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Content Marketing

7 Signs It’s Time to Hire a Freelance Content Marketer

April 29, 2021
Kelsey Donk

If you’re publishing content, but no one’s reading it — that’s a sign you might need a content marketer. Even in less dire situations, their mix of strategic thinking, writing chops and distribution savvy can be exactly what you need to grow.

Table of Contents

In the coming years, “the freelance market will be flooded with high quality professionals,”  Speakeasy’s Steve Dorman predicted to Forbes in late 2020. 

In content marketing, that trend has already started. 

Experts are realizing they can make more independently than they can as a full-time employee. A 2019 “Freelancing in America” study showed that skilled freelancers could earn more per hour than 70% of the U.S. economy’s workers. 

And as the privacy-first web makes content more important — and the business climate more uncertain — many companies are drawn to flexible external expertise for any and all things content marketing.

In 2020, the companies that outsourced content creation did so primarily for writing, but more than 25% also outsourced for graphic design, video design and SEO, SEMRush found

That’s… basically all of content marketing.

Source: SEMRush

Is it time for you to join their ranks and hire a freelance content marketer, too? 

In this post, we’ll cover the signs you don’t have the right content marketing talent in place just yet — and what to do about it. 

Meet the Experts

  • Julie Neumark, COO of Media & Marketing Minds and an experienced content marketer
  • Annie Clark, a content marketer who cut her teeth in the luxury DTC world before switching to full-time freelance
  • Lauren Lang, a former college English instructor who said teaching effective communication to B2B SaaS companies is “really not that different” from teaching 18-year-olds
  • Dr. Fio Dossetto, the content expert behind the contentfolks newsletter

Why it’s worth investing in an expert content marketers

Simply put: the content landscape is competitive. Hiring an expert content marketer can help you stand out. 

The vast majority of new content rehashes the content that already exists. It’s cheaper and faster to put up lackluster blog posts than to invest in a smart, original content marketing strategy. 

But without a strategy designed to cut through the noise and push prospects down the funnel — and a strategy for measuring the outcomes you want — you won’t see much payoff. 

The most valuable thing content marketers can do is to understand a business’ main challenge and make a plan to address it at every stage of the funnel.

Many businesses struggle to link content and conversions. The most valuable thing content marketers can do is to understand a business’ main challenge and make a plan to address it at every stage of the funnel, Dossetto told MarketerHire. 

Every content action a business takes, “whether it’s the production of a written piece or a webinar, [should have] a larger reason to exist,” Dossetto said — and should be geared towards a specific stage in the customer journey. 

A smart strategy like this can reduce customer acquisition cost (CAC). A 2019 BigCommerce survey found that 56% of businesses that invested in creating and publishing original content saw reduced CAC. 

That content investment also boosted revenue for 78% of companies.

How to know you need an expert content marketer 

Sometimes, you throw a little time, effort, and money into content and … no one sees it. Over 90%+ of it gets no organic search traffic. Why? Because a lot of people just don’t understand what their target audience wants to read, or where they want to read it. 

If that sounds like you, it might be time to hire a freelance content marketer. Here are seven more signs you need an expert ASAP. 

You aren’t sure how to measure content marketing (or aren’t measuring at all).

Most content marketing teams are measuring their content’s success often. Think daily, or even multiple times a day, according to a recent DataBox study

Source: DataBox

Those companies aren’t just measuring the general success of their blog. They set individual goals and KPIs for every piece of content they publish, DataBox reports.

If you’re putting out content but aren’t sure how to measure the sessions, signups and leads that result, you’re setting it up to look like a cost center. 

You don’t know how to promote your content.

So you’ve written a ton of explainers, but no one’s reading them. What to do?

A good content marketer will help your figure out how to optimize and repurpose your content for different distribution channels. Maybe you need to leverage the explainers in nurture emails, turn them into Twitter threads, or simply optimize them for SEO.

