Ready to Bring On a Content Marketer? Here’s How Not to F*ck It Up
I know we just met, but I like to be blunt: at the very end of this article I will dedicate a short paragraph on how to hire *me* as your content marketer.
But until then I will deliver the best advice I have about how to hire the right content marketer for your growing SaaS company with zero self promotion.
Do you hate long intros? Me too, so let’s dive in.
Pop Quiz! Are you ready to hire a content marketer?
If you can tick off 2/6 of these boxes then it’s time to hire a content marketer. If you can’t, then it might not be worth your budget right now.
Signs You Need a Content Marketer on your Team
- You can’t stay consistent with your publishing schedule
- You want to expand your reach, build brand awareness and increase inbound leads
- You’re not sure what content to produce and it’s leading to a bottleneck
- You’ve got a ton of ideas, but nobody is advising you and they’re collecting dust
- You know SEO is a lead generator that’s viable for your business
- You want to achieve thought leader status in your industry but you’re too busy to put the content out there
How’d you do?
If you managed to tick off at least 2 then read on.
And if you didn’t manage to tick off at least 2 then read on anyway because if you read nothing else in this article but the next section, I promise you it’ll be worth it.
The Content Marketing Flywheel
“Content marketer” is a pretty diffuse term and everyone with a phone and a selfie-stick is out there claiming to be a professional content marketer.
So let’s break down what I like to call the Content Marketing Flywheel to understand the entire content production process.
From there, I’ll illustrate who does what in that process.
When it comes to content marketing I like to break it down into these 6 phases:
- Distribution & repurposing
I’m dedicating another post to this process as going into detail here would blow this article way out of scope, but I will break down where a content marketer comes into these phases and what phases are handled by other professionals.
A content marketer will take care of: research (market research, keyword research, competitor research etc), building a content strategy, measuring KPIs and project management. While they may handle other areas (for example, producing written content) these are the core focuses of a content marketer.
A content creator, like a content writer or video editor, will handle the creation part of the process, refreshing content and editing (but in the case of writers this last part might be handled by a professional editor). The content marketing strategist will guide them on this with detailed briefs.
Professional editors will edit content with a much more critical eye and help the writer’s words truly shine on the page (good editors are priceless!)
Now, don’t panic!!
I know that sounds like a lot, but if your company is still quite small you might not need all of them.
A lot of content marketers are also copywriters (as is the case with me) and can usually handle small-scale content production as well as the strategy side.
But be realistic: if you want to produce a ton of content relatively quickly, you’ll be stretching a content marketer too thin if you expect them to handle all the strategy, research, project management, and production side of the content marketing flywheel and will need to hire extra help.
But some content marketers might have an agency model and will be able to handle a lot of this in-house for you, saving you time and effort in hiring freelancers or in-house.
But get clear on your goals: if you want to start a YouTube channel you’ll need to hire a video editor as well as a content marketer.
Should you Hire a Content Marketer In-House, Fractional or Freelance?
Now that we’re clear on what a content marketer’s role actually is and what other roles you might be interested in hiring, let’s talk about the best model for your hire; in-house, fractional or freelance?
Hiring an In-House Content Marketer
Hiring someone in-house has obvious benefits: you have a new team member, they’re dedicated to working with you and you alone, it’s a long-term investment and you can set the conditions for their role.
However, hiring in-house is also very costly and there’s usually a lag as you train-up someone brand new who might not have a ton of experience in the role. Not to mention the lengthy hiring process and having to interview dozens of candidates. Then if you do mess up it’s a lot harder to fire an in-house team member compared to an external freelancer.
You also might not have any established SOPs or extensive documentation in place to easily onboard a new hire and they might spend a lot of time putting out fires and trying to build out internal processes instead of doing their job.
With the above in mind, let’s take a look at the little known role that can bridge the gap between hiring in-house and hiring a regular freelancer.
Hiring a Fractional Content Marketer
A fractional content marketer is someone who’s between a freelancer and an in-house team member.
They come in to help you not only with your content marketing strategy, but also with developing SOPs and documentation that you can later use to quickly onboard new hires in the future. They even assist with training new hires as you make the transition.
The relationship with a fractional content marketer is usually closer than that of a regular freelancer. For example, we usually get added to our clients’ Slack channels, may even have a domain email with the company (I usually recommend this when we’re doing things like outreach), and will attend regular meetings with key stakeholders.
While some freelancers may do this, many have quite strict rules about how they communicate and handle client relationships, but a fractional content marketer is usually more flexible with this.
