Hiring marketing professional for freelance business
October 7, 2009 11:28 AM   Subscribe

I am a freelancer in a sub-genre of graphic design. In a bid to get more clients, I'm attempting (through Craigslist) to hire a marketing professional (or professionals). My general idea is that they would work to get me more clients, and I would give them a percentage of sales resulting from my work with those clients. My question here is what the specifics of the deal should be. My initial thought was 15% of income for life on the clients they bring me. Does that sound reasonable? Too much? Too little? The wrong way to go about it entirely? I really like the commission model, at least for now, because I don't have money to lay out up front and I like that we both benefit or both don't. Is there any kind of standard for this kind of relationship?
posted by The Dutchman to Work & Money (13 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: My initial thought was 15% of income for life on the clients they bring me.

So you will be letting them audit your books forever, even when you haven't worked together for a decade?

Make it a very high percentage (forty percent? fifty?) of the first job and be done with that. Otherwise the bookkeeping will be hell in the years to come, especially if you go through three or four such commission-based marketing folks.
posted by rokusan at 11:36 AM on October 7, 2009

Response by poster: You make a good point. Problem is that many clients will be a one-time project and not need my services again.
posted by The Dutchman at 12:03 PM on October 7, 2009

I'd written an essay about my terrible experiences working an environment like this where no one gets paid even if both people are busting their asses (a mistake I made for two years before finally coming to my senses), but since I'm sure you're aware of the problems that may arise, so all I can suggest is that you keep trying on your own until you can sacrifice some cash to the cause.

There are better resources out there for designers/animators/etc. to promote themselves if you haven't gone down that route (Coroflot, the Behance Network, Krop, even ProgrammerMeetDesigner if you want to venture into that territory, to name a popular few).

I'd try those first before expecting to find the right person on CL (maybe I'm a negative Nancy but I wouldn't trust anyone on there), especially when they're working on hope and good faith from the get-go. If you've done all that, I'd suggest trying to reach out to friends and family who are or know someone who can do this for you until you have the stability to pay a stranger something for their efforts, win-or-lose.
posted by june made him a gemini at 12:18 PM on October 7, 2009

Sorry, I jumped the gun on that -- pretend that "since" isn't in there.
posted by june made him a gemini at 12:20 PM on October 7, 2009

I was going to stay out of this because I certainly don’t know what to suggest re:hiring someone of craigslist to market for you, but 1) What do you do exactly within graphic design (could you break this down to layman’s terms for meta-readers? 2) What kind of companies are you approaching for work? (are the jobs really a project that you do one time?) 3) What do you do for your own marketing?
posted by Wolfster at 12:26 PM on October 7, 2009

limit the percentage to a portion of the first year's billings.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:35 PM on October 7, 2009

You probably aren't going to have much luck on Craigslist anyway because CL rules prohibit advertising for business opportunities, of which "15% of an unknown number" certainly qualifies as more of a referral relationship. I'd put some thought into figuring out what that number could be and figuring out a hard number to offer people for their services. It could be that if you use a real number (based on your sense of the kinds of jobs you'll get) you may be able to get multiple people working for you on this. But still, CL is going to be a bad place to post an ad saying "$200 per whatever," rather than $20/hr.
posted by rhizome at 12:35 PM on October 7, 2009

Best answer: Unlike June's experience, we've made this work.

But, you'll have trouble finding a marketing pro who doesn't ask for a fee PLUS some commission.

I suggest an agreed-on monthly or quarterly fee at first + 10% of income from the clients they bring in (not including your payables to resources such as photographers, illustrators, etc) first year.
Second year taper to 5%, and then 0% there after (since if they are good and brought you clients, you'll no longer need them).

The most important part to success is focusing a good marketing person on very specific markets you want to design to.
Good luck.
posted by artdrectr at 12:36 PM on October 7, 2009

Response by poster: I was being a bit coy because I don't want to self-promote here, but since you ask, here's some detail: I do PowerPoint design. A job can be just a template one time, a full presentation every few months, a once-a-year conference with a whole bunch of presentations...it's a pretty wide range. (Maybe I could say 15% for the first year?)

