June 23, 2020
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Freelance Content Marketing Experts: The Ultimate Hiring Guide

Creating content is a MUST if you own a business. But in an increasingly digitized world where attention is a prized asset, you don’t just create content for the sake of it. You need GREAT content to rise above the noise.

However, cranking out great content isn’t enough. If you want your blog posts or videos or social media updates to reach the right people and deliver on your business objectives, you need a content marketing strategy that brings it all together.

That means having to figure out which types of content will resonate with your audience, which channels or media to use in terms of distribution and promotion, how to maintain a consistent publishing schedule, and how to measure content ROI.

It can get overwhelming, don’t you think?

It does when you try to do it all alone.

If so, it’s high time you hire a content marketer who can help you achieve your content marketing goals.

The problem? You don’t feel it’s the right time to bring in a full-time employee. You don’t have the budget or the personal bandwidth for it.

This is where a freelance content marketer can help.

What is a freelance content marketer?

First, what is a content marketer? A content marketer is a person who markets a product or service using relevant content. By creating, distributing, and promoting content, a content marketer can help you attract, educate, engage, and convert your target audience.

A freelance content marketer, on the other hand, is someone who does all of the above but as an independent contractor, meaning he works on a self-employed basis. They have flexible schedules and typically work with multiple clients at a time.

Hiring a freelance content marketer has its advantages and disadvantages. We’ll get to that a bit later, but first…

How many freelancers are there anyway?

Finding a freelance content marketer is easy. In fact, the talent pool of freelancers out there is immense.

In fact, a 2019 Upwork study has found that a third of the U.S. workforce has done freelance work at some point in their career. The same study also found that the total income generated from freelancing exceeds the GDP of some major industries.

Finding a competent freelance content marketer is where it gets tricky.

If you want to find someone who can help you turn your content marketing efforts around, you have to do your due diligence.

In this blog post, I’ll tell you everything you need to know to find a freelance content marketing specialist who can turn your content marketing efforts around and bring the ROI.

What type of content marketer should you hire?

First off, content marketing in itself is a broad field, encompassing many disciplines such as content creation, publication, content promotion, and distribution. As you already know by now, content marketing goes beyond publishing blogs.

The job responsibilities of a content marketer include (but are not limited to):

  • Defining and understanding your target audience
  • Developing a content strategy
  • Social community building/social media marketing
  • Promoting content across channels
  • Implementing SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
  • Overseeing conversion optimization efforts
  • Mapping the customer journey
  • Measuring and tracking key metrics

Like I said. Broooaaaad.

Content marketers come in many flavors. Each has his own unique set of skills and expertise. And that’s just as well. If you want to hire someone who can move the needle, look for a freelance content marketer whose skill-set and expertise match your company’s specific needs.

It all comes down to whether you need help with content strategy or content execution or a little bit of both.

To help you find exactly what you need, we narrowed down content marketers into three types: the strategist, the tactician, and the hybrid.

(Caveat: These roles are far from cut-and-dried. However, narrowing down content marketers into three archetypes will help you navigate through the sea of freelance candidates and and find the right fit.)

1. The Strategist

The strategist’s main role is to create messaging that connects and resonates with your target audience. The strategist thinks in terms of the big picture and leans towards making decisions that translate to long-term success.

The content strategist will sit down with you to discuss and evaluate (remotely, of course) your overall editorial and content mission statement. They can help you find out if you’re targeting the right audience, as well as develop a content strategy to make sure that your stories remain consistent and relevant to the audience. Moreover, the strategist understands how every piece of content translates into results that support the organization’s goals.

Relevant titles include: chief content officer, content marketing specialist, content marketing consultant, social media manager, etc.

The content strategist’s core functions include:

  • User research/audience development (persona development)
  • Content strategy development
  • Creating editorial calendars
  • Developing brand style guidelines
  • Analytics
  • Keeping track of key metrics

You need a content marketing strategist if:

  • Your social media engagement is low
  • Your traffic is low
  • Your email list subscribers are dropping
  • You don’t know which key metrics to track

2. The Tactician

If the content strategist’s core function is to develop and evaluate your content strategy, the tactician’s role is to implement that content strategy on your behalf.

