“What’s your rate?”
If I can almost guarantee a question I will get asked by a potential client, it’s this or a variation of. I’m never upset by it - it’s important to know. I used to give my rates (even had a rate sheet!) but now I answer with another question: What’s your budget?
If you don’t have a budget for your marketing, any figure I say will feel like a punch in the gut.
And it’s not that I’m not willing to work with someone who doesn’t have one, but it makes me nervous when it comes time to invoice. In the years I’ve been a copywriter, the biggest reason I’ve run into issues with clients all comes down to paying their invoices. I feel that too many small businesses aren’t aware of how valuable marketing is to their business and how important it is to have marketing in their budget. With the end of the year looming its ugly head, I wanted to share some insights I’ve gained from experiences with my clients and my own budget.
Even if you decide to do the marketing on your own, you still need to plan have a plan. This can be as simple as business cards and a website, but you need to make sure you’ve got the funds budgeted properly. What all could be considered marketing? In short, anything you use to promote your business. Flyers inside a bag, sponsorship of an event, shirts for staff, all of it. If it’s got your logo and some way to contact you (even a link), you can consider it marketing. Another aspect to consider in your budget is your time. As small business owners, we tend to lump all our projects together (guilty), but your time is valuable. Consider setting aside a certain amount of time each week to work on your marketing: creating and scheduling social media posts, writing a blog, or networking. Having this in place gives you more accurate numbers to see real growth at the end of the year. It can also help you start a budget for when you decide it’s time to hire someone to take over your marketing, whether internally or externally. And if you ever need to trim your budget, you’ll have accurate numbers to work with, but I never suggest cutting out marketing completely. It can hurt your business more than you realize.
Hiring a Marketer, Internally or Externally
If you’ve decided that it’s time to hire someone to help with marketing, here’s a few things to consider. First off, do you hire someone to work directly for your business (W9 employee), hire the work out to a contractor (1099 if if freelance unless they have an LLC), or go with an agency? There are pros and cons to both, such as providing benefits, availability, etc so make sure to weigh them carefully before deciding. One suggestion I do make if you hire directly, make sure you feel comfortable enough after 90 days (the average time it takes to see some results in marketing) to trust their knowledge, expertise, and judgment. Not to say you shouldn’t have the final say or review, but if you can’t rely on them to eventually work on their own, you’ll only add stress and more to your own plate, removing the reason for hiring someone.
If you’ve decided to hire outside the business, here are a few tips. First, treat their invoices just like you would any other bill, especially since you’ll know in advance what the amount will be. The electric company doesn’t like late payments and neither does a contractor or agency. As an example, payments that I don’t receive after 21 days are cause to stop work and accumulate late fees. Also make sure to agree on the best form of communication whether it be text/messenger, email, phone calls, or face-to-face meetings. If a contractor or agency rep has questions, most likely they’ll need a quick answer. Make sure you also set up expectations of how and when they will communicate updates and follow-ups. There are some great tools to help you know where they are in a project so you don’t feel completely out of the loop. One tool I like and have used personally is Trello.
Paying for Marketing
When it comes to a contractor or agency, it’s important to have good communication on how you will set up payments. Make sure to ask what form of payment they prefer, but make sure it’s one you’re also comfortable with. Some may ask for a partial or whole fee up front, especially when first starting the project. If they have a contract (like any good contractor or agency should) make sure you understand the payment terms, including late fees. For instance, I charge all my clients through my Quickbooks program with payment due in 15 days. I make sure this is in my contract as well as communicated elsewhere to my clients so we are on the same page. If you’re having them produce Google ads, social media ads, and other types of paid advertising, make sure you’ve established how that will be paid for. Will the freelancer cover it and bill you for it or will you handle those fees directly? If they cover the cost, you can always ask for receipts for your tax purposes.
If you’re hiring someone to do your marketing, it’s important to make sure you’re paying them a good rate. If you’re not sure what that looks like, there are a few different websites that can help, like PayScale and Salary.com. Make sure their salary isn’t the whole marketing budget either - they need to know they have a budget to work with. There’s only so much you can do for free, and if you want them to produce great marketing, they’re going to need good resources and tools.
Ultimately, if you don’t see the true value of marketing for your small business, some of the figures you’ll come across will be hard to swallow. There will also be instances where it’s hard to show the true ROI - customers may take up to 12 touchpoints before they step foot in your business, call your number, or fill out your contact form. As I mentioned earlier, it can also take up to 3 months to start to see results from website changes, social media campaigns, or other digital marketing efforts. When you go in with the right expectations, whether DIY, direct hire, or a contractor/agency, you’ll see more success in your marketing efforts.
Here’s to seeing your business/organization grow in the years to come!
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Thoughts from Me
Tips, advice, and more from my experience as a copywriter, marketer, and small business owner.