I did PowerPoint for 6 years full-time in investment banks; The past 4 years I've been doing it freelance. My marketing has been limited to local Craigslist and word-of-mouth, and a brief stint with Google AdWords. For the first 3 years of freelance, it was growing bit-by-bit each year. In the last year, it tanked. This is both because of the economy and because I fired a big but very unpleasant and disrespectful client.

I am aware that I could do a whole lot more on my own, and I will try. However, I also know myself and my propensity for procrastination and losing interest. I'm very good at the work and very bad at the marketing. That's why I'm willing to give up some of my income to someone who is good at and maybe even enjoys the selling side of things.

I'm not looking to rip someone off. On the contrary, I want to make this a good deal for someone. I truly believe I have a lot of potential to make good money.
posted by The Dutchman at 12:59 PM on October 7, 2009

Best answer: This isn't the question you originally asked Dutchman, but I have an idea for you, although I am in a different freelancing field (and this has worked for me and not taking that much time).

Rather than find those one-off project companies, find a company or client that has continuous, several times per year conferences (and hence they need a billion powerpoint slide decks). One area that I am familiar with that has such meetings are continuing medical education companies - some will put their slides online (I will email you the name of a company after I finish this post). Anyway, my strategy has been to continuously do projects over and over again witih the same clients (but I fired a client or two, also, so I understand that all clients are not good clients). Also, marketing for me = sending out an email to each company, and a really detailed, targeted linkedin profile (I've picked up at least one client this way).

Nonetheless, I will watch the posts and maybe someone has a really clever idea as to how to work with a marketer.
posted by Wolfster at 1:50 PM on October 7, 2009

Best answer: Marketers don't work on commission. Marketers understand that it's about building relationships that result in lasting customer experiences that further build upon your marketing. What you need is a marketing plan that looks at how to nurture relationships and build up a sales and marketing pipeline. Ideally, they'd help you do this in a cost effective way that doesn't cause you to change gears all the time.

People who work on commission are in sales. But I'm not sure why anyone would work on spec for you. That's like doing graphic design and then hoping you'll convince the client to buy.

One thing that might work for you would be to build up a strong referral network with businesses who share your target market (e.g. printers, marketing consultants) and give those people 15% of work they send your way.

Disclaimer: I own a marketing consulting company.
posted by acoutu at 2:07 PM on October 7, 2009

Is there any reason you're not broadening your range of services and therefore broadening your client base? Are you working for a company doing other design work that doesn't (or rarely) involves PowerPoint template design and under a non-compete agreement?
posted by june made him a gemini at 6:02 PM on October 7, 2009

Don't just pay someone to network on your behalf (or even if you do), learn to network effectively for yourself. Go to business meetups of various kinds, your local chamber of commerce, BNI chapters, etc etc. Pass out business cards. Give satisfied--and especially, *very* satisfied--clients a couple of business cards and ask them to recommend you to people in their field. Talk to other graphic designers with different specialities - anyone who isn't a direct competitor (and even some direct competitors; one can always get too busy) is a potential source of referrals.

It's important to remember that the largest part of being a good networker is to be a good giver of referrals. Take business cards from your clients. Doing PowerPoints for people gives you at least some basic overview of some aspect of their business. Ask them what sort of clients they're looking for themselves. (This should come up in the course of your own work anyway, in the context of who is to be the audience for the PowerPoints, and what the audience is supposed to do with the information presented.) Givers gain.

Also, try universities and colleges, especially those that teach courses that involve presentations. Put up fliers on the noticeboards advertising your service. Take note of the numbers of people who do proofreading and English-language checking, and call them - this is another business networking skill, the making of alliances: businesses which have the same clientele as yourself, but offer a different (ideally, compatible) service. Proofreaders can refer you business, and you can refer business to them.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 10:05 PM on October 7, 2009

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