The tactician also works with your employees (or freelancers) to make sure that the stories are consistent with your branding and are resonating with your audience. The tactician also keeps tabs on how your content is faring in terms of SEO, making the necessary moves to ensure that every piece of marketing collateral is optimized for search. It’s also the tactician’s job to see how your content is performing across all channels and sends that intelligence back to you.

Relevant titles include: managing editor, SEO specialist, project manager, chief editor

The content tactician’s key roles include:

  • Keeping content creators on track with publication schedules
  • Generating content ideas
  • Assigning and editing content
  • Supervising editorial staff and content creators
  • Overseeing SEO implementation across content

You need a managing editor if:

  • Your content is not up to scratch in terms of quality
  • You can’t seem to get your content marketing campaigns off the ground
  • You don’t have time to edit and review every piece of content
  • You feel your time is better spent on the strategy side of content marketing

3. The Hybrid

Hybrid content marketers give you the best of both worlds. They can roll up their sleeves and map out a content strategy on a whiteboard complete with bullet points and footnotes. They’re also capable of getting into the nitty-gritty. Aside from creating content and publishing content, they can also hone in on the tiniest details to make sure every piece of content is clear, logical, and well-structured.

Relevant job titles include: content marketing specialist, content marketing consultant, chief editor, content manager

The hybrid content marketer’s key roles include: Any task, as needed.

You need a hybrid content marketer if:

  • Different areas of your content marketing are operating in silos
  • You need to cross-promote your content across different channels and media extensions
  • You need greater alignment and accountability among your content marketing team members
  • You don’t know much about content marketing and don’t have the budget to hire more than one freelance content marketer

As your content marketing continues to scale and your profit margins increase, you’d do well to fill all three roles so you can develop a more sustainable and robust content marketing ecosystem. Ideally, a full stack content marketing team comprises 7 core roles, according to CMI’s Chief Strategy Officer Robert Rose.

The pros of hiring a freelance content marketer

Now let’s get clear on whether you’re better off hiring a freelance content marketer as opposed to hiring in-house. Let’s talk about the benefits first.

1. They’re less expensive

Hiring a freelancer will save you a ton of money. First off, you’re not required to provide them with health benefits, insurance coverage, and paid leaves. In a recent survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employers spend $11.55 an hour on employee benefits. By hiring a freelancer instead, you can spend the bulk of your marketing budget on something else (like hiring another freelancer, for starters).

You also don’t have to pay for equipment, office space, computers, and onboarding sessions when hiring a freelancer. Last but not least, working with a freelancer is more cost-effective because you’re only hiring them to perform specific tasks. No need to pay them on a full-time basis and all year round.

2. Access to top talent

No employee wants to waste 3-5 hours going to and from work every single day. Not many will want to relocate for a job opportunity, either. When you’re hiring in-house, you’re drawing from a finite pool. So why limit your hiring prospects within a 30-mile or more radius from your office when you can hire top-tier talent from anywhere? It’s simple math. You want a content marketing strategist who can deliver the goods? Throw a wider net and you’ll catch the big fish.

3. It’s less risky

Hiring an in-house employee comes with contractual obligations. Once the contract has been signed and it turns out that the employee has fallen short of your expectations, you’ll find yourself hard-pressed to fire that employee. You already invested in that person and there’s plenty of paperwork involved.

A freelancer, on the other hand, works on a per-project basis. If a freelancer delivers poor work, you can simply end the project, cut your losses, and be on your way.

The cons of hiring a freelance content marketer

Hiring a freelancer has disadvantages as well. Here are a few to consider:

1. They won’t always be available for work

The drawback with freelancers is that they’re not always at your beck and call in between projects. Why? Because freelancers are independent contractors, meaning they can work with multiple clients at a time. Freelancers have flexible schedules so don’t be surprised if the freelance content marketer who helped you create a brand style guide from a week ago tells you they can’t take on another project until next week.

