There’s a lot out there on building and growing a business.
One of the major elements that goes into building a business is, of course, staffing. No matter if you just have an employee or a hundred, Chris Ducker’s latest book Virtual Freedom claims to have the perfect method for working with virtual staff, getting more time, becoming more productive, and building your dream business.
As someone on the other end of these arrangements, I thought I’d give my feedback on the book from the perspective of a service provider. I have a fair amount of experience working with companies in this arrangement (a virtual SEO/Internet Marketing staff member). I’ve worked for over a hundred clients ranging from small business with two employees to multi-million dollar ecommerce websites and everything in-between.
I purchased the Kindle edition during a sale for $1.99. Here’s my Virtual Freedom book review. I’m not sure how long that deal will last, but the deal is still active. If you want to purchase the book, I will have links to purchase (they’re affiliate links — I get a small portion if you buy).
You Can’t Do It All
You need to be outsourcing work. A lot of small business owners are attracted to the book because they feel that they are “doing it all” and want to find a way to get off the mouse wheel and get back to growing their business. A common way to do this is to get rid of time consuming tasks that you’re not qualified for or just take up too much time. Chris highlights a few common areas that most business owners should consider outsourcing right away:
- General Virtual Assistant
- Web Developer
- Graphic Designer
- Internet Marketing
- Video Editing
and, depending on your business, you could probably find niche roles for business tactics that you’re utilizing.
Three Lists Exercise For Internet Marketing
In the very first part of the book, Chris has you make three lists.
- Things You Don’t Like To Do
- Things You Can’t Do
- Things You Shouldn’t Be Doing
If you’re considering hiring an internet marketing VA, I’m assuming that it falls mostly in the area of things you can’t do category. Marketing is critical to your business that you shouldn’t not like doing it, regardless if you have any talent or not. Marketing is not like accounting where it’s a byproduct of owning a business — marketing is the core and critical part of what makes your business unique.
But, you may not have tons of experience with digital marketing activities like:
- Search Engine Optimization (getting free traffic from search engines like Google when people search for keywords about your business)
- Pay Per Click Advertising (where you can bid on keywords and drive traffic to your website)
- Conversion Rate Optimization (getting more leads & conversions from your current website traffic)
- Email Marketing
- Landing Page Creation (setting up & optimizing action-specific pages on your website)
- A lot more…
Which is why Chris mentions it as a top element to outsource with your business. You can have a VA or marketing company, freelance or consultant working on your marketing and help grow your bottom line.
The checklists in the book offer a few good points in working with a remote worker for mutual benefit. When I’m in a freelance or internet marketing VA style role, I like to focus on:
- Big wins
- Partnership Mentality
- Open Communication
- Goal-setting (and smashing!)
for the best results. Keep all of these in mind when working with a marketing VA. It all starts with big wins. Big wins are those tasks that almost any trained consultant can go in and find right away. I’ve worked with companies who have websites with hundreds of missing title tags, or email marketing lists that they aren’t sending to (upwards of 100,000 emails), or have thousands of dollars wasted in their pay per click account.
Each business will have their own big win (I’ve yet to find a company that I can’t find a big win for within a month) that a trained consultant will work on right away. One element of the book I disagree with is just using marketing VAs for repetitive tasks and that you should spend a fair amount of time training your VAs.
If you’re working with an experienced professional, you will not be spending time training them on anything other than what makes your business unique and learning your goals. A VA that you find cheaply will probably need a lot of training, thus not saving you any time at all. In fact, any form of work and job training will often take tons of time out of your day. Stick to trained consultants who have set the right expectations and can work with you to reach business goals.
Expectations Of Working With Outsourced Marketing Consultants
Ducker has two sections on pay scales, but doesn’t go into too much detail because prices can vary so much and change every single year.
Instead, I thought I’d share some rates with you for what you should expect to pay for digital marketing services for your company. A top-notch digital marketing firm with its own staff, office and board of directors has a higher cost than a third-world VA working from home.
Typically, you’ll pay anywhere from $150-$200 an hour for a top notch agency that provides digital marketing services, $100-$125 for a local, competent agency and less for smaller agencies who focus on volume.
If you walk down a step in terms of cost, you can find a domestic freelance digital marketing consultant (who likely has their own 9-5 while working side jobs) for anywhere from $50 to $100 an hour.
Costs can go down from there once you look into outsourcing into third world countries or those without very much experience. A college student may offer to work for anywhere from $10 to $20 an hour and third world VAs can go for $5 to $20 an hour.
With such a large window, it’s tricky to make sure you’re paying the right amount and that you’re getting a great value for your investment. No wonder it takes a whole lot of time for business owners to decide and start using outsourced marketing services!
