Don’t Fear the Timesheet: The Non-Traditional Marketing Career Paths You Shouldn’t be Afraid of

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When you think about developing your marketing career, you probably imagine moving from one traditional full time role to the next.

There’s nothing wrong with methodically moving up the ladder through promotions and career moves to new departments and agencies. But if that’s the only path you’ve considered, you’re missing out on some really great opportunities.

Marketing’s Place in the Gig Economy

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If you’re willing to think outside the standard full-time 9-5 box, you’ll find a world ripe with marketing work that requires a non-traditional solution.

Interim work is growing across the board. More than 1/3 of the American workforce now participates in the ‘gig economy,’ and that figure is expected to rise to about 40% by 2020. Marketing is an especially fertile area for such work.

Our discipline has become increasingly project-based and cyclical, with highs and lows that follow seasons and business cycles. Sometimes organizations need just some short-term help to help fix broken marketing processes or adapt a new strategy. It makes since that businesses would look for ways to meet these inconsistent marketing needs, whether it’s an internet marketing strategy consultant for some timely advice or some temporary copywriters to help with a big creative campaign.

Some people–especially those who are used to a typical professional job, look down on interim or contract work. They imagine thankless temp jobs or unpaid internships or unreliable freelance gigs with flaky clients.

It’s reasonable to be wary of work that you’re worried might be less consistent and reliable than you’re used to. But for many professionals (and talented, hard-working marketers in particular), they offer a variety of potential advantages.

Higher pay potential: Interim work, especially for skilled marketing positions, often pays considerably more per hour than an equivalent time at a full-time counterpart. Depending on the role, you can also pick up interim work in your free time as supplementary income. How much should you charge per hour as a marketing contractor, freelancer or consultant? Read this to find out.

More variety: Have you ever gotten bored of doing the same old thing at work, or dreaded another week at the office? It happens all the time, even to marketers who overall enjoy their workplace and jobs. Interim work means you’re not tied to a specific job or employer; you’ll get more opportunities to try new things. You could be an internet marketing consultant for a big consumer brand one week, then work for a dynamic startup the next. Who knows, maybe you’ll discover an entirely new job, field or industry that you’re passionate about!

Open up new career doors: For many marketers, the ‘dream job’ is one that’s in a large, famous agency or the department of a big, popular brand. However, if you’ve ever applied to a marketing job at one of the places, you’ve probably had a hard time getting much traction. These organizations often get dozens if not hundreds or even thousands of applications a day; standing out in the flood of applicants is nearly impossible. However, contract and interim positions can often serve as a lesser-used ‘back door’ into these bigger businesses. And once you’ve made some connections and positive impressions there, it’s much easier to land a full-time position later.

Contract Staffing

Working in contract staffing is one of the safest, most reliable methods of interim work. You partner with a staffing agency that connects you to businesses that need your skills and experience. You operate as the employee of the staffing agency, but work with the client organization on an hourly basis; often on-site.

The advantages: You get paid for all the hours you work (as opposed to a full-time job with a fixed salary). if you go over 40 hours, you get overtime! As an employee of the marketing staffing agency, you have access to benefits like healthcare and retirement plans–something you can’t count on if you’re working independently. And if you develop a strong relationship with a staffing partner, they can help you find open positions when your contract expires, so you’re not always left with the responsibility of finding your next gig yourself.


Working as an independent marketing freelancer can be quite volatile. You have to constantly be seeking out new projects and selling your services. But if you’re extremely active in generating new opportunities for yourself, it can be highly rewarding and engaging.

The advantages: You don’t have to freelance full-time; it’s something you can do when you have some spare time for some extra cash and experience. You get the liberty to set your own rates–which can be quite substantial, depending on the job. And you’ll have the opportunity to work on a wide variety of projects that will keep work interesting.

Leadership and Consulting

Interim work isn’t just for mid-level rank-and-file marketers. Even experienced experts and leaders can find rewarding interim jobs.

One way to go is to become an adviser such as an internet marketing strategy consultant. If you’re a subject matter expert in your field, you can offer your experience and expertise as, for instance, an SEO consultant or social media consultant. Consultants are typically brought in for a set amount of time, often to audit existing processes or help set up new ones. They help modernize and optimize strategy, usually for just a few days or weeks.

Alternatively, you can take the route of an interim marketing executive. These tend to be more leadership-focused, and are usually reserved for people who have senior leadership experience. They’re usually brought in to help completely reestablish an entire marketing strategy from the ground up, often at a time when substantial growth is most needed.

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