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If the company you work for is like many companies in today's economic climate, it isn't hiring too many people and its marketing budget has been cut. Employees are being asked to do more with less.

Now more than ever, however, marketing efforts are needed to drive sales. What options do companies have to get all the work done and drive business growth?

It may be the right time to consider hiring an interim marketing professional. This person can fill in for a project, a medical leave, or a sabbatical, or just manage workflow issues. It could also be that your company doesn't have a marketing staff but realizes that some marketing efforts and plans are needed.

Interim staffing is a timely idea. Whether you label these professionals marketing consultants, contractors, or freelance marketers, they all have one thing in common: They can get the job done quickly and efficiently, and at less cost and time than it might require to hire a permanent employee to do the job. Consider that the average time it takes to fill a job opening is 48 days, at an average cost of $3,270.

The trend toward hiring temporary staff for marketing and other functions is growing. Of hiring managers, 29% expect to use freelancers in 2009 ( In 2005, 7.4% of all workers were classified as independent contractors (US Bureau of Labor Statistics).

In a recent issue of Contingent Workforce Strategies, author Kara Holverson wrote: "There are plenty of reasons to turn to temporary workers and plenty of benefits for the companies that use them, especially in today's economy."

Benefits of Hiring Interim Marketing Professionals

The benefits of interim marketing talent are numerous:

  • Bridging the gap between open or new positions and full-time hires
  • Controlling and manages workloads
  • Exploring a new product, service, or business idea
  • Providing an outside, objective point of view
  • Backfilling a maternity, family, or medical leave
  • Expediting a critical project
  • Offering a skill set that you don't currently have in your organization
  • Providing access to skilled, qualified resources without having to hire full-time marketing staff

Companies recognize the benefit of outsourcing marketing help and even using those workers on a trial basis before hiring. "Using interim marketing staff benefited my department in two ways. First, I was able to quickly bridge gaps that took place due to staff turnover and keep the day-to-day business operating smoothly during a time of transition. It also provided me with the flexibility to work with the temporary service, to evaluate whether the temporary person put in place might also be the best candidate to fill the vacancy full-time. In our case, that worked extremely well and created a 'win-win-win' solution for the agency, the candidate, and my department," said Jim Hines, VP of customer marketing at a leading apparel marketer.

Where to Find Interim marketing resources

There are numerous temporary staffing agencies, but many of them focus on clerical, warehouse, manufacturing, or other areas that may require workers with a less-specialized skill set. Those agencies might have access to marketing professionals, but more than likely the best resources for this level of talent is to simply google "interim marketing staffing" or "interim marketing" to learn what resources are available in your area.

Word-of-mouth, professional-networking groups, local chambers of commerce, and social-media sites may also provide insight into finding marketing professionals who are interested in working with your company. Recently, my alma mater, Wharton business school, posted an announcement in its newsletter about recent graduates who were available for work on an interim or short-term basis.

Sandy Judd, former director of marketing and communications at Novant Health, Triad Division, is enthusiastic about the concept of interim marketing resources. "Bringing on board a marketing professional was a lifesaver. At the time, we were recruiting for additional permanent staff, and the work was piling up. It was a huge relief to be able to temporarily add a member to our team who very quickly was able to work directly with our internal clients one-on-one, just as if he were a full-time staff person."

Payment/Fee Structure

There are a few common ways to pay for interim marketing services.

By the hour. This method eliminates any risk and ensures that the client/employee will pay only for the hours the interim professional works. The rate per hour can vary widely, but one method is to consider the level of work that is being performed and equate it to a job level.

For example, let's say the position is at the assistant manager or director level. Determine the annual salary and divide it by 2,080, hours (52 weeks x 40 hours per week), and you have the hourly salary. From that base salary, add on 20%-30% for benefits that the company would have paid a full-time employee. If a freelancer is filling in for a job that offers a bonus or other perks (e.g., a car or phone), factor that in as well. Pricing is a very large variable in this industry, and it can range widely across and within companies. Be prepared to speak to several resources and find out the "going rate" for interim help.

By the project. This method can be more palatable to employers who just want to know what it will cost to develop a social-media strategy or to develop and execute a promotion. When providing a project-based fee, a range is typically given to account for changes in parameters that may arise during the course of the project.

By performance. On occasion, employers may want a fee-based structure that will reward the freelancer for the results of the project. For example, there might be a "bonus" or percentage-of-results fee provided to the freelancer above and beyond the hourly or project fee already agreed upon.

Payment for freelancers can be weekly, biweekly, monthly. Typically that decision might depend on how often the full-time employees are paid at the company. Net 30 terms are reasonable and standard, but this should be agreed upon up front so there are no surprises.

Independent freelancers will not have taxes withheld from the paycheck. However, it is important they understand that they will still need to pay taxes and are not entitled to any benefits that an employee receives. Be prepared to have your interim staff fill out a W9 form, and you will provide a 1099 form from the company at the end of the year. That is the freelancing equivalent to a W-2 form.

Value-Added Services

If you want a skilled professional with established credentials and marketing skills to come into your organization and immediately add value by taking on special projects, provide strategic insight into your business and marketing needs, or fill in for absent employees, then interim marketing staffing could be the perfect solution.

Consider this statement from Deanna Leonard, executive VP at Williams, Roberts, Young, a Career Partners International firm: "When tough economic times hit, often the deepest cuts come from the marketing area or in the way of human capital. At our company, we believe that now is the time that marketing should be focused upon. Small and medium-size entrepreneurial companies are the companies that will help pull us out of this recession and into a bright future.

"Unfortunately, small and medium-size companies often do not have the time or the personnel to focus on marketing. Fortunately, there are great marketing consultancies out there that can supply much-needed execution work. They have the experience and ability to take a great strategy, improve upon it, and move it forward with real, actionable steps that result in increased business over the long haul. Hiring interim marketing help allowed us to move some key marketing initiatives forward, while delivering on business growth."

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Eva Wu is a partner at Bridge Marketing Professionals (, a marketing consultancy and interim marketing staffing company based in North Carolina.