Marketing as a field is no stranger to leveraging non-employee contingent workforce solutions for expertise and production capacity. From freelancers to agency partners, there’s a bounty of various flexible marketing workforces to pull from. But with all the different options available, it can be difficult to determine which is best for a given scenario.
Two of the most common (and most similar) interim marketing workforce options are freelancers and contract marketing staffing. Each has its place, and depending on your situation and the work you need done either one could be the superior choice. But distinguishing the two, and deciding what’s best for your department, requires a nuanced understanding of each option’s strengths.
Before you ring up a marketing staffing agency or start scouring your network for good freelancers, consider these key factors:
Marketing Contractors vs Freelancers: Defining the Difference
Before deciding which avenue is right for your projects and campaigns, it’s useful to have a working understanding of the difference between freelancers and marketing contractors.
In short, marketing freelancers are typically independent professionals who provide services on a per-project basis. They work on their own and have the responsibility of holding themselves accountable. Freelancers may bill you on an hourly basis, or arrange for a set payment pending completion of the project. When your organization works directly with freelancers, it bears the burden of seeking them out, evaluating their qualifications, and arranging a deal.
Marketing staffing operates through a third-party partner. You work with a staffing agency to explain your needs, and then that firm finds appropriate talent in the form of marketing contractors. The talent that you agree on then becomes an employee of your staffing agency, and works alongside your team. You pay your staffing partner an agreed upon amount per hour of work, and the staffing agency then handles all matters of compensation and employment with the contractors.
Each has its advantages depending on your situation. Ask yourself these questions before choosing one option or the other.
How Long Do You Need Help?
Are you faced with a project that just needs a few hours or days of work and polish? Or are you looking at a talent need that could go months, years, or indefinitely?
Freelance solutions can be a fine way to handle your short-term or one-off challenges: updating some web images, getting copy for a few PPC ads, creating a couple of new ecommerce landing pages.
But contract marketing staffing is usually a better solution for projects and campaigns with larger or indefinite scopes: managing social media accounts, organizing your old customer data, providing ongoing support for your influencer marketing, transforming your web properties to be mobile friendly.
Do You Need One Expert, or Several?
Even a fairly busy marketing operation can typically find the time to dig up a single freelancer to do some basic work. But sometimes the scope of the work in front of you will require a whole team, department, or agency ASAP. That’s not the kind of challenge most marketing leaders and HR teams are ready to handle–there’s just not enough capacity for all the needed logistics.
For occasions where finding enough independent marketers for your needs becomes too burdensome, it’s time to call up your staffing partner. They can manage sourcing many contractors at once, arrange marketing RPO, or even assist you in insourcing an entire flexible marketing agency.
What is Your Urgency to Get Started?
Is this a problem you need taken care of yesterday, or something that you can afford to take your time on and make sure it’s done right?
The time it takes to find a suitable freelancer depends on how lucky you are, and how high your standards are. If you’re fortunate, and your need is so urgent that you’re not concerned with thoroughly vetting a freelancer for quality and qualification, you might be able to sign someone on today. If you’re not so lucky, and you have very strict requirements for your freelancer, it could easily take weeks or months to find the right person for the job.
A dedicated, experienced marketing staffing agency isn’t going to put someone in a seat by the end of business hours today. However, they will be able to find someone consistently quickly, and may already have a few options on hand or in their network who is eager to get started. Furthermore, you can rest assured that the talent presented to you will be properly evaluated and qualified for the position.
Are You 100% Sure You’re above Board in Terms of Coemployment?
Whether a freelancer is operating as an independent contractor or on some other basis, you must be very cautious with how your treat them and work with them. If you’re managing them and paying them like you would your full-time staff, then they can be considered (as far as the US government is concerned) your employees. That means you could unexpectedly take on employer and tax responsibilities, not to mention potentially open your business up to litigation. Just ask Microsoft how expensive that can be.
If this is even remotely a concern for you, it’s something that needs to be treated very carefully. Fortunately, you can dodge the question almost entirely by partnering with a respectable contract marketing staffing firm. This way, there’s no question at all about who the employer in the situation is. And they’ll be able to provide experience and guidance to make sure you’re working with your marketing contractors in a legally acceptable manner.
What Level of Expertise Do You Need?
It’s one thing to find a freelancer for some junior-level graphic design work. It’s quite another to find someone capable of sophisticated customer analytics techniques and working with esoteric data management tools.
More general,traditional marketing skills are relatively available in the freelance pool. But finding very niche or cutting edge skills is another story. For these less-common skillsets, you’ll often have more luck working with a marketing contract staffing agency experienced in finding specific capabilities and experiences.
How Important is Reliability in Your Contingent Workforce Solutions?
If you’ve worked in marketing long enough, you’ve probably encountered a situation where a freelancer your business was depending on failed to deliver what you needed, or just disappeared altogether. Deserved or not, freelancers have some reputation for being unreliable and flaky. And when they are, there’s often little you can do to hold them accountable.
If accountability and reliability are important to the way you do business, you’ll get far more of it from a reputable staffing agency than a lone freelancer operating on their own. You’ll have a definitive partner who’s under contract to deliver results.
Once you’ve answered all these questions and considered the advantages of either of your talent options, you’ll be in a strong position to make the best decision.