Should I Hire In-House or Freelance for Digital Marketing?

You’ve decided it’s time to invest in marketing your business. Whether that’s building a website, putting together some sales materials, driving leads — you name it — you’re probably going to need someone with marketing experience to help get the job done. You can either make a hire for your team, bringing someone on board to handle all of these things for you, or you can choose to outsource. Sometimes people think only of big marketing agencies as the option when hiring outsourced marketing help - but there are A LOT of digital marketing freelancers out there worth their weight in gold who live to help businesses like yours thrive.

Before you decide which way you want to go, the top three things to consider when making the decision to either hire an internal marketing person/team or outsource to a digital marketing freelancer are:

  • Time Investment
  • Cost
  • Skill Set

Time: How much time does it take to hire internally for digital marketing vs. onboarding a freelance digital marketing consultant?

If you are anything like every human I know, you are strapped for time. Or you may be so lucky to know someone who can step into a marketing role for you quickly. If that’s the case, awesome! You can disregard this factor. For the rest of us, however, the process of hiring a digital marketing employee is time consuming. You’ll need a job posting explaining the role, responsibilities, compensation, and how you’ll measure success. And then of course, the role needs to be promoted. Putting it on your website isn’t enough. You’ll need to get it in front of the key audience you’re looking to attract — and hopefully the right person for the job. Once that job is posted, the average time to hire is running about 42 days. And by the way, marketing professionals in particular are in high demand. A 2023 study cited that 92% of marketing hiring managers are challenged finding skilled talent.

On the flip side, freelance or contract marketing consultants do this work as their main stream of income (or a supplemental source of income), so they’re ready for hire at any given time. There are an estimated 300K freelance marketing professionals in the U.S. today, and this number will continue to grow based on the trend we’re seeing in the gig economy.
 Graph showing number of freelance workers in the US from 2014 to 2023

When you hire a freelance marketer, there’s no need to create a job description. Instead, you’ll have a conversation about what your business goals are, and a good digital marketing consultant will take it from there to provide guidance on what needs to be done to reach them. You’ll work together to craft a plan that works for you, along with a budget that fits, and then you get started.

Cost: How much does it cost to hire a freelance marketing consultant vs. hiring in-house?

The average annual salary for a Digital Marketing Manager in the U.S. today is about $100K. Add to that another 20% minimum in labor burden and benefits and you’re looking at $120K minimum for a marketing hire to join your team. That’s roughly $58 per hour for a full-time employee.

Freelancers set their own rates, and will communicate this with you as they begin conversations. Those hourly rates may be higher than $58, but, with a freelancer, you’re not making a full-time commitment, and you can pay only what you can afford. You can come to the table with a budget for your marketing and ask the marketing partner to create a plan that stays within this. Maybe you have $25K to spend (not $120K for the full time hire) so that’s the budget you give to work within. You can’t expect to get everything that a $120K budget would get you, but a good partner will help you prioritize where that budget is best spent and what will provide the greatest return on investment.

Skill Set: What is the difference in skill set between a freelance marketer and an in-house marketer?

The primary difference you need to know between a hire and freelancer is really the mix of skills you’ll get:

  • One internal hire is going to bring one primary skill set to the table. This means when you need something else to make your marketing plan work (design, development, pay-per-click advertising, video editing, etc.) these services bear extra expenses for the company.
  • A freelance marketing partner often has a whole set of people they’ve built relationships with that offer the full suite of marketing services. This can be built into the cost of your overall engagement so there are no surprises down the road, and you won’t need to pay a full-time salary plus additional contractors’ fees.

It looks a bit like this:

Pie chart comparing in-house marketer and freelance marketer skills

There are great full-time hires out there looking for roles — and there are definitely great freelance digital marketing professionals out there ready and waiting for your call. The group of awesome freelancers I work with — BetterWeb — is always here to help when you need us.


About the Author, Erin Kerrigan:
A seasoned marketing strategist with two decades of expertise, Erin thrives at the intersection of business strategy and the dynamic world of marketing. She loves to collaborate with clients across diverse industries and growth stages, harnessing marketing for meaningful and measurable business outcomes. With a unique blend of client and agency experience, Erin ensures that companies unlock their full potential. Hailing from Cleveland, she's an outdoor enthusiast, often found enjoying quality time with her husband, two girls, and golden retriever.


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