You can help by knowing the channels that best fit your company. That means reflecting on your brand and “where your people are hanging out” before you even start hiring, Lang said. 

You aren’t able to commit to consistency. 

If you’re posting content three times on a Monday but then not again for the rest of the week, or in a rapid burst at the end of the month, it’s time to hire a content marketer. 

Our experts said that when they see that kind of inconsistent posting from a brand, they know the in-house team is overworked and juggling far too many projects at a time. 

Most companies have 0-5 full-time employees on their content marketing team, and many small companies with one or two dedicated content marketers on staff are trying to do it all in-house. 

"If you’re not popping up in [people’s] feeds, you’re not top of mind."

When overworked employees can’t commit to consistent posting, it’s not good for brand presence. “If you’re not popping up in [people’s] feeds, you’re not top of mind,” Clark said.

A dedicated content marketer can help you produce consistent, high-quality content that will convert, inspire, and educate –– on your blog and in various distribution channels. 

You aren’t able to commit to quality. 

A clear sign that your content marketing could use an upgrade: You’re posting content that lacks direction. 

Take, for instance, brands that create posts for every National Dog Day, National Bungee Jumping Day, and National Hamburger day — “stuff that has nothing to do with what they’re selling,” as Clark put it.  

Not only does that kind of content fail to convert, but it’s also a waste of time and resources.

So paying content marketers for stuff that doesn’t get used, said Clark — but it happens often. The companies end up realizing their content doesn’t connect to the brand, and no one is responding to their CTAs. Bounce rates are through the roof.

Throwing a bunch of low-quality content against the wall to see what sticks isn’t a strategy. But an expert content marketer can help you develop one. 

You want to invest in organic search growth for your brand’s overall health and profitability. 

Without content, it’s impossible to get organic search traffic. And that’s 70% of all top of funnel traffic, according to SEMRush

Hence the popularity of corporate blogs. The more blog posts you publish, the more search terms you can rank for, and the more traffic — and leads — you can generate. 

Companies with blogs generated 68% more leads than blog-less companies.

In an analysis of 1,400 customers, HubSpot found that companies with blogs generated 68% more leads than blog-less companies. The companies with more than 20 articles on their blogs saw the most lead generation growth. 

Content, especially content optimized for search, can make improvements throughout your funnel. 

You want to support your sales team. 

If your sales team is having trouble crafting responses to frequently asked questions, there might not be enough coordination between sales and marketing at your company. 

Expert content marketers can help change that with sales enablement pieces like sales decks and PDFs. 

They’ll probably start their creative process with in-depth interviews: with your C-suite, sales reps and a selection of clients. Then they’ll use the responses to create customer personae and develop messaging.

“In a series of five client interviews, you hear, more often than not, consistently the same words to describe [a brand],” Neumark said. “And those words become the foundation of the messaging.” 

As sales and marketing fall into better alignment, skilled content marketers can repurpose outward-facing content as sales decks, and leverage insights from sales in content.

You want to optimize your funnel.

Copywriting and conversion rate optimization (CRO) are like peanut butter and jelly. A SEMrush study found that 87% of companies were using content marketing to guide their customers through multiple stages of the acquisition funnel. 

Source: Content Marketing Institute

It’s in the transitions between stages that content marketing and CRO can come together beautifully. High-quality content engages interested prospects and drives them to the next stage in their buyer’s journey. 

That looks different in different layers of the funnel. 

"I see a lot of success at the bottom of the funnel with case studies."

“You might want to have something a bit more educational at the top, or even sort of light edutainment,” Neumark said. “And then I see a lot of success at the bottom of the funnel with case studies.” 

If your content is all geared toward brand awareness — or conversions — it might be time to hire a content marketer who can fill in the gaps between the ends of your funnel. 

Expert tips on hiring high-caliber content marketers 

With all the potential hires on the freelance market, how can you tell if a content marketer really knows what they’re doing — and whether they’ll be a good fit for your team? 

The experts we spoke to had four tips on finding the right content marketer for you.