2. They may disappear

Some freelancers have a habit of ghosting clients. At first, everything’s great—they do a stupendous job and send their deliverables on time. And then you contact the freelancer for another project, and what do you get in return? Radio silence.

Did something happen? You receive no response so you don’t know. At any rate, you find yourself a little pissed because you didn’t expect to spend your day looking for another freelancer.

3. Possible quality issues

Hiring a freelancer comes with risks. Are they as good as their resume claims? Are their testimonials even real? Not being directly affiliated with your company and not sharing your company culture might also cause honesty or dedication issues.

Qualities to look for in a content marketer

Content marketing is not easy. If you want your brand to connect with the right audience, gain traction in the market, and bring the ROI, you need a content marketer who knows what he’s doing.

In other words, you need someone who has the following qualities:

1. Good eye for storytelling

In today’s overcrowded and oversaturated market, great storytelling is what will allow your brand to cut through the noise.You need a marketer with a keen eye for great storytelling. That way, every content you publish is likely to capture your audience’s attention and make them care.

2. Empathetic

You want a content marketer who is audience-driven, someone who ‘gets’ your customers and has a keen eye on which types of content will engage, help, and delight your audience. If you want your customers to care about your brand, find someone who treats them as humans (not just the end-users of your products and services) and who’s genuinely invested in their struggles.

3. Creative

As already stated, it’s an overcrowded market out there. Chances are, other companies are offering the same products and services like yours. If you want your audience to pick you over the others, a little bit of creativity can go a long way in making you stand out. Creative campaigns not only help you educate and entertain your audience better than your competitors, but they also make your brand unforgettable.

4. Analytical

You need a content marketer who can determine if your content marketing efforts are paying off in terms of maximizing ROI. He or she should know which KPI’s need attention based on your quarterly goals and overall goals.

How to hire the best freelance content marketer

As stated earlier, the freelance talent pool is immense (and growing exponentially). Finding the best possible freelance content marketer at the best possible price is where the real challenge lies.

Want to find the diamond in the rough? Here are some tips to help you out:

1. Read the reviews

Freelancing platforms like Upwork and PeoplePerHour allow clients to leave their feedback on a freelancer’s profile for their project. It goes without saying, but you’re better off hiring a freelancer who’s been getting consistently favorable reviews. But don’t rely on a freelancer’s average rating alone. Read the reviews closely and check for patterns to have an in-depth understanding of the freelancer’s strengths and weaknesses. It makes no sense to hire someone who has little experience in customer research if your objective is to build an audience.

2. Check out their portfolio

A resume or a bio can only tell you so much. If you want to get a better gauge of a content marketer’s capabilities, you have to see their work. A marketing portfolio can tell, nay, show you if a marketer’s skill-set and sensibilities are the perfect fit for the needs of your organization.

3. Do a social media background check

If you were about to hire a babysitter, would you do a social media background check first? Exactly. Sure, what people post on social media is not always a true reflection of what they are, but it never hurts to check. The best social media platforms to help you gauge a candidate’s qualifications are LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

4. Use a questionnaire to screen candidates

Using a questionnaire can help you narrow down your list of candidates to those who are truly qualified for the job. Questionnaires are excellent screening tools because they reveal more about a candidate’s capabilities than a resume does.

That said, you need to ask the right (preferably open-ended ones) questions if you want to find the best possible candidate.

Some great questions to ask include:

  • What are the three core skills needed for this project?
  • What will you do on the first day of the project?
  • Can you provide links to content that you worked on that are similar to what we’re doing?
  • Have you ever managed an editorial team before?
  • Have you ever worked in a content marketing campaign that failed? If so, what went wrong and how would you do it differently next time?

For a more comprehensive list of questions that will help you narrow down your list, check out Curata’s Content Marketing Interview template.

What’s Next?

Great content marketing success stories don’t happen by accident. If you want your content to fuel your brand, connect with your audience, and maximize your ROI, you need to invest in the right people. You need marketers who understand the real value of great content, and who know how to use it in ways that will support your business. Thankfully, the freelance market gives you all the flexibility you need to find the content marketer who can bring your content marketing game to the next level.