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CMO-on-the-Go: How Gig Workers Can Benefit Your Marketing Department

Chief Marketing Officer

The average tenure of a CMO is just over 4 years—the shortest in the C-suite. Why? With the pressure to hit revenue goals, burnout is becoming next to inevitable. That’s where gig work comes in. Being a CMO-on-the-Go allows Chief Marketers to set their own schedule and take on only what they know they can handle, resulting in higher quality work and better results for the bottom line.

Yet, companies continue making critical strategic decisions without the benefit of a CMO’s perspective, despite the expertise in growing company revenue they bring to the table. That’s where executive-level gig workers come in to play. They can serve as a CMO for brands on a part-time basis, saving brand the cost of hiring a CMO who will likely only be around for a few short years.

A fractional CMO gig is different from being a consultant; it entails interacting with the C-suite and boards as a part of the team, with deep integration into daily operations.  As a CMO participating in the gig economy, I have responsibilities that mirror those of a full-time CMO. I lead marketing teams to achieve strategic goals and report to the CEO. I just do this on a fractional basis. Like many gig economy workers, I’ve found jobs through the network of contacts I developed when I was on a more traditional work path, including being the fractional CMO for Abuelo’s, The Cookie Department and others.

Why Gig Workers?

One of the most frequently asked questions I’m asked is: What do gig workers bring to marketing departments? One huge benefit is that a gig worker delivers fresh insights when she joins a team of long-term employees. This arrangement delivers the best of both worlds — “fresh eyes” from the newcomer and institutional knowledge from the full-time team.

According to PayScale, the median salary for a CMO is $168,700. Many companies, startups especially, can’t afford to hire someone at that salary full time, but a gig CMO can bring the same years of experience and leadership at a much lower cost. If the permanent marketing team resists the temptation to treat the gig CMO as an outsider and involves the part-timer in all relevant decisions, the company will get the full benefit of an experienced and accomplished professional without the hefty price tag.

Another advantage is that a gig arrangement can allow companies and executives to test drive a more permanent relationship. While many gig workers (like me) are perfectly content to work on a contract basis and value the flexibility and variety, others would likely entertain coming on board full time for the right position. A gig arrangement allows both parties to explore that before making a commitment.

Tips for CMOs Looking to Make the Transition

If you’re a CMO and starting to feel burnt out, it might be time to explore how you can bring your marketing expertise to companies on a contract basis. Reach out to former colleagues and let them know you’re interested in gig work. Don’t forget to include vendors in your outreach — they typically have an inside view of multiple organizations and can provide leads when executive exits result in an open seat.

One of the top barriers cited in freelance work is income unpredictability. Before taking the plunge, make sure you’re prepared for the financial ebbs and flows that inevitably occur in freelance work. Make sure you’re prepared financially and emotionally to forge ahead during lean times. When a marketing professional enters the gig economy with eyes wide open, it can be an incredibly fulfilling and rewarding life.

When organizations embrace the advantages of hiring freelance marketing executives, the relationship can be mutually beneficial. Gig CMOs can provide new insights, affordable expertise and positive impacts to the bottom line. In turn, the gig worker has flexibility, rewarding work and less burnout.

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