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When to Outsource Marketing (and How to Do It the Right Way)

There comes a time when you can’t do everything. Let me rephrase: You can’t do everything well.

But when is that, exactly?

Unfortunately, there isn’t an outsourcing fairy perched on your shoulder, ready to notify you when it’s time to outsource your marketing activities. So, what are you supposed to do? Wait until you have a complete nervous breakdown from being overwhelmed and stressed?

Relax. We’ll help you figure out when you should keep it in-house vs. outsourcing marketing.

Let’s get into it.

A sign with "outsource" and "in-house" printed on it.

The Benefits of Outsourcing Marketing

Many people’s first reaction when they realize they need help is to think about hiring an employee. A salary with benefits type of employee.

In-house employees have their place, but often the best first step is to outsource your marketing to an independent contractor or freelancer. This is especially true if you’re a small business.

There are 3 main reasons for this:

1. It’s Cheaper

Yes, paying a contractor may seem pricier at first, but it actually is less expensive.

Say a freelancer charges $50 an hour and an in-house employee’s pay rate is $28 an hour. At first, it seems like hiring in-house is the way to go. But what about health insurance? Pensions? 401(k)? Paid sick days and vacation? All that time spent gossiping at the office watercooler?

It all adds up. The true cost of an employee is estimated to be 1.25 to 1.4 times the amount of their annual salary, according to research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

So, an employee earning $50,000 a year may actually cost you as much as $70,000 every year. And that doesn’t even include your overhead such as office space, computers, conferences and training, free pizza lunches, etc.

Suddenly outsourcing marketing to the freelancer seems like the better deal, right?

Paying a contractor may seem pricier at first, but it actually is less expensive.

2. Specialists Provide More Value

What’s better for your business: Someone who knows a little bit about a lot of things, or someone who knows a lot about a few specific things?

When it comes to outsourcing digital marketing, knowledge is everything. For example, when outsourcing social media, you wouldn’t choose someone who has barely used Facebook or LinkedIn.

Outsourcing digital marketing to someone who specializes in that area will yield far better results than going with a generalist. Compiling a team of specialists will allow you to maximize your growth by having the best people for the job in place instead of one person handling everything.

Also, consider this: It’s likely that as a small or midsize business you don’t have enough work to hire a full-time specialist in each area of marketing such as social media, content marketing and so on. By hiring contractors, you still get all the benefits of their specialized knowledge without having to pay for full-time hours.

3. Contractors Are Low Risk

There is a lot more risk when hiring a typical 9-to-5 staffer. Mostly, if it isn’t working out, you need just cause to let them go. That could take months of compiling documentation about job performance and coaching sessions to prove that your company follows the law in case a spurned ex-employee decides to sue you.

On the other hand, an outsourcing relationship with a contractor is much more casual. Sure, you’ll have a contract, but in it you can negotiate a cancellation policy that both parties agree on.

Maybe it’s a standard 30-day notice to cease services, or more specific. But whatever you agree on is legally binding because instead of an employer-employee relationship which is governed by state laws, an employer-contractor relationship isn’t bound by the same laws.

Additionally, most of the time contractor relationships are billed hourly. Don’t have a task or project for them this week? Then it doesn’t cost you anything. With an employee, you still have to pay them even if they have nothing to work on.

When to Outsource Your Marketing

Sometimes it’s obvious when you should outsource, like if you don’t have the skill set to complete part of a project. But often, it’s a fuzzy line.

You may think, “Why would I outsource this when I can do it myself and keep all the profit?”

And to that, I counter with, “Do either of these situations seem familiar?”

Running Out of Time

Time is money and if you’re always running late for campaign deadlines or tasks keep getting pushed and delayed, then you’re losing money.

It sounds simple to say if you can’t get all your work done then outsource it but it’s a lot more subtle in practice. Busy day? Oh, just slide these 3 tasks over to tomorrow’s list — until tomorrow, when you slide them over to the following day and so on.

If you’re always in “go” mode, racing to get things done, you aren’t devoting your full attention to your work and it isn’t going to be your best. You need help.

The same logic applies whether you’re running a solo business or have a team of people working for you: If they’re overworked, there’s no time to think of big picture strategies and goals. You need to outsource daily marketing tasks to free up time so important campaigns are given the attention they deserve to maximize success.

You Need to Focus Elsewhere

Even if you can get all your work done, maybe it isn’t the work you should be doing in the first place.

Maybe you should be focusing more on sales and bringing in new business rather than writing social media posts and scheduling them, something you could easily outsource.

Or, you need to focus on product development for the next sprint, so you should be offloading your marketing tasks onto a contractor or other team member during that time.

