Guide to hiring freelance marketers

Elena Prokopets
Written by Elena Prokopets
on July 13, 2023 13 minute read

On average, companies spend 9.5% of their total revenue on marketing. 

And a good portion of those budgets often goes toward hiring freelance marketers. 

Great marketers know how to get your offering in front of the people who’re the most likely to buy it. They understand how to make prospects consider your option instead of the competition and progressively multiply the number of such warm leads.

If you plan to scale your marketing capacity this year, this guide covers all the nuances of contracting with freelance marketers — from where to find them to how to onboard, pay, and manage high-performing teams. 

Full-time marketers vs freelancers vs a marketing agency: Which option to select?

The short answer is — it depends. Having full-time employees (FTEs) is a “classic”, but costly option. Agencies can make good long-term partners…or leave you not that satisfied with the end results (and the total bill). Freelance marketers, in turn, can be a flexible extension of your in-house team, but require extra ongoing supervision. 

To help you decide, we’ve put down the pros and cons of each talent sourcing model. 

Pros of hiring full-time marketers

A full-time marketing task force keeps your growth engine running (almost) around the clock. Individually, each covers their funnel segment  — demand-gen, nurturing, or conversions. Jointly, a great marketing team keeps your sales funnel chock-full of qualified leads (B2B) or eager shoppers (B2C). 

  • In-depth company knowledge. The best marketers venture outside of their department and collaborate a lot with other teams to develop a holistic view of the key offerings. Ahrefs, for instance, sends all new marketing hires to work in customer support for three months to learn about their product. 
  • Higher accountability. Full-time marketers have to deliver on specific personal and team KPIs (which they have full control over). Moreover, many also receive bonuses whenever a campaign makes a big splash. These measures can lead to higher performance and on-the-job engagement. 
  • More creativity and innovation. Staffers have more time to ideate, research, and test-drive new marketing techniques. Marketing teams with great synergy can come up with out-of-the-box ideas, resulting in headline-making campaigns. 

Cons of hiring full-time markets 

The best marketers know their chops…and their worth. The average marketing manager salary in the US is above $110K per year — and few of the best candidates stay unemployed for too long. Apart from the hiring costs and talent availability, there are a few other downsides to having more marketing people on the payroll. 

  • More talent nurturing. The bigger the in-house team gets, the more HR-related tasks you must do on a regular basis e.g. schedule performance evaluations, assign training, approve event/conferences travel, distribute bonuses, propose career development plans, etc. Most marketers are ambitious and expect regular recognition, as well as new challenges and career advancement. 
  • High turnover. According to LinkedIn data, staff turnover rates are high in marketing since the department is the most susceptible to business fluctuations.  When there are troubles in the target market or, on the contrary, a major new opportunity on the horizon, marketing teams often get restructured first. Replacing or re-skilling full-time people on a rotating schedule can be hard. Moreover, since marketers are in-demand, some talent might want to leave for greener pastures whenever they sense some turbulence. 
  • Risk of inertia. Full-time marketers may eventually become too entrenched in their day-to-day work and “play safe”. What once was a “growth hack”, eventually becomes a “best practice” and then an overused one. When your in-house team just repeats the old tactics (the same ones everyone else uses in the industry), you’d be getting mediocre results. 

Pros of hiring freelance marketers

Marketing may be a “team sport”, but individual performers can increase your odds of getting a home run. Freelance marketers can bring new skill sets, competencies, and perspectives to your campaign planning and substantially improve your capacity to generate new business. 

  • On-demand access to expertise. Want to launch a corporate podcast? Wondering if there’s any demand you can generate via TikTok? With freelance marketers, you can test-drive new marketing tactics to figure out what’s working (or not). If your hunch didn’t pan out, you can easily part ways without having a difficult “we have to let you go” conversation and obligations to pay a hefty severance package. 
  • Faster speed of execution. Freelance marketers can be hired to focus exclusively on one core task without being distracted by other corporate responsibilities (think ops and admin work) — and deliver on it fast. As Rand Fishkin points out: “Smart consultants who see dozens of problems similar to yours every day should be able to contribute more rapidly and in a more strategic fashion”. 
  • Get one-off tasks from your platter. Technical SEO audits, email onboarding campaign setup, multi-touch attribution model setup, market research — there are a lot of one-off or occasional tasks marketing teams need to complete, but fail to do because everyone’s busy. Freelancers can effectively cover those, while your team focuses on other ongoing work. 

