Hiring an expert can sometimes be tricky with communication and trust key to success. Here, one of our writers gives some valuable insight from when she tried to hire a marketing specialist.
My first experience of hiring someone to help me with my business turned out semi-disastrous. I want to share all the things that went wrong when I simply wanted to run ads on Instagram.
This is in no way an accusation but a mere reflection on the things to keep in mind in the future.
Why I Needed A Marketing Specialist In The First Place
Since I work as an education consultant, a part of my job focuses on pro-bono work with youth striving to apply to international universities.
Earlier this year, I started a project that aims to share information about educational opportunities with the younger generation.
The project consists of two parts: a series of educational webinars which I held in May and a number of expert pieces providing actionable advice on the application process.
There were five webinars in total, each focusing on opportunities for either undergraduates, graduates, young specialists, musicians, or volunteers.
In order to attract more youth who could benefit from the project, I considered promoting the project on social media. And that’s how I came to a conclusion that the project would benefit from the help of a marketing specialist. Let’s call him ‘Bob’.
Time Management Isn’t My Strong Suit
Having set extremely unrealistic expectations for myself, my first mistake had to do with timing. When I planned the project in April, I needed to focus on three main points:
- Creating content for webinars and articles
- Providing marketing materials, i.e. photos and text for ads
- Outlining the goals for the marketing campaign.
The Best-Case Scenario Rarely Works For Me
When setting deadlines for when I needed to prepare the materials, I used super optimistic estimates of how long it will take me to prepare and edit all the information and PowerPoint presentations.
Here’s what I assumed:
- There will be no interruptions while I’m working.
- Information will be easily sourced and found online.
- I will stay productive throughout the time slots I allocate for content creation.
In retrospect, I understand that it was silly to assume all that. I would get tired after 30-60 minutes of intense work, the distractions were everywhere from snacks to social media, and some scholarships were nowhere to be found.
Although now I’m getting better at setting expectations both for myself and others, a few months ago it was still a hot topic for me. So was it for Bob.
What To Do When The Service Provider Misses Deadlines?
When it comes to deadlines, I have a love-hate relationship with them. And although I do my best at keeping in touch if something takes longer than expected, sometimes I forget to do so because of perfectionism, being afraid or overwhelmed.
I understand that other people may struggle with setting time-bound goals, too. That was the case for the marketing guy as well.
He really put my diplomacy to the test because he delayed sending a report three times a week every time and managed to squeeze in a week-long vacation there without any prior notice.
That was another hard lesson that helped me refine my boundaries and communication skills. Here’s what I thought our work with Bob would look like.
Were My Expectations Too High?
Being a very structured person, I implement this skill at work. To optimise processes, I have a written plan with steps I use when preparing for a consultation or a mentoring session. And I expect other specialists to know what they’re doing, too.
Such an approach helps my clients organise their thoughts and achieve the results they set out for themselves.
In the situation with ‘Bob’, I expected to be treated the way I treat my clients. I needed someone to outline the steps that will help me achieve my goals.
The reason why I couldn’t do it all myself is because I believe that everyone should be doing what they do best. I knew very little about marketing techniques, average cost per click, and would much rather have a professional do it for me.
However, when it came to the actual work, I made the biggest mistake of all.
I Wanted The Marketing Guy To Read My Mind
Well, sort of. My mistake was starting to work with the specialist without actually discussing all the details upfront. I know, it sounds horrible.
If I were to start all over, I would communicate with them differently.
First, I would ask for a consultation. There I’d share what I want, when I want it, and how much involvement I can promise.
I would expect to get professional opinion about whether or not my goals and timing were realistic and if the specialist would be able to deliver them. After that, I would definitely ask for the outlined plan to be included in the contract.
Alternatively, I think I could request a small service from a specialist before diving deep into a long-term project.
Things To Consider When Hiring A Specialist
For the future me, I’ve come up with a little procedure that will hopefully be useful when working with other specialists:
- Does the person have media presence? Do you like their style and personal brand?
- When contacting them, how do they communicate?
- Does their approach to work align with yours? Do you require a flexible approach or a strategy-based approach?
- Have you seen their previous work? If not, can you pay for a small service to see if you will get along?
- Do they use many professional words without explaining their importance?
- Do they give you options, concrete actions, or vague promises for the results you need?
- If you don’t know the best result you can achieve with what you got, are they helping you word it?
- Do they conduct market analysis of what others are doing in the industry?
Project management is hard. Planning long into the future isn’t always feasible, thus, it’s important to be flexible and change expectations and deadlines as you go.
I would recommend scheduling twice the amount of time you think it will take you to complete a task because life gets in the way and the best-case scenarios rarely work.
Communication is key. From expectations to concerns, it’s important to give each other feedback so that no one holds a grudge against the other person.
Hopefully, my experience will give you some idea about what it might be like going into a partnership unprepared. And although this whole situation was really putting my assertiveness to the test, I’m glad that I learnt so much from it.
More tips from Ekaterina here:
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