines. I’m a decisive, action-oriented leader known for my empathetic style. Let's get results for your startup too. 

Allyson Letteri
Marketing Leader & Startup Advisor

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