One of the first things I ask a potential client is “what’s your marketing budget?” Many times over I hear “I/We don’t have one.”
Not gonna lie, this makes me cringe a little. It’s not that I’m not willing to work with them but it makes me nervous when it comes time to invoice each month. In the seven months that I’ve moved from a part-time to full-time freelancer, I’ve run into some issues with clients when it comes time to settle on a contract or pay their invoice. I decided that too many startups, small businesses, and new non-profits aren’t aware of how important marketing is for their organization at any stage. With the fiscal 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 for it. This can be as simple as business cards and a website, but you need to make sure you’ve got the funds you need. But what could be considered marketing? In short, anything you use to promote your business. Flyers inside a bag, sponsoring an event, shirts for staff, all of it. If it’s got your logo and a way to contact you, you can consider it marketing. Another aspect to consider in your budget is your time. As small business owners and non-profit directors, we just lump all our projects together, but your time is valuable. Consider setting aside a certain amount of time each week to work on your marketing: scheduling social media posts, writing a blog, or attending a networking event. Knowing roughly how much time you’re spending doing your marketing will help you know how much to budget when you need to hire someone to take over, whether internally or externally. This will also be good if you need to trim your budget. Most people cut out marketing completely, but it can hurt your business more than you realize. If you have to do the marketing yourself again, you’ll have a reference to look back on so you can budget your time and money wisely.
If you’ve decided that you’re better off hiring someone to help with marketing, there’s still some consideration. First off, do you hire someone to work directly for your business (W9 employee) or hire the work out to a freelancer (1099 employee)? 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 about 90 days to trust their knowledge, expertise, and judgment. Not to say you shouldn’t have 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 if you know in advance what the amount will be. The electric company doesn’t like late payments and either does a freelancer, eventually losing your freelancer. Make sure to agree upon the best form of communication whether it be text/messenger, email, phone calls, or face-to-face meetings. If they have 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 up. There are some great resources to help you know where they are in a project so you don’t feel completely out of the loop. Two tools I like and have used personally are Trello and Asana. Both offer free services, but if you want to get fancy, they have other levels for a monthly fee.
When it comes to a freelancer, 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 starting out. If they have a contract (like any good freelancer should) make sure you understand the payment terms, including late fees. For instance, I charge all my clients through my Quickbooks program on the first of the month, with payment due in 10 business 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 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 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.
Ultimately, if you don’t see the true value of marketing for your small business or non-profit, some of the numbers you come across may 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 or call your number. It can also take up to 3 months to start to see results from website changes, social media campaign, or other digital marketing efforts. When you go in with the right expectations, whether DIY, hire, or freelance, you’ll see more success in your marketing efforts. Here’s to seeing your business/organization grow!
Want to chat with me about how I could help your business? Drop me an email!
Thoughts from Me
Tips, advice, and more from my experience as a copywriter, marketer, and small business owner.