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Outsourcing Smartly: How to ensure ROI from Contractors and Freelancers

Do you need help with your marketing but don’t know where to start? Or perhaps you’ve spent thousands of dollars in the past on freelancers and marketing experts only to see little in return.

If you’re wondering how to ensure your next marketing contractor or freelancer actually gets your business a solid return, read on for three powerful steps for outsourcing smartly. 

1. Get clear on your outcomes and goals

It’s tempting to hire an expert and hope they will save your business or marketing. Unfortunately, when you are in “save me mode,” you’re not always clear on whether (or how) a freelancer’s work will ladder up to your business goals. 

Define your big picture goals. 

To set yourself up for success and ensure you hire the right freelancer, vendor or agency at the right time, take time before you begin your search to define your business goals and expected outcomes. 

Map out the steps and activities that will lead to reaching your goals. 

Once you have a clear idea of the big picture,  think about what you might need to do to reach those goals. Perhaps you need more website traffic, so you’re looking to hire an SEO specialist, Pinterest strategist, or blog writer. Maybe you want to increase followers and reach on Instagram, so you’re thinking of hiring a social media manager. Whatever your goals are, think of the best way to achieve them. 

Make sure your goals align with your bottom line. 

All the traffic or social media engagement in the world won’t help you if you can’t turn that attention into inquiries and sales. Too many business owners forget to think about how something like social media growth will affect their bottom line. Make sure you understand how marketing campaigns and goals will lead to hitting your sales goals. Even if you don’t expect social media engagement to immediately result in inquiries and sales, you need to understand how growing an engaged social media audience will lead to more inquiries and sales, as well as how you will measure success along the way.

2. Hire well with better conversations

Once you have a clear picture of what you need and how it will make you money, it’s time to vet and hire for the job. Armed with your goals and outcomes, you’re ready to have a clear and productive conversation with potential vendors and freelancers. Here are some tips for finding the right person (or team) for the job.

Don’t make assumptions. 

When you’re talking to an expert, it’s easy to assume they have standard tools and best practices to get you amazing results. Don’t assume folks know what your business needs. They don't. Even if they come to the interview armed with ideas and best practices, take time to explain your big picture campaign and revenue goals.  Remember, the financial health of your business is your responsibility alone. 

Ask better questions before you hire. 

Once you’ve communicated your goals, ask the freelancer or agency how they would go about achieving them. Be sure to discuss how they plan to measure success along the way.

Here are a few questions to get you started:

  • What are your recommendations based on my goals, and why?
  • How will you measure success?
  • How do these practices result in more sales, and how do I measure that process? 

Be clear about how everything must ladder up to the bottom line. 

While it’s often not realistic to assume that every marketing campaign and project will directly result in sales, each endeavor should somehow ladder up to sales eventually. Have a conversation about how certain activities—like redesigning a website or growing an Instagram following—can result in greater sales at some point. Ask for clarity and transparency about what to expect and when. This will set you up nicely to discuss how you will measure success.   

Ask what your responsibilities will be. 

“Set it and forget it” is a thing of the past. Most marketing projects and campaigns require ongoing attention and maintenance to earn consistent results over time, and internal staff and owners are often responsible for parts of each project. Identify whether or not a freelancer needs you to approve or produce content, how much time needs to spent engaging in online communities, and what are the best practices to ensure that your website can consistently turn traffic into inquiries. Even when delegating, chances are that you will be responsible for some part of the project’s success. Get clear on these responsibilities before signing a contract. 

Calculate how much time and money you’ll need to invest before you’ll see results. 

Big and quick wins are rare in 2021. Most marketing campaigns and projects require planning, set-up and optimization. For a project like SEO and blogging, it could take a better part of a year to see results. For social ads, it could take a couple of months. Be sure to calculate how much you’ll have to invest BEFORE you see results.   

3. Set up the right metrics and measurement 

When you first hire a freelancer or agency, there’s often a rush of excitement. You assume everything is going to turn out amazing and that you’ll see that uptick in revenue soon. After a while, you begin to suspect something just isn't working properly, but you don’t know what it is or how to address it. 

Maybe you haven’t given the campaign enough time, or perhaps you didn't hire the right person. Either way, unless you take the time to set up the right metrics and measurements for your reports, you may feel like things aren't working when they really are—or that things are working when they aren’t. 

Agree upon metrics and KPIs. 

Go back to your initial conversations during the hiring process to establish agreed upon metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs). Remember, not every metric will be about revenue, but you should be able to see how your efforts lead potential clients down your marketing and sales funnel in a way that should increase revenue eventually. 

Agree upon a time frame. 

Some marketing projects and campaigns take time to fully season, so it’s important to talk to your freelancers and service providers about timelines, deliverables and results. Ask the following questions to get clear on a reasonable timeframe: 

  • How long will it take to onboard and get going?
  • How long will it be until I see the first results?
  • How long will it take to reach my goals?
  • What happens if things don’t go as planned? 

Ask for regular reports.  

Regular reporting helps you to identify problems and solve them quickly. Reports should always contain basic information about:

  • What is happening
  • Why things are happening (whether it’s growth or a problem that’s been identified)
  • Any recommendations the expert has, including staying the course.  

When in doubt refer back to your plan and timeline.   

It’s easy to feel anxious when you don’t see results as quickly as possible. If you’re starting to get antsy, refer back to the timeline for results. Cross-reference your strategy with your reports. Are you on track and pacing as expected, or not? By referring back to the plan and reports early and often, you can have better conversations early on to correct problems and even optimize unexpected wins. 

By taking time in the beginning to plan and create a clear definition of success, you will not only outsource better—you will also mitigate losses if campaigns and freelancers don’t pan out the way you had initially planned and expected.  


Christie Osborne

Owner | Mountainside Media

Christie Osborne is the owner of Mountainside Media, a company that helps event industry professionals brands develop scalable marketing strategies that brings in more inquiries and leads. Christie is a national educator with recent speaking engagements at NACE Experience, WIPA and the ABC Conference.