What Do Small Businesses Get Wrong When Hiring Content Marketers?


We get it. Content marketing looks simple on the surface, but once you start digging down into SEO, SERP, keyword research, ranking tools, and social media platforms, many entrepreneurs realize that they’re in over their heads. If they really want a great content marketing strategy, the best option is to hire someone, either as a freelancer or a company employee, to handle content marketing.

We fully endorse this strategy! But don’t fling a work-for-hire agreement at the first freelancer you find online. These are the five biggest mistakes that companies make when they’re hiring content marketers.

Not asking for samples

Just like you would interview a future employee before hiring them, good content marketers expect to be asked for samples of their work. Depending on the specific person and their contract negotiations in the past, however, they may not be able to hand you a portfolio. Most work-for-hire agreements specify that once the client has paid the freelancer’s fee, the work is solely the property of the company. Many companies interpret this to mean that the freelancer cannot even reference that they worked on a particular property.

Most freelancers can offer references, however, which should address the quality of their work and the timeliness of delivery. Many freelancers are also familiar with completing “trial jobs,” where the client and freelancer agree to a quick job, like one blog article, for a smaller fee than a complete project.

Another option is offering a “kill fee,” where if the client is unhappy with the work at any point, they essentially pay the freelancer a fee for their time, and part ways.

You should always see something from the freelancer before you sign a long-term contract with them.

Going with the biggest instead of the best

Just because a company has an A-list of clients doesn’t mean that they’re the right marketer for you. If they don’t understand or care about your mission, your brand, or seem to grasp what you’re trying to create in the marketplace, it might be best to move on, or talk to a smaller firm that may have more options for taking chances and creating opportunities.


When you hire someone to do your content marketing for your company, that means that you’re entrusting them with the work of creating content for your various social media channels, based on your agreements. Demanding an accounting of why they chose every keyword, micromanaging the editing process, or insisting that every draft of a piece go through an approval process (rather than final drafts) will limit the freelancer’s ability to do their job. But at the same time…

Giving too much freedom

Is also a problem. Only you know your company; a content marketer shouldn’t be creating your brand, they should be working within it. Handing a freelancer the URL you’ve chosen and telling them to have fun is a great setup for a comedy movie, but a less helpful way to do business.

The best way to start work with a freelancer is to have a sheet to give them that highlights your primary brand statements, what marketing strategies you’ve tried in the past, and how well they worked for your company. This lets the content marketing hit the ground running as they start managing your strategies.

Not completing necessary paperwork

Depending on how you pay freelancers, there can be different tax forms that need to be completed. In the United States, if you pay them through check or direct deposit, you will probably need to complete a 1099 at the end of the year, which means that you need a W9 from them well before tax time.

Some clients prefer to pay though services like Paypal or their credit cards, which some tax experts indicate means they do not need to issue 1099s. And of course if your freelancer is living and working in a different country, that can complicate your reporting.

If you’re hiring someone on as an employee, of course that would just involve your normal new hire paperwork.

The short version is: when in doubt, consult a paid tax professional.

Any business that wants to thrive in the digital age needs to have a comprehensive strategy for content marketing. If this is too much for your business to handle on its own, the next best thing is to hire a dedicated content marketer or contract with a freelancer to get the marketing you need. What advice would you offer someone who is contracting with a content marketer for the first time?


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