Cons of hiring freelance marketers

Freelance markers can make a lot of marvelous work happen, but they aren’t almighty. Unlike full-time employees, they lack the ability to work in a continuous flow, crossing off one task after another. Managers too will have to adjust their expectations and style of direction to accommodate some of the following drawbacks: 

  • Lower brand awareness.  Freelance marketers may initially struggle to deliver on your expectations since they’re not fully integrated into the company's culture and may not fully understand your product(s) features, market positioning, and cultivated brand values. Plan to have a “settling-in” period when you’re helping the freelancer develop institutional knowledge.  
  • Limited control over the marketing process. Freelancers honed their skills on multiple projects and can deliver on their core tasks faster than FTEs. But their impact is limited to their core task and highly depends on the follow-up actions your team takes. A brilliant freelance SEO consultant can create a top-notch strategy for you, but if your in-house writers ignore the new guidelines, the partnership won’t work. 
  • Lack of long-term commitment: Freelance marketers are more short-term oriented. Their goal is to come and fix, improve, or deliver things your business needs here and now. But they may be less committed to sticking in for the long-term and taking over more steps in your marketing process (as that would put them too close to full-time employment territory). 

Pros of hiring a marketing agency

Advertising and marketing agencies have been around for almost a century. While most have shed the Mad Men flair, they’ve retained the same commitment to delivering creative, measurable, high-impact campaigns for their clients.  

  • Higher time-to-effectiveness.  Agencies can get down to delivery faster since they already analyzed your business and its marketing goals during the client discovery proposal stages. In contrast, full-time and freelance marketers still require extra onboarding time. 
  • Deliverables-based work. Most agencies bill by the project (and a set of deliverables), rather than by the hour. This way you know the costs upfront and can budget accordingly. With FT marketers you’re not always sure how long a project will take and how much it will cost you in payrolled hours. 
  • Consistent quality. As David Ogilvy once wrote: “In the best [advertising] establishments, promises are always kept, whatever it may cost in agony or overtime”. Marketing agencies strive to deliver the best quality of work for their clients to maintain a stellar reputation and keep generating more business (and command higher rates). Because no one will work with a marketing agency that cannot market itself well. 

Cons of hiring a marketing agency 

Though agency executives try their best to meet every client’s demand, some don’t fully deliver on the glowing promises and yet still send over a substantial bill. 

  • Total costs. Agencies do their best to reach the expected level of output and meet all client requirements. But they also charge overheads for that sort of convenient customer experience, which is reflected in a higher total price per project. Top-tier firms also expect clients to commit to a minimum project rate (starting at low five figures and going to up to six) and minimum project duration. 
  • Risk of misaligned priorities. While most agencies serve the client’s interests (first and foremost), a fraction might be more interested in pursuing their agenda — maximizing profits, increasing customer retention, and so on. Moreover, if the agency’s goal is to deliver on one set KPI (e.g., increase paid social traffic to your website), they may be less bothered about the quality or relevancy of that traffic, which would result in low conversions and minimal ROI. So you must choose and communicate your objectives carefully. 
  • Communication issues. Most agencies appoint an account executive to each client — a liaison between your company and the team in charge of the execution. They’ll collect your requirements, then brief the team and supervise the execution. But sometimes such in-direct communication can result in misunderstanding, information asymmetry, or delays in communication.

Freelance marketing roles your business needs

Marketing channels and strategies abound — as do marketing experts specializing in them. Below are several popular marketing roles freelancers take: 

  • Growth marketers figure out how to acquire more users (or customers) for your business using data-driven experiments.  They relentlessly test new acquisition channels and tactics to improve metrics like customer acquisition costs (CAC) and customer lifetime value (CLV).
  • Email marketing specialist is responsible for engaging prospects and existing customers straight into their inboxes. Email marketers conceive, develop, set up, and optimize various types of email campaigns, aimed at user onboarding, activation, or retention. 
  • SEO consultant helps achieve higher website visibility in search engine results (SERPs) using on-page and off-page optimization techniques. To increase organic traffic, SEOs conduct technical and content audits, perform keyword research, and suggest strategies for improving search engine rankings for target keywords, while keeping an eye on the search engine algorithm updates.
  • Content marketers thrive in the content realm. Content strategy, editorial planning, blogging, and eBook/whitepaper creation are among the few tasks they can do. Great content marketers work to understand the target audience's needs and interests and develop content that addresses their pain points and interests.
  • Social media managers, in turn, handle content strategy for the social channels. From content creation and distribution to community building and influencer marketing, top SMM specialists help you generate positive buzz and extra revenue. 
  • Fractional CMO works on the “big-picture” tasks like target audience research, new go-to-market strategy development, marketing channel performance analysis, and more. Essentially, freelance CMOs set the marketing systems and processes in place, hire the extra people, and then hand over the reins to a full-time hire. 
  • Brand marketers work on generating awareness around your brand and cultivating the right brand associations among target audiences. They help crystalize your market positioning, key brand values, differentiators, and core messaging. 
  • Marketing analyst is a research-obsessed, numbers-loving person, who combs through your marketing data to uncover insights about customer behaviors, campaign performances, and wider marketing trends. Count on them to set up advanced analytics models, reporting dashboards, and comprehensive reports.  
  • Programmatic marketers know their way around popular ​​demand-side platforms (DSPs) and help you set the right targeting and bid parameters for purchasing, paid display, search, and social ads. Then report on campaign results and fine-tune its performance further. 

