Most people see freelancers as flexible staff you hire for But don’t make a fatal mistake here. Understand when you need to wait until you have the funds for an employee versus when you can hire a contractor now. Here is the crux of it: With contractors, you pay them an hourly or project rate because you don’t have to train them. With employees, you pay a lower rate or a salary, since training is built in there. So if you have to train contractors to ensure that they’re successful, it’s hard for them to distinguish between learning versus doing hours. They may not necessarily believe in your vision or want to spend the time learning. You might not have the time to invest in them, nor account for the loss you incur if they leave. It’s like renting versus buying a car (I’m not going to use the dating versus marrying analogy here) Do you know how most people treat rental cars? “Ah, it’s a rental,” they say, as they abuse the vehicle. I’m not going to drive my own car on that long road trip. Let’s put the miles on the rental. Likewise, the freelancer expects to do just what you’re asking: nothing more or less, regardless of their opinion of what’s right. And freelancers we’ve hired usually write sloppy code, since they’re in it for the money, not the vision. In our space, we’re looking to build up an army of young adults that can help businesses drive results via social. We’ve had a near impossible time hiring freelancers here, since there are few competent ones that exist. If you’re in a new or hot field, you’re facing this same issue. And the common refrain I hear among other business owners is about how hard it is to find good people who care and will think for themselves. What about B2B’s? It’s easier for brands like Dunkin’ Donuts to find rabid fans to help with marketing. But what about non-sexy categories like B2B? If your marketing person isn’t doing a good job, it’s probably because they don’t know a thing about your business. Magical social media or digital knowledge won’t replace deep knowledge about your business, gleaned from being a rabid customer and user. In our company, to effectively write about social media and ROI, you’d have to understand what a practitioner does. This is true for any subject matter– how can you write about something you don’t have experience in? Digital Marketing This is the proverbial turd in the punchbowl for digital marketing. The cobbler’s son has no shoes. So for your business, you won’t be able to get around the need to train up existing customers to be your marketers. You could run a donut tire with an agency for a little while, but that will only get you down to the next exit. Digital changes so fast, you have so many sources of customer data, your marketing programs are growing in complexity. Do you really think a non-customer can keep up with your business? So the answer to the original question is that you can hire up existing customers part-time as contractors, so long as they have the long-term view. Then you have the best of both worlds: people who believe in your product/service, independent of whether they’re paid for it or not. But this pre-assumes two things: Your branding is so strong that you have a loyal following. You have a training program to onboard these customer-employees to be skilled in social. The answer to #1 is growing your personal branding, which bubbles up to your company. #2 is identifying these customer advocates and putting them through a course from Mari Smith, Facebook themselves, or even our training. If you try to hire a random freelancer who is not a customer already, you’ll suffer the fate of random marketers. If you bring in an employee, someone has to be there to manage and train them. Love to hear your thoughts on what marketing problems you face and your view of the situation. __________________________________________________________________________________ Connect with Tweak Your Biz: Would you like to write for Tweak Your Biz? Tweak Your Biz is an international, business advice community and online publication. Today it is read by over 140,000 business people each month (unique visitors, Google Analytics, December, 2013). See our review of 2013 for more information. An outstanding title can increase tweets, Facebook Likes, and visitor traffic by 50% or more. Generate great titles for your articles and blog posts with the Tweak Your Biz Title Generator.