The Pitfalls of Hiring a Freelancer to Market Your Firm
Freelancers offer a lot of attractive options – they work cheap, offer their attention, and say they “know” your firm. So why not hire a freelancer at half the price? Here’s why.
In most instances, freelancers are unable to represent your law firm successfully because of serious professional limitations. Digital marketing is a holistic enterprise, and it is extremely rare to find a freelancer that can adequately satisfy all the needs of a law firm. Digital marketing requires developing a thorough strategy document, targeting specific audience profiles, implementing search engine marketing tactics (SEM), and much more. It’s simply too much for an isolated individual without the backing of an agency to handle.
To be blunt, the professional that is capable of handling the logistics and execution of a comprehensive digital marketing strategy is not a freelancer. Instead, your needs can only be met by those who already have regular executive positions within a larger agency – marketing managers, marketing VPs, and chief marketing executives. They don’t freelance, because they don’t have the time to freelance; they’re busy executing top-notch lead generation and brand management on behalf of their agency and on behalf of their agency’s clients. They also happen to pull in an annual salary between $72 and $200K, depending on their level of expertise and experience, which keeps them focused on the agencies they represent.
All that said, one reason freelancers are sometimes seen as a viable option is that they can be considered a more tangible investment. It’s easier to conceptualize your investment if that investment is an individual person rather than an organization hundreds of miles away. It’s just easier to hire a freelancer and roll the dice. However, it is that gamble that many law offices will pay dearly for. Here is why:
4 Reasons Not to Hire a Freelancer:
Marketing assets need management for many reasons: quarterly updates, monthly strategy calls, or weekly status reports. Anna Wickham make a poignant observation about managing freelancers in her piece “5 Reasons to Hire a Marketing Strategist over a Freelancer.” In describing the modern marketing freelancer, she notes that they lack basic business best practices across the board. Best case scenario: this manifests itself in the form of a sloppy invoice or irresponsible billing management. In the worst case scenarios, their content deliverables result in a PR nightmare for your firm or they waste your pay-per-click spend while producing no discernible leads.
Many different professionals freelance for many different reasons. Some do it for the experience so that they can land their dream job in the future. Others do it to supplement their income. And a few do it because they can’t get any other work. Regardless of the reason, if you entrust your firm’s marketing budget to a freelancer, you are likely placing your reputation and your bottom line in the hands of an amateur – someone not interested in providing you with the attention you deserve or someone who could create severe problems for your firm. This last point is critical as there are many regulations concerning the manner in which law firms are allowed to market their brand.
2) Freelancers’ Skillsets Are too Specific (or non-existent)
Specificity is a critical component to the success of a marketing agency. At most, marketing professionals in agencies have two or three skill sets. Similar to the way many law offices focus on a segmented aspect of the law (personal injury, family law, business litigation, etc.), it’s rare to find a truly gifted marketer that can cover an entire marketing strategy (i.e., a freelance social media expert).
If you choose to hire a freelancer, they are likely only going to be able to work on a singular, highly specific piece of your digital marketing strategy. If they do good work, that may turn into its own problem in the future. For instance, if your law office is happy with this person’s work, but you are ready to start expanding your efforts, you will have to let that freelancing asset go in order to become more aggressive in the future. They are well aware of this, which means that your office will be willfully employing an asset that isn’t fully committed to your brand or the growth of your business.
3) Tactics & Strategy
Strategy is one of the most crucial pieces of a successful marketing campaign. Every element of your overall strategy will be detailed in this document, along with every tactic to be implemented. It’s fluid, but it’s constant. Typically, freelancers might specialize in one or two marketing tactics, but they lack the holistic skillset of a content-driven approach that is necessary for a law firm to succeed over the long term. Those that do have these skills are nearly impossible to find because successful and influential marketing agencies recognize their talent and place them in executive positions.
4) Proprietary Information Theft
Your content, website, and digital processes constitute intellectual property. Granted, there are law offices that do not “own” their content (that is a different topic for a different day), however the systems that you have in place to tell your firm’s story online are considered proprietary information and protected. Be safe, and protect your information when starting a new relationship with a freelancer. The last thing you want is a disgruntled contractor going to your competitors with your organic keyword set.
A good freelancer can be both valuable to your business model and cost effective. However, these individuals are the rare exception to the hard and fast rule. If you are considering hiring a freelance marketing professional, be sure to view their portfolio, look for online reviews, and make sure their skills fit with your long- and short-term marketing strategy. You will also need to understand their limitations and set your expectations accordingly.
3 common freelance hiring nightmares – and how to avoid them. (2015). LiveWorkAnywhere. Retrieved from http://liveworkanywhere.com/travelling/ever-had-a-bad-experience-with-freelancer
Wickham, A. (2015, July 15). 5 reasons to hire a marketing strategist over a freelancer. CharmHouse. Retrieved from http://charmhouse.io/5-reasons-hire-marketing-strategist-freelancer/