Where to find the best freelance marketers?

The number of freelance marketers available for hire has been growing continuously. Why? 

Because the idea of freelancing is often more attractive than working full-time. In fact, 50% of marketing freelancers voluntarily quit their traditional job to pursue freelance work as it offered more flexibility, better pay, and improved mental well-being. 

For distributed team managers, it means that hiring high-caliber freelance marketers got easier. Especially when you know where to search for the right talent. 

Xolo makes hiring freelance marketers a piece of cake, by ensuring every project you have receives the precise talent it needs. Contacting the Xolo crew, and informing them of your project details and mission, means you’re just a few business days (or less) from hiring amazing freelance talent.

Let’s review some useful alternatives to Xolo, and give you a chance to decide which fit works best for you.

Pre-Vetted Talent Marketplaces 

To meet the surged demand for freelance marketers, a bunch of niche marketplaces has emerged. Unlike general freelance marketplaces, this new breed of platforms matches you with a pre-vetted talent database. 

But unlike agencies, you still get to manage your new freelance hire directly, while the marketplace handles some admin tasks. 

Popular freelance marketplaces for marketers: 

Online Communities 

Marketers are social creatures. We like to bounce off ideas with peers and keep close tabs on all things happening in our industry (and well beyond it). That’s why you’ll often find the best freelance specialists regularly checking in with their virtual network — and it’s also among the first places where they’ll look up new gigs. 

Become a regular to low-key connect with top pros and share your “I’m hiring!” messages to a competent, receptive community.  

Popular communities to hire freelance marketers:  

Referrals & recommendations 

At the end of the day, the names of the top marketers are passed by one manager to another via emails, LinkedIn messages, and in-person exchanges. 

To cut down your research time in half, ask your network who’s the best person for SEO/email marketing/demand-gen, etc. You’ll likely get some solid leads and could then start direct conversions with those highly-recommended people.

No one came through? Well, do some sneaky research of your own and follow the “breadcrumbs” trail. Look at the companies whose marketing you admire, then try to reverse engineer who did things for them. You can probably find freelancers associated with them in a couple of Google and LinkedIn searches.

That said, though-after freelance marketers are often busy up to their necks. So start your research early and schedule several discovery calls. 

Popular ways to get freelance marketer referrals:  

How much do you pay freelance marketers? Rates by location & expertise 

Freelance markets know their value and set prices proportionally to the impact their services deliver for the clients. On top, freelance rates account for all the overhead costs independents need to cover (unbillable hours, taxes, social contributions, insurance, admin costs, etc).

Therefore, freelance marketers request much higher hourly rates in comparison to full-time employees. But most of the time, they bring higher ROI too. 

In terms of hourly rates, the Freelance Map survey says that European marketing and communication specialists ask for $86/hour on average (before VAT). A Malt study, in turn, found that European freelance marketers request the following day rates: €388 in France, €730 in Germany, and €180 in Spain. 

Freelance marketers' rates also vary a lot based on their location and specialty. For instance, 

Australian freelancers typically request the following day rates:

  • Marketing manager: AUD 440-600
  • Brand manager: AUD 420 - 630
  • Social media specialists: AUD 330 - 460
  • Content manager: AUD 340 - 500

In Great Britain, you should expect to pay similar day rates (though in a different currency) to the following types of marketing specialists:

  • Head of copy: £450
  • Traffic Manager: £280
  • PR Account Manager: £250
  • Senior Copywriter: £450


Overall, freelance marketers' compensation will vary a lot depending on their role and seniority levels. Most will share their prices upfront either during the discovery call or when submitting a project proposal. 

Freelance content marketers' rates 

An annual salary survey by Superpath estimates that freelance marketers make $105K on average per year, while full-time marketing employees receive $93K in compensation per year).  The above includes both flat-rate and hourly compensation, received from clients. 

The American Writers and Artists Institute also suggests the following median project rates for marketing freelancers: 

  • Homepage SEO and sales conversion copywriting: $1,500-$3,000
  • White Paper or industry report:  $2,000-$10,000
  • eBook creation: $2,000-$7,000
  • Marketing strategy, planning, consulting:  $100-$200/hour
  • Marketing collateral and content audits: $100-$200/hour

Freelance SEO specialists rates 

Most freelance SEO specialists prefer to charge retainers — a fixed-price per month sum for a set number of deliverables and/or hours. Hourly rates aren’t common as they rarely reflect the value of work SEOs do.

Per Ahrefs, $501–$1,000 per month is the most popular monthly retainer rate for SEO specialists. Though some services may come with a higher check. 

