In today’s highly competitive market for talent, many companies are exploring different ways to meet their staffing and business objectives. One strategy is to employ contract workers versus direct-hire or permanent employees. At times, hiring contractors and freelancers can be an excellent way to add needed capacity while managing budget constraints, but it shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all approach for adding Creative, Marketing, Digital and Proposal talent. In this post, we highlight some important considerations to keep in mind as you choose between contract vs direct hire employment—no matter which way you’re leaning.  

Permanent employment considerations 

Direct hires are employed and paid by the company, which contributes to the talent’s benefits such as health insurance coverage, 401k retirement plans, insurance liabilities, paid time off and more. A non-compete agreement, signed at will, is the only defined legal restriction placed on permanent employees (also known as perms). In addition, full-time employees enjoy the security that comes with continuity over a longer term.

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For all of these reasons, sought-after professionals—especially those with “high-demand” skill sets—usually work as full-time employees in competitive marketplaces. Generally, they will only move for a better perm job, and then only after serious courting by a hopeful employer who’s reaching out with a candy box of tempting perks. Today, companies find that these recruits are well worth their investment. Direct hire employees in leadership and management positions provide a more stable environment for Digital, Design and Marketing teams. And the longer these talents work at their jobs, the more they can apply knowledge learned on each initiative to improve future campaigns.

Yes, hiring full-time employees can involve heavy training up front, but this decision can pay dividends from that point on. Companies benefit from the loyalty and tenure of permanent hires whose creative, digital and marketing output reflects the pride they feel in being part of an evolving brand and team. Having this level of commitment and exclusivity on board will build stability and help drive company culture in a positive direction. By contrast, contractors often work for many brands and may lack that singular focus. 

Use Case Examples

Highly Strategic Creative, Digital or Specialized Marketing Leaders

Potential employers must be prepared to make these experienced individuals generous job offers - ones including very competitive salaries, job stability, standout perks, insurance coverage, retirement contributions, etc. - to land these coveted professionals.

Roles: Positions involving Growth Marketing, Brand Marketing, Performance Marketing, Digital Marketing, UX/UI Design, Product Design, Social Media Strategy, Social Media Influencer Marketing, Digital Media Management and Digital Directorship 

Customer Segmentation and Audience Strategy Experts

Candidates with these proficiencies are experts in their fields and would join a company at the Senior or Seasoned level, making them best suited to be direct hires. Companies in need of their capabilities may be targeting consumers and/or B2B buyers. Typically, customer segmentation practices are used to personalize campaigns and improve audience experiences, creating better impressions among specific groups of prospective purchasers and brand loyalists. Their industries include financial services, packaged goods and other brands, professional services and more.

Roles: Growth Marketing Manager or Content Strategist (for customer segmentation)

Contract Employment Considerations

Compared to the direct hires that companies employ on a full-time basis, contract employment generally offers more flexibility and cost savings in the near term due to a specified, relatively brief period of engagement. Contractors and freelancers can fill in where needed, or be dedicated to one specific project or initiative. They can be hired as individual contributors at any stage of their career life cycles, (depending on the skills, experience level and knowledge an employer requires), and their roles can easily be added to a scope-of-work agreement. Each engagement is based on an at-will contract, meaning that both employer and employee agree to a defined date when the talent’s assignment will likely end—but either party may withdraw from their agreement at any time. Management of the talent is usually outsourced to the staffing agency, which allows the company’s hiring managers more time to lead and mentor full-time employees.

Contractors tend to be most often utilized by companies that have seasonal business cycles. During times of peak workload demands and in overflow situations, contractors and freelancers are a great option for supplementing the work of permanent employees. Contract talent can also be a wise choice when companies need to execute one-off marketing campaigns. Experienced contractors are excellent “plug and play” design and content resources as they are accustomed to estimating how long a job will take—helping the employer to better control expenses. In addition, these workers are usually adept at quickly comprehending and complying with unique brand standards and creative briefs—another cost-saving advantage of contract vs direct-hire employment. 

Use Case Examples

Seasonal Workload Support

Contract employment tends to be most often utilized by companies with periodic surges in deliverable demands. These include retail, eCommerce, health insurance and other businesses with heavier workloads at different times of the year (i.e., back-to-school promotions, open-enrollment materials, etc.). 

One-off Campaigns and Other Initiatives 

Product launches, rebranding projects and product updates across every industry are all assignments that can be ably performed by contract workers. Specific deadlines are frequently involved, providing an exact fit for the contractor model. 

Utilized most often: Creative/production roles including Digital/Print Designers, Copywriters, Editors/Proofreaders, Presentation Designers, PowerPoint® Specialists, Email Marketing Managers, Project Managers, Media Specialists 

Technology Stack Rollout/MarTech Strategy Planning 

Either a qualified contractor or direct hire could fill these needs, depending on the complexity of the technology stack integration and whether the employee’s participation would be needed after the rollout (if yes, a direct hire may be more cost effective for the employer). Enterprise companies would benefit from a perm employee, while smaller or less complex companies (agencies and mid-market businesses) could benefit from the cost savings generated by a contractor assuming project-based work that has an expected end date. 

Utilized most often: Systems Integrators, Directors of Digital Marketing, Consultants specializing in Salesforce®, Adobe® Workfront, other popular products

So what will it be? Consider factors such as time requirements, cost efficiencies, talent availability, and more. And remember that relying on a specialized staffing partner can help you sort through your question marks and arrive at the choice—and talent—that will best answer your needs and help you reach your business goals.

For information about how Cella can support your Talent needs, please email [email protected]