Here’s a question for all you practice owners and directors: how much extra time do you have in your day to devote to marketing your practice? If you’re like many, the answer is probably “not much.” So, it’s understandable that you may be tempted to delegate that task to someone else. Sometimes, that “someone else” ends up being an overburdened staff member with little experience in healthcare marketing. If you—and your budget—can swing it, though, you may have thought about bringing in an outside expert in the form of a freelance marketer. But, if you’ve never hired marketing freelancers, you may not know where to start. To that end, here’s the lowdown on hiring freelance healthcare marketers for physical therapy private practices:
Pros and Cons of Hiring Freelancers
- Cost Effectiveness: While freelancers’ base rates are often higher than those for full-time employees—at least on an hourly basis—you don’t have to worry about traditional labor overhead costs (e.g., training and benefits). Also, freelancers typically offer quick turnaround times.
- Expertise: If you’re venturing into digital marketing for the first time, there will probably be a lot of trial and error. However, a person whose job it is to write, code, or improve search engine optimization will have the know-how to do it right the first time, which means you start achieving ROI sooner. And if things need to be updated or changed, a skilled freelance marketer will know exactly what to do.
- Variety: As WebPT President and Co-founder Heidi Jannenga explains here, “To make a truly effective team, you need many different ingredients. Challenge yourself to hire people whose stories are entirely different than your own—because that’s what cultivates cognitive diversity.” And this certainly isn’t limited to traditional employees. By bringing in an outside resource, you’re allowing your clinic and your marketing strategy to be viewed through a completely different lens. And that unique perspective could help you shake up your strategy or open the door to a new type of patient.
- Risk: There’s no such thing as a 100% guarantee—especially on the Internet. If you’ve put a lot of thought into the hiring process, you’ve got a good chance of getting what you pay for—but you won’t really know for sure until the job is done (or at least in progress). And in most cases, you’ll still have to pay up.
- Uncertainty: While a freelancer’s livelihood hinges on maintaining good relationships with clients, he or she may not always be available at the drop of a hat. In most cases, freelancers work with a number of clients—or they may only do the occasional freelance gig—and that means your business may not always be their priority. Furthermore, it can be tough for a freelancer to really get immersed in your brand and culture, which means less of that will shine through in your marketing materials.
- Less Loyalty: As I mentioned above, you probably won’t be your freelancer’s only client. In fact, there’s a chance your freelancer may even work for your competitors (or will in the future). If that’s the case, there’s nothing stopping him or her from giving your competition an edge over you—or vice versa.
Ideal Tasks for Outsourcing
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Between webinars and blog posts, we’ve talked a lot about SEO on the WebPT Blog. While you can learn to navigate the ins and outs of SEO on your own, we recommend outsourcing this task to an expert. That’s because effective SEO requires a lot of technical understanding, and staying on top of it can get time consuming. That said, maintaining good SEO on your own is a lot easier with tools like WebPT Reach.
If your marketing strategy includes blogging, you might consider hiring freelance bloggers. However, if you choose to hire writers for your blog, make sure they bring valuable—and more importantly, relevant—subject matter expertise for your intended audience (a.k.a. potential patients). In other words, make sure that writer can speak intelligently on the issues your patients want to read about. Ideally, this would be someone with a background in rehab therapy, health care, or other relevant fields.
According to this resource from InboundMD, even if you and your staff do all of your writing in-house, you may want to hire a freelance copy editor or content manager to proofread your work for typos and grammatical errors. After all, it’s a lot harder to catch your own mistakes than it is for someone else.
A decade ago, if you wanted a beautiful and professional-looking website, you needed to either hire a web designer or get really good at coding. These days, crafting an aesthetically pleasing website is much, much easier thanks to online services like Wix and Squarespace. These template-based webpage builders are straightforward, easy to use, and relatively inexpensive. Such tools are great for clinics with a “set it and forget it” website strategy. Alternatively, you can hire someone to design and code a site for you. How you proceed depends on your comfort level, time, budget, and skills.
Tips to Get Your Money's Worth
Hire from reputable sources.
While your employee’s cousin’s best friend may know a thing or two about coding a website, that doesn’t necessarily mean he or she will do a quality job—or deliver that work in a timely manner. Before hiring an outside contractor, make sure you:
- hire through legitimate avenues like UpWork, Fiverr, LinkedIn, or Freelancer.com;
- read customer reviews;
- review work samples; and
- factor in past experience.
Alternatively, you can:
- tap your existing network for great freelancers;
- look up non-PT businesses with a marketing style that resonates with you and find out who they work with; or
- approach local agencies.
Agree upon the terms.
In the vast majority of cases, the freelancer will have a pre-written contract that you must sign before he or she takes on your project. If a freelancer doesn’t have a contract, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it could indicate a lack of experience. So, if a freelancer positions himself or herself as highly experienced in his or her field—but he or she doesn’t have a pre-established contract—that could be a red flag. Regardless, it’s simply smart business to have something you both sign. According to this article from WAHM, you’ll both need to sign something that spells out, at minimum:
- a “services” clause (i.e., what specific services the freelancer will provide you);
- a term (i.e., a start and end date of the contract);
- a termination clause (i.e., the specific terms under which the contract can be terminated).
That same article also advises: “Make sure the freelance contract specifically states that you're working as an independent contractor, and not as an employee. Otherwise, both parties may run into serious problems with the Internal Revenue Service.” Finally, it’s never a bad idea to have your lawyer look this over before you commit to anything.
Once you’ve selected your freelancer, it’s important to make sure he or she delivers the product in a timely manner. For this reason, it’s important to establish regular communication with your freelancer—whether that be through a regularly scheduled, face-to-face meeting or a weekly email with status updates from him or her. (You may even want to determine beforehand how often you’ll meet and when deliverables will be due, and include this in the terms of your contract.)
If sending frequent emails for status updates sounds like too much extra work, you might consider using a tracking software like Time Doctor, Toggl, or Hubstaff. These products are essentially staff monitoring platforms where employees can record the amount of time they spend on a task. In addition to boosting productivity, tracking software can keep you abreast of your freelancer’s progress as well as help both of you determine a fair and equitable payment once the job is done.
Establish payment rates.
So, let’s talk money. As a business owner, you’re probably not shy about telling people what their time is worth to you. However, if you’ve never hired a freelance marketer, you may not know what a fair wage looks like. Fortunately, freelancers typically have predetermined rates. Of course, the more experience and expertise a person has, the higher his or her rates will be. On top of that, the kind of work will often impact how much a freelancer charges. That said, you can usually find average pay rates with a cursory Google search. For example, according to this 2018 survey from ClearVoice, freelance content writers charge anywhere between $0.01 and $1.00 per word or $1.00 to more than $100 per hour—and that all varies by level of experience. Expect to pay more for a more seasoned marketing pro; as long as your vetting process is thorough, you can rest easy knowing the finished product will almost certainly be worth it.
Additionally, your locale will have a big impact on how much you can expect freelancers to charge. For example, if you live in a major metropolitan area like Los Angeles, you can expect freelancers to charge more than a freelancer in, say, Green Bay. So, put the onus on yourself to research average rates in your region by conducting Internet searches, asking around your professional network, and contacting agencies or freelancers directly to inquire about standard rates.
So, there you have it: your step-by-step guide to working with freelancers. Have questions about marketing, freelance work, or the tools I mentioned? Drop a line in the comment section below!