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Agency vs. Freelancer: How to Choose What’s Right for Your Business

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Dealing with a number of problems when running a company is part of the job.

You must develop new ideas, stay focused on revenue, and connect with your coworkers, among other things. There are several factors to consider; making sure you’re dealing with experts in digital marketing is one of the most important considerations. But how do you decide on whether to work with an agency vs. freelancer?

The way you run your company and the experts you hire are critical factors. You have the option of working with an established digital agency or hiring a freelancer to complete the same work. Both have their pros and cons, and simply speaking, you need to go with what works best for you and your business. That’s why we’ve put together this comprehensive guide to help you make the right choice.

When To Make a Decision

When your business is just starting out, you might have been able to handle digital marketing by yourself. Today’s tools and platforms have made small-scale digital marketing efforts accessible to almost anyone with the time and energy to invest in learning them. But as your business grows and the volume and complexity of tasks you are faced with grows with it, it’s time to leave behind the DIY attitude and hire professionals to handle the ever-changing landscape of digital marketing.

The ideal time to decide on where to source additional professional help is before you get buried in work and become desperate. Choosing between an agency vs. freelancer is an important decision that can either help alleviate your struggles if done right, or cause more problems if done wrong. 

Make sure that you are in a position where you can dedicate enough time and effort to choosing the right option — this way, you can move forward knowing your decision will have the greatest and longest-lasting impact on your business.

Why Is It So Difficult To Choose Between an Agency vs. Freelancers?

The answer is simple: too many options.

A simple Google search for “freelancer” or “agency” will give you millions of results. Far too many to sort through.

The decision to hire marketing professionals — whether they’re freelancers or part of an agency — will not be a standardized solution for every business. You will need to consider factors such as your specific business niche, target audience, sales cycle, and your established business voice, just to name a few.

Agency vs. Freelancer: The Fundamentals

Before you can make a decision about whether a freelancer or agency is best suited for your business, let’s first define what they are.

Freelancer: an independent marketing consultant who works on a part-time basis with a roster of clients. They often have broad experience in a variety of fields, including content and copywriting, social media, SEO, ad production, website development, strategy development, and design.

Digital Agency: A larger team of marketing professionals that is managed by a more standard organizational structure. These teams often consist of specialists with particular skills, so an agency will consist of a team with a wide range of expertise in different industries and in all areas of marketing. The agency leverages the experience of its team to establish comprehensive strategy plans or work on specific client tasks.

Not all businesses will have the same needs, which is why choosing an agency vs. freelancer will not be a clear-cut decision. Both will be vying for your consideration and will aggressively promote their features and benefits. Choosing the right options for your business will require an analysis of the pros and cons of each so that you can make an informed decision.

The Pros and Cons of Agencies vs. Freelancers

There are plenty of advantages and disadvantages on both sides. As we said above, what really matters is what is going to work best for your business and its particular needs. Before we dive into the specific aspects of an agency vs. freelancer attributes, let’s look at how freelancers stack up against agencies in general.

Pricing

Individual freelancers, like agencies, have to be priced competitively to get new clients, but they can charge much less than a larger company because they have no overhead costs beyond paying themselves. This low cost allows you to hire multiple freelancers to cover larger projects, but will require you to hire and manage them all independently. This can get costly very quickly. A marketing agency will have everything built into its pricing model, including access to more experienced employees and a higher level of expertise.

Specialized Skills

Freelancers will sell the skills they have cultivated the most, and they often specialize in a particular skill set like copywriting, SEO, or advertising, to name a few. This narrow skill set can be beneficial to a company that has a specific need, but companies that need a broad range of skills to help them grow will need to hire multiple freelancers to cover their needs. A digital marketing agency consists of a larger team of specialists that covers a wide range of skill sets, ensuring that whatever project you have come up with will be handled effectively.

Creative Involvement

Working with a freelancer gives you direct contact with the person working on your account, allowing you to be involved in the entire creative process. Having a direct line of communication allows the freelancer to quickly get in touch with you if they have any questions about the project. Most agencies are rigid in their communication process, but Uhuru’s hive structure allows us to hyper-communicate directly with our clients and keep them in the driver’s seat at all times.

Agility

A difference in how our agency functions from others is our agile scrum methodology. Working this way has proved to deliver high-quality work within budget and on schedule to clients. We can vouch for it because since adopting an agile framework, we move 50–75% faster. 

The scrum model gives you transparency into what our team is working on and when it’ll be done. If a pivot is required because a new campaign or public relations opportunity needs to be handled ASAP, we’ll be able to make the change seamlessly. Our agile system also allows our team to hyper-focus on their tasks. They can then work through projects in a calculated and purposeful way — and their methods can be continuously measured and changed to maintain constant efficiency.

Replacements

One of the biggest nightmares about working with freelancers is “ghosting.” You go through the whole process of finding, hiring, and educating a freelancer on your business, only to have them disappear without a moment’s notice. This leaves you in the uncomfortable position of not only having to replace them all over again but rushing to complete any unfinished projects that they left you with. 

Hiring a new freelancer may be simple, but it can be difficult getting a new one to pick up where the last one left off. You’ll never have this problem working with an agency since you’ll have a whole team at your disposal instead of just one individual.

Management

Complex projects require multiple skill sets to complete. You may need a writer, developer, graphic designer, or ads manager. One person alone is unlikely to have enough expertise in every field, which means having to hire multiple freelancers to fill the need. 

This requires you to manage a team of individuals to complete these projects on top of running your day-to-day business operations. With an agency, your team is managed externally and is composed of multiple individuals with a wider range of expertise.