Sometimes it’s temporary, like a few weeks to a couple of months, and other times you need to take a hard look at your tasks and see what you should get rid of permanently.

There are many other reasons for outsourcing marketing, too:

  • Not seeing the results you want from campaigns.
  • Need an overall strategy to guide your work
  • Want a fresh perspective on goals and campaign ideas
  • Want to start a new strategy or social network that you don’t have experience with (For example, a pay-per-click (PPC) campaign or influencer marketing)
  • Team members doing multiple jobs, e.g., a writer who also designs graphics because you need them, but don’t have enough work to justify hiring a designer

According to HubSpot’s 2019 annual report, 66% of business-to-business companies outsource some or all of their marketing.

From just one campaign to your entire digital marketing workflow, there are many opportunities to outsource marketing efficiently.

Outsource daily marketing tasks to free up time so important campaigns are given the attention they deserve.

How to Outsource Digital Marketing

OK, you’re convinced: Outsourcing digital marketing is for you. But how do you actually go about doing it?

You could start by asking for referrals from friends and associates. You’re most likely to find a high-quality freelancer with this approach.

The easiest way to hire a contractor is to find one on freelance marketplaces such as Upwork. You can search and browse profiles of people who have the skills you need such as social-media management, writing, design, Facebook ads, etc.

How to Hire a Contractor

When hiring a freelancer, be sure to have:

  • A contract/written agreement of the work to be completed and the rate
  • A communication plan: How often you’ll talk, response time, etc.
  • A deadline for each project outsourced
  • A brand style and strategy guide or other documentation explaining what your company does and who your target audience is
  • An expectation of how much work you need them to do on a weekly or monthly basis

Outsourcing to a Marketing Agency

Another option is to hire a marketing agency to handle part or all of your entire digital marketing plan. What’s great about agencies is that you have access to an entire team of specialists, from marketers to designers to writers, for your same hourly fee.

However, agency fees are higher than independent contractors and often come with contracts and steep cancellation clauses.

Agencies are still a popular choice, especially for larger companies who need strategic guidance or who just want to pay to have their marketing handled. Fees may be higher, but agencies are 100% accountable to their clients so you can trust your work will get done without you having to follow up.

Sometimes peace of mind is worth the extra money versus managing a team of contractors yourself.

What to Outsource

If you’ve read this far, chances are you’ve already thought of a few tasks you could take off your plate.

Here are even more ideas for outsourcing marketing tasks:

Outsourcing Email Marketing Services

  • Writing email copy
  • Creating a welcome or sales funnel.
  • Formatting, scheduling and sending out campaigns
  • Analyzing campaign results and making recommendations for improvement
  • Organizing subscribers by segment, setting up automated connections with other apps (Shopify, etc.)

Outsourcing Content Marketing

Outsourcing Social-Media Management

  • Writing post content
  • Formatting and scheduling posts
  • Responding to comments and direct messages
  • Running ads (Facebook, Instagram, etc.)
  • Creating an influencer marketing strategy
  • Running contests
  • Account growth tasks (liking, commenting, following others).
  • Repurposing graphics or creating new graphics in all the size formats for each social channel.

Outsourcing Analytics and Data

  • Monthly Google Analytics reports and insights
  • Profitability analysis (e-commerce especially)
  • Customer journey mapping

Outsourcing Digital Advertising

  • Running social media ads
  • Google Ads campaign strategy and optimization
  • Reporting on results and suggesting improvements
  • Native advertising and conventional ad buying

Free Up Your Time and Profit More

Outsourcing can be scary at first. You may be so overwhelmed by your to-do list that the thought of putting in more work to outsource seems impossible.

But it can really pay off.

Is it as easy as ordering laundry soap on Amazon at 3 a.m.? No, but put in the time to find the right outsourced marketing team and it can transform your company.

For Small to Midsize Businesses

A team of freelance contractors may be a good fit. Inexpensive, high-quality specialists will be invaluable to your growth, but there’s a management aspect to uphold with a freelance team.

For Larger Businesses

You should consider outsourcing to marketing agencies for both the talent (all the specialists you need under one roof) and the efficiency savings of not having to manage an internal or freelance team.

Still Overwhelmed?

Start small: One project, one task, one contractor. Get a good process for outsourcing going and rinse and repeat.

The famous Wayne Gretzky quote applies here: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Well, you also miss 100% of the tasks you don’t have time to do because you’re so busy doing your own dang marketing.

So get out there, find some help and reclaim your time and build your business.

Michelle Martin is a freelance copywriter for business-to-business, software-as-a-service companies looking to stand out and scale up. She is an ex-agency producer and marketing strategist known for quickly understanding and distilling complicated technical topics into conversational copy that gets results.
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