This is a guest post by George A. White. George is the Marketing Director for Padalog.com, a SAAS solution that empowers businesses to publish catalogs via apps for tablets and smartphones; EndlessEmbrace.com, a diamond engagement ring e-commerce site; and several other websites. Over the past year George has used HubSpot tools with these two websites to develop a strong online presence, generate new leads, and obtain new customers. Feel free to introduce yourself to George: firstname.lastname@example.org
The challenge: going it alone
The company I work for is one example. As a recently hired one-person marketing "department" I successfully pitched an inbound marketing strategy and adoption of HubSpot for two of my employer's brands (one being a start-up) operating in unrelated markets. This represented a significant financial investment for a business of our size. But I knew an even greater commitment would be the cost and effort required to produce the steady flow of quality content necessary for successful inbound marketing the HubSpot way.
Circa 2005, my go-to solution would have been hiring a few recent college grads with marketing or journalism degrees and molding them in the image I required. I've had the rewarding privilege of helping to start and shape the careers of several very talented marketing professionals in this way. But given the realities of the situation in which I found myself, hiring full-time employees was a nonstarter. And I didn't have sufficient bandwidth to do all the work myself.
The solution: freelance talent marketplaces
My solution was to turn to a growing alternative marketplace of talent: freelancers and contractors. Using web sites like Elance.com and oDesk.com, I built up a virtual inbound marketing team. When it came to blog articles, social media, content offers, copywriting, graphics, link building, and just about anything else, I was able to locate highly qualified professionals to create what I needed. From my office in Chicago, I pulled together a team in locations ranging from Minnesota and Massachusetts to Romania and Pakistan.
Utilizing contractors, especially in lieu of employees, might strike some as distasteful on ethical or moral grounds. There is a common perception that individuals seeking freelance work are doing so only as a temporary or desperation measure, due to difficulties obtaining full-time employment. But I quickly found that almost without exception, the highly rated freelancers on these services have chosen contract work in preference to traditional employment, or are supplementing the income they receive from full-time jobs.
Successfully managing contractors
The key to using these services successfully - and working with freelancers in general - is to understand the fundamental differences between managing an employee and a contractor. The job posting and project description documents are critical when it comes to attracting accurate bids from the most desirable contractors and keeping the project on track once it is started. These documents should specifically define and clearly communicate the following:
Project parameters and scope
- What tasks, actions, and deliverables are required from the contractor?
- What delivery timelines, quality standards, and other requirements must the contractor's work meet?
Rules of engagement
- What other expectations do you have regarding how you want the contractor to work with you?
Once a well defined project is underway, managing a quality contractor requires a much lower time commitment than managing an employee performing the same work. Most projects are structured around progress or milestone payments from an escrow account, which provides both parties added assurance that the other party will perform as agreed. Both Elance and oDesk provide tools to recruit contractors, manage payments, promote two-way communication, and streamline project management.
Getting started is easy, as both sites provide extensive help documentation such as this step-by-step walkthrough from Elance.com.
What has been your experience working with contractors or "virtual employees" in your marketing team? Do you have other websites/tools you utilize besides elance and odesk? If you haven't tried hiring contractors online, what is holding you back? Please share your questions, experiences and ideas with our community in the comment thread below...
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