Another key difference is in contracts.
Normally a fractional content marketer has a more agile approach to their contracts and doesn’t depend so much on somewhat rigid statement-of-work contracts as regular freelancers do.
This can speed up development of your content production process in a variety of ways.
Let’s say you’ve been crunching some numbers and realize that your churn rate has been higher this quarter than last; you might chat with your content marketer about producing an email sequence with a special offer for past users.
A normal freelance-client relationship might require that they need to create another contract to produce the content or they won’t start work on it until their current project is completed which will slow down your progress.
Whereas a fractional content marketer can more easily pause a current project and start work on something that’s become more urgent without as much back-and-forth.
The reason I switched to this format was simply because I preferred feeling like a team member for my clients and I didn’t want to pull them into a black-hole retainer.
My goal is now to support them temporarily while they build out their own internal teams and leave as much documentation and processes behind to make it as easy for them to transition to hiring their own in-house team.
Hiring a Freelance Content Marketer
The last option is hiring a freelancer.
Hiring a freelancer is similar to hiring a fractional content marketer, but you might find that a regular freelancer has stricter SOW contracts than a fractional content marketer, meaning there’s less room for flexibility on what they’ll work on and when.
However each freelancer is different and many may charge per hour or have more flexible contracts if priorities should change. It’s really about finding the best freelancer to suit your needs.
When chatting with freelancers ask how they charge, how their contracts are structured and how payment works to make sure it aligns with how you prefer to operate. Most will probably charge per hour or per project, but if you have a ton of projects to go through, hiring them on a monthly retainer might be the best option.
The monthly retainer might focus on specific deliverables or it might be hourly based with the freelancer providing some type of timesheet at the end of the month.
A word of warning: don’t let these timesheets turn into haggling.
One downside to these timesheets is that sometimes they lead to arguments like “did it really take you THAT long to do…? Instead of spending X amount of time on Y let’s spend more time on Z…” Remember you’re hiring a professional and sometimes doing something right takes as long as it takes.
To avoid conflicts it might be best to agree on what the freelancer will work on each month and let them internally calculate how much to charge and how much time they’ll spend on it.
What skills should you look for in a content marketing strategist?
- Project management skills
- Teamwork as they could end up managing people to get projects completed
- SEO and familiarity with SEO tools like SEMrush or Ahrefs
- Social media literacy – they don’t need to be total social media experts (that’s another hire) but they should know enough to understand what content works on which platforms
- Research: topical, competitor and market research should be second nature to them to be able to advise on content strategy
- Able to set core KPIs and measure them
- Organizational skills
- Creative thinking and drive
- Strategic thinking and ability to understand your goals
- Not a proverbial “yes-person”: expect push-back from a professional. Remember that you’re hiring them for their expertise after all
Where to Start Your Search
I’m going to assume you’re not searching for an in-house role because I’m not the best person to be advising you on where to find in-house hires.
When it comes to hiring freelancers, I know most people’s port-of-call is Fiverr or Upwork and while you can find great freelancers there, I would caution against it.
The main reason is that most high-level professionals aren’t getting involved in bidding-wars to win over clients.
Here are some places to look for your content marketer
- Select Few: this company pairs vetted professionals with perfect-fit clients
- TopTal: a company that boasts of only hiring the top 3% of professionals in their respected fields
- MVP match: another upmarket freelancer platform
- Ask for recommendations from other business owners you know
- LinkedIn: do a good old fashioned LinkedIn search for “freelance or fractional content marketer for SaaS”
- Twitter: Twitter has been amazing for lead generation for me and it also helps me find professionals I need. Simply type “freelance or fractional content marketer” into the search bar and check for people. You can also search for something like “SaaS content marketing” and check what tweets are coming up. Look to see who might offer these services who’s producing content on the topic, it’ll give you an idea of their expertise
How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Content Marketer?
This will depend a lot on your location and whether or not the content marketer is going to be an in-house employee or a freelancer.
Here are some stats I’ve pulled from open sources like Glassdoor, Indeed and Payscale to give you an idea of what it’ll cost you per year to hire a content marketer in-house.
Average Salary of a Content Marketer / year
- USA: $61,235
- Canada: $60,398
- UK: £26,211
- Australia: $75,500
- Ireland: €40,182
- France: €42,729
🚨4 Warning Signs when Hiring a Content Marketer: if you see any of these…run
Imagine being $10k deep into a contract with an SEO agency and you have to rewrite almost every word of the shitty content they’ve delivered.