To find the best fit for you, it’s smart to look at business metrics that evaluate how much more leads or revenue is worth to you. For example, a local landscaping company has a very limited amount of scope to their services — there may only be a 20 mile radius where you can service lawns and the digital side of lead generation is probably fairly limited. A new lead may still be very valuable to a landscaping company, but there isn’t thousands of searches each month into Google for
landscaping in myrtle beach. That’s okay — it doesn’t mean that online marketing isn’t a good investment, it just means that you’ll probably see good results with a smaller budget of a $500 a month to generate new leads.
However, an information product seller offering courses on, say, weight loss for $2,000 who business scales effortlessly will have a differing value for each lead, email and product sale. For someone like this, it’s not uncommon to invest $5,000 or more per month in marketing services to take your business to the next level.
Most companies spent anywhere from 5% to 15% of their annual revenue on marketing and advertising — find out where digital marketing fits in for you and behave accordingly.
Hours & Cost Of Investment
Nearly all digital marketing agencies and VAs, regardless of their rate, charge per hour. Most agencies and experienced freelancers that you’ll work with will charge a flat retainer per month (anywhere from 10 hours to 50 or more) at their agreed upon rate.
VAs will likely log their time, submit a timesheet and then you’ll pay based on the amount of work the are completing. This can complicate your payroll and accounting processes, so be aware of that.
However, how much should you be investing? Now that you know the rates for freelancers, agencies and international VAs, you should decide how much to invest on an hourly basis.
For the most part, companies with enough revenue to hire external marketing services are looking to take their business to the next level. You should expect to be spending anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000 for a team or external freelancer. Of course, hiring an international VA could yield the same amount of “hours” worked for far less cost.
Of course, I’m very biased, but there’s good reasons to invest in an experienced digital marketing company that’s domestic:
- Similar time zone
- Native English speaking (your content will be far higher quality)
- Experienced & ready to impact your business right away
Along with hosts of other reasons. Ducker recommends that you hire externally for content writing as well as SEO/PPC tasks along with similar internet marketing tasks. Given a budget anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000, you can find one experienced company or freelancer who can do all those tasks for your company.
Of course, no matter the dollar investment, you’ll want to see a return on your investment from an external marketing team or VA. That could mean increased leads, sales and revenue, but it could also tie into soft benefits that are a little harder to measure. For example, a digital marketing company that saves you ten hours of content writing that frees you up to focus on other elements of your business may not have a direct revenue return. However, saving ten hours of time for a busy small business owner could be worth thousands of dollars for their sanity. Or, it could free up time for them to work on future product or services that will bring in thousands of dollars later on.
However, working with a marketing company should have tangible benefits that tie directly back to growing your business. For me, this means that we’re hitting or exceeding revenue, lead or growth goals that were setup before starting work.
A smart, talent marketing consultant will want hard numbers and goals setup to measure success. Then, that consultant will setup the needed conversion or analytics tracking to show you exactly how they are meeting those goals every month.
Ducker mentions a story in the section on “Domestic or International” that tells the tale of a company who had chosen to outsource SEO, copywriting, website design and graphic design work to India. After a few months, the quality of the work was not meeting their standards and they chose instead to find a marketing team locally to help.
I remind you of this because it’s critical that you get results from your marketing team — choosing to save a few dollars an hour with the cheap option will probably sting you eventually. Invest in quality — you’ll have a staff that’s working with you to truly grow your business, not just for you and collecting paychecks.
The sting of low quality always last longer than the thrill of a cheap deal – Unknown
Working With A Internet Marketing Consultant
If I’ve convinced you to actually go and hire an external marketing team member and you haven’t ran off to the lowest bidder on a freelancing website, then read on.
Actually, go read Chris Ducker’s book. It has tons of tips, checklists, action items and goes into tons of detail on more than just internet marketing VAs.
But, if you’re going to make the leap of working with an external marketing team member to free up time, grow your business and more, you’ll want to have a good working relationship. Here are some top tips for what to look for when working with a marketing consultant:
- Set goals (example: grow new leads by 20% over the next three months)
- Measure those goals (Google analytics, CRM software, ect)
- Communicate (emails, phone calls)
- Fit well with your brand, voice, tone & style (content & work fits with what you envision)
- Be available for questions (over email when needed)
- Report monthly on goals, tasks and progress (detailed but not overwhelming reports)
- Generate new ideas to grow your business (not just take the tasks given)
- Treat relationship as a partnership (not just a string of upsells)
I hope these tips provide useful information to take what Chris Ducker starts with in Virtual Freedom and apply them to hiring an external marketing VA.
Hiring external help can free up tons of your time, grow your business and help you take it to the next level.
Of course, two things to do.
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