You’ve decided to outsource? Here’s how to start.
Once you’ve realized the benefits of outsourcing your business's marketing communications, it’s time to proceed in sealing the deal for success. You want a skilled industry specialist to become an extension of your brand and produce quality work on time and on budget. While finding the right fit may seem difficult, use these steps to speed up the process to finding your contractor.
Before we begin, it’s important to note—the optimal time for strong marketing communications efforts within your company is during good times, not when they’re slow. Beginning to work with a contractor to fix your slow-time issues is not the solution. By then, you’re behind in ramping up strategies that can take a little time to see results on, and you have the added pressure of declining performance.
Instead, seek out a marketing-communications contractor when the need is not urgent. Why? That gives you both time to create a sturdy relationship and establish results-oriented strategies and tactics without the stress of time and resources. Form relationships early on to bring in the right person at the most beneficial moment for your marketing communications to flourish.
Now, let’s get started.
Seek out contractors
Word of mouth
Much like hiring a full-time team member, cover your bases when beginning the search for a contractor. Start by talking to people in your industry and asking whom they know, currently partner with, or have worked with in the past. Send your contacts an email, grab coffee, or give them a call. Word of mouth is often a fruitful method of forming connections and networking.
Look beyond big-name agencies for the sometimes-hidden gems—hardworking individuals making a name in a specific niche. They are flexible, can spend more time learning your business and its needs, and can establish a more meaningful relationship with you.
Also look up professional organizations in marketing communications or the industry you’re looking for. Whether it’s the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals (AMCP), or the American Marketing Association (AMA), to name a few, check their websites for member lists or reach out for a recommendations from within their organizations.
If you’re looking for a local contractor, search for people within your area. Otherwise, open up your LinkedIn searching to a more general look at the marketing communications industry. Dig in and take a look at profiles, noting their experience, testimonials given for them, and links to websites. This will help you hone in on what characteristics are on your gotta-have list, and others that are negotiable.
When you contact a contractor, make sure you’re clear on at least one need. Having some insight and details into what you want will help them determine whether or not the request is a fit for them and their business, and it will help them identify other needs and goals you may be unaware of. That being said, it’s okay if you are a little unsure of what you need assistance with.
It’s also important to know timing you prefer. Is it a short-term project to be completed in weeks or months? Or are you looking for someone to come on board for the long haul? Also, consider whether it will be dedicated routine work or a more loose ebb-and-flow situation.
Make sure to also cover questions related to the timeframe they estimate for the work you request, whether or not their workload is flexible for your needs, how payment is structured (hourly or retainer) and their rate, as well as how often they bill.
It’s okay to be a bit vulnerable in this stage and recognize where you don’t have skills. You’re looking for a hand with marketing communications tasks, so don’t stress about figuring out the plan before you find the right contractor. Plus, contractors are flexible and have different preferences. Find one looking for small-scale projects, long-term commitments, or a completely flexible schedule—whatever aligns with your needs.
Making a decision
It often comes down to you who you click with, and money. Do a little homework and know the going rates for the industry and experience level you’re looking for before meeting with potential contractors. These are specialists that focus on the area you’re looking for help in, so respect their value but also know that rates can be negotiable. For instance, an hourly rate could be adjusted based on the workload.
Next, watch out for who you connect with. Is it an independent go-getter that works with limited interaction from you and delivers on deadlines? Or is it someone who really digs into your business, grasps your needs, and almost joins the team?
Your gut is your third eye when it comes to decision-making. Think about who you establish good rapport with, and look for positive Emotional Intelligence (EQ) cues when you meet in person. What do those look like? See if they exhibit these traits:
- They make eye contact.
- They practice active listening.
- They are focused on the conversation and take ownership for their responsibilities.
Once you’ve met with a contractor, think about how trustworthy they make you feel. You’ll depend on this person to track hours fairly and be a team player. If you haven’t already, also talk to others who’ve worked with them to get an even better look at how they approach ideas and work alongside others.
Forming an agreement
Good job! You've settled on your top contractor preference. Now it's time to get the details in place to get started.
Not everyone deals in contracts, although it can be a great way to clearly define the scope of your professional relationship and have a concrete payment deal. However, a more general document or agreement of what you can expect from them leaves room for additional specifications down the road.
Once you let your contractor know that you’d like to move forward, they will provide a proposal, process outline, and cost estimate. This is where you can see where their experience can take your business. Ask questions if you don’t understand anything, and make sure you’re fully on board before agreeing.
While you are the client in this relationship, there are steps you can take to optimize the partnership between you and the contractor you’re outsourcing work to. Come to the table with full honesty and transparency, and set expectations and boundaries from the start.
Also hold yourself accountable to deadlines on your end and make sure you’re not causing a delay in the work. Empower yourself to help them help you. While they are not a full-time employee, treat them as a team member to realize how valuable a client-contractor relationship can be.
Once your project is wrapped up or you’re a ways into a long-term partnership, give back to them. Do your part to help their business out of gratitude for the leaps and bounds they’re helping you succeed and grow within marketing communications. You can do this by sharing a testimonial on LinkedIn or for their website, or by referring new business to them.
There you have it, my step-by-step recommendations for hiring your first, or next, contractor. This outsourcing method sets you up for a prosperous alliance you’ll be thankful you started.
Now it’s time for you to share. How has outsourcing marketing communications, or another component of your business, benefited your company?