Imagine at the end of months of work you have literally nothing to show for it except an empty black hole in your marketing budget.
So here are the 4 red flags of someone who is going to absolutely fleece you:
Man and woman at a computer, man saying “I’m not stupid, RED FLAGS”
🚨No testimonials on their site: this of course can happen if someone is brand new, but they should be upfront about their lack of experience as maybe they’re still a great fit for you. But if they’re supposedly well-established yet don’t showcase testimonials then it’s a major red flag
🚨They won’t let you get in touch with past clients: while some freelancers may be bound by NDAs it’s hard to believe they wouldn’t have ONE single client who’s happy to talk with you about their experience. Make sure to ask for a referral during your discovery call
🚨They say yes to all your goals and desires immediately: nobody should be agreeing to a specific KPI or goal without actually getting to know you or your business. These people usually promise the moon and Swiss cheese and deliver moth balls
🚨They have a budget for link building: buying links is common in the dirty underbelly of SEO and it’s not always terrible. But it’s a huge drain on your financial resources and falls under the black hat tricks of SEO. Good link building should be achieved with PR and relationship building.
How to Hire Me as Your Fractional Content Marketer
We’ve been through a lot you and I.
We’ve learnt about what a content marketer actually does, my content marketing flywheel, what type of content marketer you should hire, wtf a fractional content marketer is, and when to turn your tail and run during a discovery call.
Now as promised I’m going to chat a little about how to hire me as your Fractional Content Marketer or Head of Content because I’m cheeky like that.
This process is 100% customizable for your particular business needs.
For example, if you don’t have much content then month 3 will be dedicated to setting up SOPs, building out a content calendar, finding the right content writers to produce our content etc. I don’t believe in standard one-size-fits-all packages for my clients, these are just general practices that I follow.
Hey little scroller! Here’s the Cliff Notes Version in FAQ Form
What does a content marketer do?
A content marketer creates a content marketing strategy for a company. This may involve, but is not limited to; market research and building out buyer personas, keyword research, creating content calendars, project management, liaising with freelancers, measuring key performance indicators, and designing a content strategy that helps a company achieve its inbound marketing goals
Do I need a content marketer or a content writer?
Do you already have a content strategy mapped out? If so, you now need a qualified writer to produce the content. If you don’t already have your strategy mapped out then you should probably hire a content marketing strategist first and then look for a writer.
How do I hire a content strategist?
There are tons of places you can look! Twitter, LinkedIn, TopTal, Select Few… using these platforms can help connect you with professional content marketers. Make sure you get clear on the role of a content marketer and what you actually need help with first before diving into hiring one
What are examples of content marketing
Blogs, white papers, quizzes, social media content, YouTube content, podcasts…content marketing has become one of the core ways consumers interact with companies and there are more formats than ever to choose from
What makes a good content marketer?
Someone who can understand a target market intimately. Without this foundation it’ll be impossible to create content that truly resonates with your audience. They should have amazing research skills and have a creative drive that helps them think outside the box so your content stands out from your competitors’
How much does it cost to hire a content marketer?
In the USA the national average salary for a content marketer is $61,235. However, it really depends on your location, the person’s experience, and whether or not it’s an in-house hire or a freelancer
Is content marketing part of SEO?
Yes! Content marketing is a huge part of SEO when leveraged correctly. One of the goals of content marketing is to increase inbound traffic to your site from search engines. It can be used to help new prospects find and engage with your brand leading to increased brand awareness, email sign-ups, more free trial sign-ups and direct enquiries
Real Talk: Is Hiring a Content Marketer Worth It?
Great content can help your prospects trust you over your competitors.
It can make you stand out in a saturated market.
But only if it’s done right.
A lot of resources and time are pumped into content marketing without truly understanding who the content is for and without much thought about how to make it original and unique.
The result is a ton of copy-cat content that might rank well, but pulls in irrelevant leads or worse, your target customers actually do find you, but find the content so bland that they bounce and head to your competitor.
Hiring a content marketer can help you identify exactly what type of content you need to produce that’ll truly resonate with your target audience. They can also help rally your content production team and keep things getting published consistently and to a higher standard.
But before investing in a content marketer you should already know who exactly you’re targeting (we don’t know what you don’t know), what your budget is, and understand who else you might need to hire to complete your team.
Content marketing is not a silver bullet that’ll cure all your inbound marketing problems, but it can do a great job if you let it.