Independent contractors (or freelancers) are a perfect fit for product managers and marketing directors in charge of developing promotional content and technical communications for their brand.
Let’s straighten one thing out first – what do I mean when I say “freelancer” or “independent contractor”? The term has bad connotations for some marketing managers. I’m not talking about the guy in India who designs logos for $1 an hour, or the college student who takes part-time jobs for some extra income. The “freelancers” I am referring to in this article are the tried and true professionals, the full-time independent contractors and small business owners who consistently provide top-quality work – and who also choose to enjoy the many advantages of working on their own terms.
Your Most Valuable Business Asset
The value of these professional contractors to a marketing manager cannot be overstated. In fact, I would argue that a quality freelancer is a marketing manager’s most valuable business asset, being that your freelancer works for YOU, not your current employer.
Think about it – who else comes with you when (not if) you change jobs? An independent contractor who works for you is part of your personal “brand” as an executive, your means for consistently getting things done. They increase your production, they multiply your budget, they bend over backwards to please you – freelancers are the “ace up your sleeve”, the well-kept secret of successful marketing managers who always seem to do more with less.
They increase your production, they multiply your budget, they bend over backwards to please you – freelancers are the “ace up your sleeve”, the well-kept secret of successful marketing managers who always seem to do more with less.
A Real-World Example
An even greater value to marketing managers is supplied by “niche” freelancers who serve industries that require specialized skills, such as [shameless self-promotional plug] a biologist/artist who writes and designs technical marketing materials for biotech and pharmaceutical companies on an individual contract basis [me].
I learned the craft of professional freelancing by working for my father, himself an independent contractor of 20+ years serving the animal health industry. I saw marketing executives at all levels of business utilize him as their “go to” guy, a sort of “secret weapon” they called when they needed a boost in production or simply needed more than their company’s marketing agency or in-house writers and designers could handle.
After trying him out, many hired him exclusively for all of their marketing communications, preferring his superior quality, price, and efficiency over larger design agencies. And guess what – when these clients inevitably changed companies, my father was always their first call, enabling them to hit the ground running and make a big splash in their new position.
7 Undeniable Reasons to Hire a Freelancer
Now that we have defined the basic terms and seen a real-world example, here are my top 7 reasons why a professional freelance graphic designer is the marketing manager’s most valuable business asset. This first reason may surprise you, but hear me out, it may just be true…
It could be your longest-lasting professional relationship
By developing a relationship with an independent contractor who works for YOU (not your company or your company’s marketing agency), you can keep your content production consistent when you inevitably change jobs. Your independent contractor is reliable, knows your preferences, and will work tirelessly to help you succeed, since their success is dependent on yours. This may be the only asset you can take with you throughout your entire career.
Think long-term. Search for a lifelong partner, not a one-night-stand.
From my personal experience in the biotech and pharmaceutical sectors, I have seen my fair share of mergers, buyouts, and personnel transfers that have directly affected my clients. Corporate marketing talent tends to move around a lot, especially in volatile scientific industries.
My advice: Think long-term. Search for a lifelong partner, not a one-night-stand. Your company or your company’s marketing agency may have great talent now, but the best talent often moves on to better things (like working independently as a freelancer).
Reduced cost = increased return on investment
Reduced cost to a product marketing manager simply means one thing: you get more production for your budget. It demonstrates your value to your company, showing that you are efficient and resourceful, doing as much as possible with what you have been given.
Independent contractors generally have greatly reduced overhead costs and fewer employees than large marketing agencies, allowing them to do comparable work for considerably less money. Large marketing agencies employ many people who do not contribute to your project and are inherently inefficient. By hiring an independent contractor, you pay only for the services you need, when you need them.
Did I mention freelancers are not salaried employees? This cuts down on taxes in addition to there being no vacation time or benefits to pay. In this way, you can afford to do all of the little things that set your products apart from the competition, as well as set YOU as an employee apart from YOUR competition.
