What Do Small Businesses Get Wrong When Hiring Content Marketers?


We understand that content marketing seems simple initially. However, when you delve into SEO, SERP, keyword research, and other aspects, many entrepreneurs feel overwhelmed. 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.

The Importance of a Content Marketing Strategy

Imagine you’ve splurged on a top-of-the-line sports car, yet your driver is only versed in manual gears. What you have is a powerhouse that’s underutilized. In the same vein, your business is that performance-geared machine, and your content marketer is the driver at the wheel. Without a solid content marketing plan, even a masterful marketer can’t tap into your business’s fullest capabilities.

Research from the Content Marketing Institute reveals that companies with a well-laid-out strategy are 313% more likely to claim success. The takeaway? It’s not just about recruiting a content marketer; it’s about finding one who can tailor your content marketing activities to your unique business objectives.

Shifting gears to ROI, let’s delve into the numbers. A well-orchestrated content marketing approach can yield triple the leads compared to outbound marketing methods and at a 62% lower cost. Yet, the ROI isn’t purely financial; it extends to building brand loyalty, fostering customer interaction, and solidifying your stance in the marketplace. When you bring on board a content marketer attuned to this multi-dimensional ROI, you’re not merely getting blog posts and social media updates.

You’re securing a dynamic strategy that resonates with your target audience and syncs impeccably with your company’s goals. This kind of ROI transforms casual buyers into devoted brand champions and propels your market standing.

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.

However, most freelancers can provide references that speak to the quality and timeliness of their work 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. When considering freelancers, it’s crucial to evaluate their expertise in chatGPT as your content, as this can be a game-changer in your content marketing efforts.

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.

The Cost of Bad Hiring Decisions

You’ve recently brought a new content marketer on board. Soon enough, it’s clear they’re a mismatch. The content is shallow, and the SEO tactics are archaic. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that a poor hire could cost you as much as 30% of the employee’s first-year wages. This isn’t just a budget blip; it’s a financial chasm. And the monetary damage is merely the starting point. A misfit hire can erode your brand equity, triggering a downward spiral in consumer trust and, eventually, your revenue. Be cautious when hiring a content marketer; while it’s tempting to go for someone who promises quick results, remember that copying someone else’s work not only tarnishes your brand but also puts you at risk for legal repercussions.

But let’s dig further. A flawed recruitment choice impacts more than just your finances; its ripple effects spread throughout your whole company. Team spirit deflates, productivity slackens, and suddenly you find yourself trapped in a loop of perpetual recruitment and termination, each round depleting both capital and energy. According to research by the Society for Human Resource Management, when you account for recruitment costs, training, and lost productivity, the total expense can skyrocket to five times the failed hire’s annual salary.

So how do you steer clear of this pitfall? A meticulous hiring process, robust onboarding, and ongoing performance assessments can shield you from these risks, transforming your next hire from a liability into an asset.

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, or 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.

How to Vet a Content Marketer’s Skills

You’ve reviewed resumes and are prepared for interviews. But pause: are you ready to evaluate both hard and soft skills effectively? Skills like SEO proficiency, content planning, and data analysis are measurable and essential for any content marketer. However, don’t overlook soft skills such as empathy, adaptability, and emotional intelligence, which play a critical role in fostering teamwork and shaping nuanced strategies.

To assess these skills accurately, think about incorporating behavioral questions or even personality assessments into your interviews. Remember, you’re not merely filling a position; you’re investing in an individual who will become an integral part of your brand’s voice.

Practical Steps for Skill Assessment

So how can you make this actionable? Begin with a comprehensive skills audit. Identify key hard skills and benchmark them using reliable metrics, like Google Analytics data or HubSpot certifications. When it comes to soft skills, initiate situational conversations during the interview. Present real challenges your organization has faced and ask how the candidates would handle them. This will not only evaluate their problem-solving prowess but also unveil their attitudes towards teamwork and leadership. To take your evaluation process to the next level, consider assigning a trial project. This could range from creating a basic content plan to scrutinizing the performance data of a recent campaign. Performing such a hands-on test will give you crucial insights into their capabilities and flexibility.


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. However, it’s important to note that…

Giving Too Much Freedom

It 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.

Setting KPIs and Expectations

You’ve brought a content marketer on board, so what’s the next step in gauging their effectiveness? Turn your attention to Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). These metrics act as the heartbeat of your marketing strategies. Begin by syncing your business objectives with KPIs that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). Whether your aim is to ramp up organic traffic by 20% for the upcoming quarter or enhance conversion rates, these KPIs function as your strategic guide.

However, be cautious: setting KPIs that are too ambitious can lead to disappointment on both sides. Collaborate with your marketer to ensure the goals are both challenging and realistic.

Moving on to another vital component—consistent check-ins. Consider these as your guiding signals. Scheduled discussions provide a venue for transparent communication, allowing you to examine performance metrics, address potential obstacles, and adjust tactics when necessary. Far from being mere managerial tasks, these check-ins serve as collaborative events that promote shared growth.

Adopting this methodology not only maintains the momentum of your content marketing but also deepens the professional bond with your marketer, thereby enhancing your business’s adaptability and resilience in a fluctuating digital world.

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 through 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.

Legal Aspects to Consider When Hiring Content Marketers

As you stand on the verge of hiring a content marketer, remember it’s not solely about skills and experience—legal considerations are just as crucial. You may want to breeze through this, but take a moment. Legal terms like NDAs, non-compete clauses, and intellectual property rights aren’t mere jargon; they’re vital safeguards for both you and your prospective hire. An NDA, or Non-Disclosure Agreement, serves as a shield to protect your confidential business strategies and future projects.

But that’s not all. Non-compete clauses restrict your content marketer from joining competitor firms for a specified time after parting ways with your company. Picture investing resources in training someone, only for them to apply their newly-acquired skills at a rival firm. Annoying, isn’t it? Finally, let’s delve into intellectual property rights. Clarifying content ownership early on can avert complicated disputes later. These legal elements are more than just procedural boxes to tick; they act as your protective gear in the intricate world of content marketing.

This guidance aims to revolutionize your hiring process, offering not just essential information but also a greater sense of security. Hiring smart involves more than just extending an offer; it entails considering these legal factors that could shield you from future complications and legal entanglements.

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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