How much does marketing cost?

Jul 18, 2022

A lot of people have unrealistic expectations for what marketing costs.

And because they don’t understand the costs, they don’t understand what they’re getting when they hire a marketing freelancer, agency, or consultant. Here are some thoughts.

1. You have to pay twice (maybe three times)

You pay for the STRATEGY or the ideas of what to do. You pay for the TIME it takes for a person to do a thing (set up ads, write a blog post, or design a flyer), and you pay the PLATFORM to deliver (ad spend on Google or social media ads).

You could decide to NOT pay for the strategy and hire someone who is really inexperienced and doesn’t understand your business, but then you need to be able to tell your marketer exactly what to do, and honestly the results are usually a lot worse.

2. Creativity and efficiency are in tension

Creativity takes time. Agencies that are highly efficient (or cheap) are only able to do that by NOT being creative. They use templates and swipe files to get things done faster. So if you want it to be ‘perfect’ or ‘unique’ you gotta pay for it.

3. Marketing is a team sport.

Marketing is not one thing. There are lots of different skills required to execute an effective marketing strategy (strategy being one of them). There are a few really talented generalist marketers, but they charge really high rates. Most marketing is done by a team of specialists. That means either you pay for the overhead of an agency with a team, or the overhead of a freelancer subcontracting out parts of the job. Either way, you need to expect somewhere between $80-$250 as the base hourly rate.*

4. Agencies are about 3x the marketing cost of an in-house person (but can do much more)

A full-time, in-house writer might be able to write ~3 articles a week for $1000/wk ($52k per year). An agency will likely charge you ~$4k per month and write 1 article per week. The difference is, an agency is going to provide the strategy for what to write, have a design team to make sure it looks good, understand SEO best practices, and not require other costs of having an employee.

But it’s a real trade-off and for many businesses it eventually makes sense to bring a lot of the hourly marketing work in-house.

*Many marketers don’t charge hourly, they use either ‘value pricing’ or some sort of ‘flat-fee, project-based’ pricing, but they have to make sure they’re profitable and there is usually some sort of ‘agency rate’ that helps them determine what they charge.

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