Decide whether you need a strategist or a doer. 

Before sitting down to write a job description, evaluate where your company is in its lifecycle. If you’re brand new and need someone to help with website copywriting, you might simply be looking for a writer who can execute. But if it’s time to launch a blog or other top-of-funnel content streams, you need someone who can think strategically. 

MarketerHire sorts content marketing roles into two buckets — strategic roles and execution roles: 

Strategic content marketing roles:

  • Editor-in-chief
  • Head of content
  • Head of storytelling
  • Content strategist
  • Content marketing manager

Execution content marketing roles:

  • Copywriter
  • Scriptwriter
  • Editor
  • Writer
  • Reporter
  • Content specialist
  • Content writer
  • Content creator

For example, if you’re a well-oiled team with a clear mission, but your website is looking old-fashioned and needs an update, you probably need an execution pro to write your web copy and get it up. 

But if you’re looking for content to help your business grow and expand, it’s time to hire a “more of a manager” to manage a team of doers  — “someone who can translate the strategy to the writers they manage,” Lang said. 

Defining your company’s needs will help you develop a clear job description.

Set end goals early. 

Expert content marketers like to know who they’re writing to, and why. What’s the goal? 

For example: “Do you have a nurture campaign in mind … and you want to make sure you have enough blog posts to nurture potential customers that are interested in X?” Neumark said. 

That’s the kind of goal content marketers can understand and work toward. 

Other common content marketing goals include:

  • Creating brand awareness
  • Accumulating an invested audience
  • Generating leads
  • Developing loyalty in existing customers
  • Generating revenue

Before you set the goals in stone, though, ask your content marketing candidates for feedback. They’ve probably seen, built, and executed content strategies both good and bad for other organizations. 

“A lot of companies would benefit by realizing how much a content marketer can contribute strategically,” Lang said. 

Make KPIs clear to candidates. 

The best content marketers will be wary of job postings that look too general — like five jobs in one. 

Neumark said she sees too many content marketing jobs that list traffic as a KPI, but don’t mention promotion of content in the job description. How, she wonders, will companies use traffic to measure her success if she’s not the one promoting content? 

“It’s not like Field of Dreams,” Neumark said. “If you write it, they’re not just going to come.” 

The experts we spoke to typically report back to leadership on a three main KPIs that most clearly reflect the work of a content marketer:

  • Volume of content produced
  • Bounce rate
  • Time on page

Other quantifiable metrics to keep an eye on:

  • Sessions to site from owned channels
  • Conversion rate for owned channels
  • Time on site (as opposed to just on one page)
  • Numbers of new and returning visitors

But as you write out KPIs, don’t just drop everything that appears in Google Analytics into the job description. If the KPIs you mention are really another role’s responsibility, it’ll seem like you don’t really know what content marketing is

To experts, that’s a red flag.

Don’t rush through strategy. 

It’s not uncommon for clients to want content out to the world ASAP. For example, Neumark recently had a client say they just needed a bunch of blog posts put up immediately. 

“I did kind of put on the brakes a little bit and say, ‘In order for those posts to be relevant for your audience, we have to have a discovery period at the beginning and … really create a plan,’” she said.  

Great content takes time and research. Content marketers who claim to produce A+ content in no time are probably actually producing C- content (and tools like Clearscope.ai can prove it). 

Look for content marketers who think strategically — even if that means you have to wait a few weeks before publishing that first blog post.  

Next steps

Hiring quality content marketers can be a slow and time-consuming process, one that requires a deep understanding of the skills expert content marketers need to succeed. But MarketerHire makes it simple.

We know content marketing inside and out, and have a pool of pre-vetted talent that can get started on your brand within 48 hours. Get started with MarketerHire today.

Kelsey Donk
about the author

Kelsey Donk is a freelance writer from Minneapolis. She particularly enjoys writing blog posts and website copy for small businesses in niche industries. Learn more about Kelsey's work at www.kelseydonk.com.

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