Quality – the greatest talent is shifting to freelance
As businesses become increasingly decentralized, the most talented individuals are opting to work for themselves rather than being tied down to a single company or location. Even your marketing agency hires freelancers as needed or when specialized skills are required. Cut out the middle man by hiring them directly and reap the benefits.
A large marketing agency cannot match the level of care and diligence that a freelancer provides.
In addition, freelancers have an obligation to provide nothing but the best quality work. A freelancer’s work is a direct reflection on them, and if their work is substandard, they do not get more job offers. This is a powerful motivating force that you can harness to obtain outstanding work on your projects. A large marketing agency cannot match the level of care and diligence that a freelancer provides when their future depends on it.
When you decide to hire an independent contractor, you are not limited to the talent employed by your company or even the geographic region. You open up your talent options to the entire country or even the entire world.
Priority – YOU are the flagship client
Marketing agencies measure themselves by the budgets of their clients. Think Mad Men – even when things were going well, Don Draper is always wanting a chance to win the next “flagship” client – the Coca Cola, Ford, McDonalds type big-budget client. This is who they bend over backwards to please, and to whom they assign their top talent to serve. The rest of their clients, coincidentally, get their projects rushed out the door to get a paycheck.
When you decide to hire an independent contractor, YOU are the flagship client. Your projects get top-priority treatment, your questions get answered immediately, your edits are implemented quickly. A good freelancer listens carefully and delivers consistently, because when you succeed, they succeed.
Efficiency – simple & direct communication
Large marketing agencies hire account managers to keep clients (you) happy and smooth over mistakes and miscommunications. Your desires and edits must be filtered through multiple levels of authority before reaching the heads and hands actually creating the material. This is especially difficult if you are not one of the agency’s flagship clients.
Communicate directly with the actual creators of your projects.
With an independent contractor, the entire operation is simple and efficient. Communication is direct with the actual creators of your projects. This saves time, money, and frustration for each and every project you need developed. Plus, you gain more control over your materials to fine-tune your message and achieve your marketing objectives.
Flexibility – they work how & when you need them
Remember when I said freelancers will bend over backwards to please you? What this means for you is that they will be more willing to do rush jobs to get your materials ready for that looming tradeshow, convention, or meeting.
Since there are no contractual obligations, you can work freelancers as much or little as you need. You can also collaborate with them as much or as little as you want. Do you need regular progress updates, or just a notification when the job is done? Once your freelancer knows your preferences, your job becomes much easier and your production will increase.
For growing companies, hiring independent contractors is a great way to transition into hiring full-time writers and designers. They are also perfect when your workforce is not fully equipped to provide all that is required to market your products successfully. Big or small jobs, it doesn’t matter to a freelancer.
Maintain your sanity – working with someone “outside” the corporate world can give you a much-needed breath of fresh air once in a while. Call them up for a chat while they are completing your projects on an overseas vacation. We aim to live life to the fullest, and work is only a small part of what we do.
I dedicate a portion of my time and income to helping charitable organizations.
Contribute to the greater good – small businesses are good for the economy and good for everyone. By supporting freelance laborers, your corporate budget will help to build a family who will give to its community. Also, like many freelancers, I dedicate a portion of my time and income to helping charitable organizations. To learn more about who I am excited about helping, see my About page.
Counter-point: don’t you get a better product from the “team” environment of a large marketing agency?
This may be true if you are one of the agency’s flagship clients. But for most clients, the time and attention devoted to projects by independent contractors cannot be matched by large marketing agencies, simply because large agencies have quotas to fill in order to pay salaries, benefits, and countless overhead costs. They have an obligation to get projects done efficiently and mechanistically so they can pay the bills on time.
Plus, freelancers don’t work in isolation either. We are connected in wide networks of other professionals with varying styles and skill sets. Many freelancers reach out to the community to add variety to their work or for help with problems that arise. For larger projects, you get the benefits of an extended network of professionals who are the best at what they do.
Any other thoughts? Leave a comment and let me know how I can improve this.