Expertise/Experience 

Agency

  • Pros: You’ll get a team of seasoned marketers with a wide variety of expertise if you hire a digital agency. You won’t have to explain your idea to them because they’ll all understand what fits best for your business.
  • Cons: You may not get a say in who you work alongside. The digital agency will assign a marketer to your company from their roster.

Freelancer

  • Pros: When choosing a freelancer, look for someone who excels at meeting your specific requirements. You can find generalists or niche-specific freelancers to help.
  • Cons: Finding one individual with the range of skills you need will be difficult and will most likely require you to hire more than one freelancer. Collaborating with multiple freelancers can be time-consuming and some may overinflate their abilities to land more clients.

Service

Agency

  • Pros: A digital agency will have a contact and support system in place to ensure that your needs are being met, including recurring review meetings to assess the progress being made and your satisfaction with their work. Agencies typically have well-defined processes for achieving goals and delivering work.
  • Cons: An agency may have a rigid structure for the level of service they provide based on their compensation. This can make it difficult to pivot quickly as needed or to add important last-minute projects to the pipeline.

Freelancer

  • Pros: Freelancers are self-employed, and their reputation is crucial to their success. They’ll almost certainly have outstanding support and see to it that the standards you lay out are met. It is in the freelancer’s best interest to strive for success since they want you to tell other company owners about them.
  • Cons: Freelancers have a reputation for being difficult to reach at times and can even go offline without notice. Many freelancers also insist on not working under contracts — which can put you in a difficult position if they don’t deliver on the work they promised.

Prioritization

Agency

  • Pros: Agencies have more resources available to dedicate to high-priority projects. With a larger staff and dedicated specialists, they are able to take on a higher volume of more complicated tasks.
  • Cons: Prioritization of work often comes at a cost, and larger, higher-paying clients will be at the top of the list.

Freelancer

  • Pros: Freelancers typically have fewer assignments than a bigger agency, so they can devote more time to your tasks. If the project is large enough, they may forgo accepting other clients to focus on your work.
  • Cons: Limited resources might mean work takes longer to complete by one individual. There is also the risk of freelancers biting off more than they chew by accepting more clients and projects than they are able to effectively complete.

Versatility

Agency

  • Pros: Their well-defined relationship structure means that you will have more transparency to the work an agency does, and the allocation of hours and resources allows you to reliably plan your business around their ability to deliver.
  • Cons: That same structure can limit the availability of the agency to regular business hours, and unexpected projects or issues can cut into predetermined schedules.

Freelancer

  • Pros: Freelancers often choose freelance work because they don’t want to work during the traditional business hours and can be more flexible in taking on urgent projects with short notice or outside regular working hours.
  • Cons: They’ll often charge extra for weekend or evening work. Their unorthodox work schedules can also make it difficult to arrange meetings or receive timely responses to questions.

Cost

Agency

  • Pros: Most agencies have structured plans that clearly outline what you get for what you pay for. Since you’re paying for highly developed professional services, you can count on the quality of work you receive. Also, payment terms are clearly defined and often flexible depending on your business needs.
  • Cons: An agency’s overhead costs will mean a higher price to the client. 

Freelancer

  • Pros: No overhead means freelancers can charge a lower rate and will price their services competitively to attract more clients.
  • Cons: Lower costs often come with a narrower set of skills, meaning you’ll have to hire multiple freelancers to cover all the needs your project requires. This can get expensive quickly.

Making the Right Decision

When considering an agency vs. freelancers for your business, consider the following in order to pick the best option for your needs:

The Right Experience

Your specific industry or business niche will present its own challenges to any marketing partner. Make sure that the freelancer or agency has experience in that industry or has worked with similar brands in the past. If they are completely clueless about your niche, it may not be worth spending the time and effort to get them up to speed when other options are available.

Proven Performance

Anyone can talk big and make promises, but can they back it up with data? Ask for performance records, case studies, or testimonials from past clients that can prove that they are able to deliver on their promises and drive real results for your business.

Social Proof

As with performance, it’s important to read real reviews from other clients that can show what it’s like to work with an agency vs. freelancers and give you an idea of what to expect from your relationship with them. Make sure that the reviews, testimonials, or referrals are genuine, and don’t be afraid to follow up with them to confirm. Results are important, but the journey you take to get there can be just as important.

Tips From the Professionals

Here are some other tips we’ve encountered that may help you make your decision easier.

  • Check with BBB (Better Business Bureau) for agencies. While not perfect, it can give you a good idea of the reliability and authenticity of an agency, and potentially identify any red flags.
  • Create a separate business email and phone number for contacting potential partners. This way you can protect yourself from spam.
  • Trust your instincts. If something appears too good to be true, it usually is. If you get a bad feeling from a freelancer or agency, step back and reevaluate your position. The worst thing you can do is rush into a relationship that inevitably turns sour.
  • Be cautious when working with freelancers and giving out sensitive business information. Verify the authenticity of anyone you work with before sharing anything like account access.

Need More Information?

It’s clear that there’s no shortage of options for marketing partners, and we hope this guide will help you find the right choice for your brand and business.

Freelancers and digital marketing agencies each have their own sets of pros and cons, but in many cases, partnering with an agency will solve the majority of your business issues and allow you to tackle any challenges that arise head-on. 

If you’re leaning toward working with a marketing agency to help you scale your business, schedule a free one-on-one consultation with one of our marketing consultants. There are no obligations, and you’re not signing your life away by scheduling a chat; we want to show you what we can do for you and see if we’re the right fit for you, just as much as you are for us.

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Written by

Shelby Crawford

Inbound Marketing Manager

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