What are the costs?
Payscale.com shows that the average rate for a junior-level digital strategist is just over $60,000 per year. An experienced digital strategist, that is one who has 10-20 years of experience, can net upwards of $100,000 per year. Why is this important? You must consider the level of involvement you’ll need. We can tell you that many clients overestimate how much time they need from a digital strategist. A digital strategist can often be tacked on to an existing marketing team to enhance the optimization efforts of their overall marketing strategy. Bringing in a consultant at 10-20 hours per week can be a quarter or half as much as hiring someone full time.
We’d all like to say we work hard, but when you are working as a consultant you need to prove yourself every single month. A salaried employee often times has a bit longer leash. Additionally, if you’re not happy with a consultant, it is much easier to part ways than it is with a salaried employee. No severance, no medical nor taxes, just more of a “See ya later.” This is typically easier for most organizations as the lack of red tape makes it easier on both parties, but also ensures that the relationship is about results, and not just crossing your fingers about your new hire.
At the end of the day…
There are a lot of companies that hire digital strategists in-house and they are typically doing tons of digital marketing tactics each week. However in my experience that is a small subset of clients. When your digital strategy is a compliment to your overall marketing efforts typically it does not warrant a full-time employee. Obviously we are biased, but check the numbers yourself and weigh a cost-benefit analysis. Will you get upwards of $100,000 + benefit costs in return for that full-time employee? What about the $50,000 with no extra benefits to a consultant? It’s a decision that should be made with careful analysis, but think about it this way, why not dip your toe in the water before diving all in?