Marketing freelancers vs. employees – what is more expensive?

All my conversations with CMOs, Heads of Marketing and HR professionals show that the ‘War on Talent’ is at the top on their agenda. The big question is: “How do you build and maintain an efficient marketing team?” In this blog we answer it. We dive into the costs and benefits of employees vs freelancers. And we end up with a new, flexible form that every marketer should consider in this day and age. Let’s dig in!

The “perfect storm” for freelancers in marketing teams

Marketing is changing super fast with 50+ channels, 8000+ martech tools and many marketers who like to work freelance. The number of marketing vacancies has even quadrupled since summer 2021.

CMOs struggle with this. Some take all content production in-house, such as AH. Others prefer to outsource it all, such as Mastercard. When do you choose marketing freelancers or employees? We start with costs.

Cost of in-house marketing employees much higher than expected: 83,000 euros

On average, a medior marketing employee costs at least 83K per year. How do we get to that amount?

  • Basic salary of 4000 euros
  • Holiday allowance (8%)
  • Pension and insurance
  • Laptop and phone
  • 25 vacation days per year
  • Standard 35% employer costs
  • Training budget of 1000 euros
  • Paid sick leave
  • Transport and home work costs

Basically, you think you’re there with 48K. But you will come out much higher. Moreover, these are average figures. With in-demand marketers (such as performance or growth marketers) you need to pay a lot more. And to top it all off: we haven’t even counted that 27% recruiter fee yet!

The high and hidden costs of onboarding

But the above costs aren’t the only ones. Because onboarding employees often takes 2-3 times as long as with freelancers. Why? Freelancers are trained to start quickly and pragmatically. The pros work with an onboarding checklist that is shared with the client on day one to tick off as quickly as possible. This provides structure and focus on pragmatic output.

The onboarding of employees costs up to 20% of the annual salary (source: Bamboo HR company). In addition to onboarding, there are other hidden costs. Remember that in addition to training, tools and software, you also need that new laptop and insurance. Training new colleagues also takes time from other staff. You hardly have all these costs with a good freelancer.

The big advantage for freelancers: output and specific knowledge

Many  marketers are specialists, from influencer marketer, Facebook ad specialist to TikTok creator. They do not want permanent employment and prefer to work as a ‘solopreneur’. This gives them the freedom to decide for themselves who they work for. The freelancer knows: “I’m as good as my last job”. And because they consciously choose your brand, that ‘job’ also becomes good.

So you reduce both risk and costs. And get flexibility, intrinsic motivation, energy and extra output in return. Drive. We also omit the extreme moments here, such as your responsibility if an employee does not perform well. Or maybe they end up in a burnout. All in all, a lot of advantage, which translates into extra benefits for you as a client:

  • Freelancers make you more financially flexible with an easy-to-manage P&L
  • Asynchronous availability through hybrid and remote working
  • Freelancers usually have specialist knowledge from multiple clients
  • Often more concrete output – the freelancer always wants a satisfied customer
  • Fresh ideas from outside – often from already proven practice with others
  • Freelancers must be up to date, otherwise they lose their value quickly
  • And even if things really go wrong… then you can replace the freelancer more easily

And of course, there is still the Flex Team

The latest trend in marketing work is to hire a group of freelancers who work as a flexible layer with your in-house team. A hybrid ‘in-between’ form of in-house as freelance, which even makes outsourcing to agencies superfluous.

We preach for our own parish of course. But at the same time, the voices we hear from our customers are very clear: marketing executives are looking for better solutions. Simply because the nature of marketing work has changed, a lot.

That is the breath of fresh air that is now blowing through the marketing world. More brainpower, flexible costs and high-quality output… what more could you want?


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