How to onboard freelance marketers

To get productive, marketers need to get the gist of your business: Key offerings, market positioning, differentiators, etc. On top, they also need to understand the goals you’re setting up for a specific campaign. 

The above means a lot of back and forth during the proposal and onboarding stages. Freelancer management systems like Xolo Teams help you keep things moving. We provide you with a virtual office hub for your talent, where you can manage proposals and contracts, schedule payments, and ensure compliance with global tax and employment laws. 

Here’s how we propose to onboard freelance marketers: 

  1. Identity verification. Ensure you’re working with the right people. As part of our onboarding sequence, we conduct a quick KYC/AML check at no extra cost to you (and with no extra headache for your new hire). 

  2. Contract signing. Xolo acts as a legal proxy between you and the hired marketing contractors. Each freelancer is suggested to sign a  Partnership Agreement with Xolo LLC, which allows for simple, compliant contracting and seamless payments. Separately, we provide legal templates for other contracts — work-for-hire agreements, NDAs, etc. 

  3. Kick-off meeting. Schedule a quick call to go through the pre-approved scope of work, project timeline, deliverables, and communication schedule. Clearly define your expectations by talking about the expected outcomes or specific KPIs you’re after. 

  4. Share access to necessary resources. Access credentials for MarTech platforms, internal brand guidelines, and past campaign reports — share all the information your new marketer needs to understand how things are done at your company and adjust their delivery accordingly. 

  5. Agree on a communication plan. Schedule regular check-ins to review progress, provide feedback, and answer any questions. Help your freelance marketer receive the information they need within your organization by providing other points of contact.

How to pay freelance marketers

Freelance marketers have different pricing models. Some charge project-based fees in one lump sum or in installments. Others prefer retainers, which must be paid off in advance. Ask upfront about the contractor’s billing approach and preferred payment terms. 

Unlike agencies and larger suppliers, most contractors prefer shorter net payment terms (NET 5/14/30). This means you may need to make changes to your accounting process to accommodate faster pay runs.

Xolo reduces the complexities of paying marketing contractors. Our platform provides convenient and compliant invoicing tools for freelancers, which are automatically sent for your approval. Xolo Teams allows unlimited admin users (for no extra cost), meaning you can add your Finance team to review and schedule payments. You can pay each invoice individually or roll them into a master invoice. Also, Xolo Teams can automatically generate invoices for each freelancer based on project scope (to save you time!).  

Afterward, we debit the payment from your bank account and ensure quick distribution to all contractors in any of the 186 supported countries. 

Must-know tips for working with freelance marketers

Freelance marketers can be a major asset to your business. But also a bit of a management nuisance if you don't take good ownership of the outsourced projects. 

Taking ownership means having a well-defined vision and a structured process for scope definition, task delegation, briefing, and supervision. In other words: You should clearly understand what needs to be done (aka the scope), who should be involved in the task (e.g., a freelancer + 2 in-house team members), and how the project needs to be delivered (deadlines, results, etc). 

To get there, try practicing the following: 

  • Contract out tasks with clear deliverables. Email marketing sequence, content strategy development, and digital PR are examples of clear-cut, deliverables-based tasks you can easily hand over to the external workforce
  • Show when you can’t tell. If you’re struggling to put your preferences or expectations into concrete terms or KPIs, guide your freelance marketers with examples. Show what type of campaigns you’ve liked (and try to explain why). Or examples of internal work you rate as high-caliber. 
  • Document your processes. To keep things continuously moving in the right direction, document how various things are done in your company. Create style guides, brand books, process flow diagrams, and other written materials you can easily share with new freelance (and FT) marketing hires. 

Concluding Steps to Hiring the Best Freelance Marketers

  1. Budget for your needs, whether you’re hiring full-time or gig-based freelancers.
  2. What role are you filling? Growth marketers, brand marketers, etc.
  3. Discover and hire an amazing freelance marketer! Let Xolo help 
  4. Research rates based on location and marketing expertise.
  5. Develop an effective onboarding and invoice payment process. Let Xolo help
  6. Cultivate the relationship with your amazing freelance marketer!

Hire and manage amazing freelance marketers with Xolo

Xolo is changing the way you think about hiring freelancers — less hassle, less time and better results. Send your next project to Xolo, and let a dedicated industry expert curate three freelancers perfect for your exact mission to you in under three business days, leaving you with an easy decision.

And if you’re looking to build a team, Xolo has you covered from discovery to payday. 

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About Elena

Elena Prokopets writes content for tech-led companies & software development businesses, marketing to them. Her empathy for the customer, expertise in SEO, and knack for storytelling help create content that ranks well and drives industry conversations.

Elena uses Xolo so she can focus on her solo B2B content writing business without stressing over the compliance and admin overhead.

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