• John Walker

Should You Hire a Freelance Marketing Director?



Most businesses need marketing to acquire new customers and grow. And a Marketing Director is hired to direct those efforts. But rather than hiring a full time marketing director, I’m going to suggest that you consider hiring a freelance marketing director, also called a fractional Marketing Director. Here’s why.


Finding the Right Marketing Director Could Take a Long Time

Hiring the right Marketing Director requires you to find someone with the right culture fit for your company combined with the right experience and specialization. Let’s start with why the culture fit is so important.


Your new Marketing Director is going to have to work across departments to define how your products and services are presented to the marketplace. To do this they need to build consensus with other company leaders and develop an understanding of what’s necessary and what’s possible within the constraints of your company’s culture, heritage and economic needs. Then they’re going to have to rally diverse teams and leaders around their vision and get the resources to make it happen. This requires keen instincts and high emotional intelligence- not everyone can do it. That’s why the average tenure for marketing leaders is among the shortest of any senior business leaders.


Next, let’s look at marketing experience and expertise. Imagine hiring a cardiologist to do your knee replacement instead of an orthopedic surgeon. They’re both physicians, right? But that scenario is actually as absurd as hiring an ecommerce specialist to manage your marketing automation program. Marketing has become so specialized, not just by tactic, but also by industry, that only certain types of expertise and experience are going to make for a successful Marketing Director hire.


So let’s add up what makes this hire so difficult. You need to find the right culture fit, you need to find the right experience and expertise; and you’ll need to lure this superstar away from the job where they’re already successful and well paid.


Hiring a Marketing Director is Expensive

The median salary for a full time marketing director in the U.S. is $147,706. And that investment is just the beginning because if you’re hiring a Marketing Director, you’re also likely going to be investing in other marketing staff like a marketing coordinator, plus creative and media expenses paid to outside vendors. This means that getting your marketing program off the ground is going to cost $250,000/year or more.


What’s ironic about this is that the reason you’re hiring the marketing director in the first place is to increase revenue, not to bloat expenses! But, if you hire successfully and you give your new marketing director and their team a few years, they may start to have a positive impact. And you’re correct if you heard me say “years.” Marketing takes time and it will likely take more than one yearly budgeting cycle for your new team to start to have real impact.


Why Hire a Freelance or “Fractional” Marketing Director?

Hiring a Marketing Director on a part time basis will cost less, create lower risk and may result in faster results.


Let’s start with cost. Your full time Marketing Director, fully loaded, will cost about $14,000/month in new personnel expenses. In comparison, you can buy the services of a freelance marketing director for about $125/hour with no benefits or overhead. So for $5,000 you can get 40 hours per month of marketing services. This is savings of $9,000 per month.


Next, there’s lower risk. This part time Marketing Director is a task doer, not as a major addition to the company’s leadership team. And if things don’t work out, there’s an easy transition out.


Your freelance Marketing Director should come in focused on quick wins. Pick a product line, assign a budget, and unleash them on some marketing campaigns that can deliver immediate results. Then build on success.


Could your freelance Marketing Director turn into a full time one? Maybe, but only by building on success and generating revenue along the way.


Over the course of my career, I’ve worked in both of these positions- as a full time Marketing Director and as a fractional one. And when I look at the marketplace today what I see is a very tight hiring market combined with an urgent need for the growth that marketing can deliver. To me, that makes a strong case for hiring a fractional Marketing Director.


This post was written by John Walker, Principal at J. Walker Marketing, a marketing consultancy. Contact John directly to discuss your marketing challenges.