How to Hire a Freelancer or Agency

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As the marketing expert in residence at several accelerators this year, there was one question I heard from the business owners and founders I worked with more than any other: how do I hire a good digital marketing partner? 

In each group I taught, I heard about the struggles business owners have had finding high quality, reasonably priced digital marketing support. Worse, I heard a lot of horror stories about money being spent without clear, helpful results from “marketing gurus” and digital marketing “experts”.

We live in a world saturated by social media and digital advertising. It’s very, very easy to curate a brand, company and even entire existence that isn’t fully based in reality. I’m personally fascinated by stories like those of Anna Delvey and Ruja Ignatova: people who curated whole existences based only on the flimsiest of proof. This same concept is true for many digital agencies, freelancers and consultants: they talk the talk, but can’t really walk the walk.

A Moment to Brag About Careful Feet Digital Agency

Careful Feet Digital has over one dozen five-star reviews on Google and Clutch, is a Facebook Marketing Agency partner and has been shortlisted for both the 2020 SEO Agency of the Year award and the 2019 PPC Agency of the Year award. As its founder, I have also been recognized: I am a 2020 Women in Tech winner, 2020 NatWest everywoman finalist, have been featured in the Financial Times and have given a keynote to European Parliament. I don’t say these things to brag: these are important features of quality, legitimacy and expertise that can’t be overlooked. When looking for a digital marketing partner, you should make sure they bring more than a few good ideas to the table. They need to be vetted and qualified; this might not mean they have won awards, but they should be able to provide you with testimonials, previous experience and examples of their work so you can confirm that they are a legitimate, tried and true and experienced service provider.

Six Things to Look For When Hiring a Digital Marketing Freelancer or Agency

Many small business owners struggle with competing objectives: they’re building a business, running a business and have a life outside of work. Vetting their digital marketing support, especially without subject matter expertise, is understandably difficult. Often, pricing is the biggest consideration, and the freelancer or agency with the lowest cost is usually the most attractive candidate. But, in many cases, you get what you pay for. Further, it is easy to be taken advantage of when agreements are made in a rush and little forethought has gone into the desired results of the collaboration.

As a full-time marketer turned freelancer turned agency owner, I’ve hired employees, freelancers and agencies and now run a digital agency, so I know of what I speak. Here are my suggestions when it comes to vetting and deciding on your next digital marketing support resource.

Word of mouth is often helpful. 

Ask for recommendations from friends and fellow business owners. If someone else has had a good experience with a freelancer, agency or contractor, that’s often a good indicator that the resource is credible and you’ll likely have a good experience, too!

Check out awards sites. 

Awards and honors are there for a reason: they show the people and companies doing exemplary work. Review awards websites, such as the Prolific London Awards, Shorty Awards and UK Agency Awards to find out which companies stand out from the rest. 

A thorough proposal and vetting process. 

Require that those pitching for your business submit a proposal. This gives you a standard way to vet and review previous work outputs, review testimonials, ask questions about how they will approach the project and learn more about them.

Have a goal for the collaboration. 

Although it takes some time, being very clear about what you want to get out of the collaboration is critical. After all, your outputs are only as good as your inputs. If you’re clear about what you want from a business objective perspective (i.e., I want to run ads that increase our revenue by 20% over three months and bring in 40 new customers, as opposed to I want to run ads to get more business) you have set very specific goals that your new digital marketing partner must work to meet. 

Have a clear contract and scope of work. 

Create a scope of work that lays out the goals, how they’ll be met and any factors that should be taken into consideration (turnaround times, number of revision rounds, etc.). Having these factors laid out clearly is important, as it sets expectations for both you and your marketing partner. The end result is a legally binding contract that addresses the goals you want to meet and how you’ll meet them, so there is no room for misinterpretation in terms of who is doing what or what is expected.

Most freelancers, consultants and agencies are not a one-stop shop. Bear this in mind. 

Many small businesses and founders need strategic and tactical support, but aren’t sure how to ask for it. Be very clear in what you want: if you want someone who simply does social media posts, that’s fine, but if you need someone who can help with social media, branding, website and digital strategy, and should be available to answer emails quickly and be around for ad hoc support, be clear about that. The terms of the engagement can be defined in the scope of work but ensure they are terms you’ll be happy with and are realistic for what you need. 

Making a decision to get digital marketing support can be overwhelming, but with clear communication and scoping, everyone can be on the same page, meaning you’re one step closer to getting awesome results from your efforts!