top of page
  • Writer's pictureMatthew Lerner

Before you hire a freelance marketer, read this.

I used to think freelancers and full-time hires were interchangeable, but last week I realized they're not.

Here's why good freelancers can be bad growth hires, and what to do about it.

The exact thing that makes someone a great freelancer can make them a bad growth leader in a startup. Here’s what happened… 

I was watching a Zoom recording of a startup’s weekly growth meeting. (We do this as part of our coaching program, and offer feedback.)

Their VP of Growth was a freelancer, and he sounded sharp. But I noticed something – he was running a bit of a hustle.

By that, I mean he was working from his bag  of tricks.

Every good freelancer has a bag of quick wins that work for most clients.

That's because freelancers know they need to sell themselves to you every week by putting up good numbers, fast. So they use tricks.

Here's some examples:

  1. Email dormant leads with an interesting offer to boost your sales pipeline.

  2. Analyze acquisition channels by customer value, rather than conversion, and and shift spend away from channels that bring low-value customers into channels that bring high-value ones.

  3. Replace a weak headline with a strong one.

  4. Go through your old social posts, find the bangers, edit and repost them.

You can see the appeal, right?

But the benefit of these “tricks” is also their downside: short-term wins won’t drive the long-term impact you need.

Freelancers give founders what they want, but not what they need

Founders want results. Fast. But but that impatience creates pressure to eschew tactics with delayed or uncertain payoffs – precisely the tactics with the greatest upside. (Remember risk and reward correlate.)

Success favors the bold – so you need people who can take risks, talk about failures, and learn. It's hard to get a full-timer into that headspace, let alone a freelancer.

Simple next step

I'm not against hiring freelancers. Many of the best growth people won't work in-house, as freelancing pays better and offers flexibility.

So what can you do?

First, no matter who you’re hiring, spend the time up-front to talk through your expectations. You don’t demand perfection or instant magic, but you see learning as a foundation for sustainable growth.

Ask them, each week, what's not working, what surprised them, and what they’re learning. Encourage bold thinking by asking "if this works, how big can it be?"

If they don’t like having that conversation, find someone who does.

Next question

But what if your head of growth is not putting up results? How do you know whether they’re on the right track, or wasting your time?

I’ll answer that in next week's post. (subscribe)

48 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

"Should I fire my VP of Growth?"

I was chatting with a dear friend who runs a startup. He was exasperated, "I gave him budget, tools, headcount. He's doing lots of stuff,...

The 6 dysfunctions of OKRs

Unpopular opinion: OKRs don't cause problems, they surface them. If you have a clear strategy, and everyone understands the company's...


bottom of page