Pros and Cons of Using a Freelancer vs. an Agency

by blackwoodimpact

Small businesses have options when it comes to outsourcing marketing and branding work; you can choose to work with a freelancer or with an agency. Each option has its benefits and pitfalls. The choice you make will come down to finding the right fit for you and your company at a cost you can afford. In this article, Blackwood Impact Group will explore the pros and cons of working with both entities so that you can make the most informed decision.

The Pros of Hiring Freelancers

Freelancers are typically a cost-effective option.  They often work solo and from their home. As such, they don’t have overhead costs (i.e.: office space or employee benefits) worked into their pricing, so it keeps their rates lower. You can find freelancers with pricing across the board so you can continue interviewing until you find one whose pricing and skillset fits into your budget.

Another benefit of working with a freelancer is being able to work closely with them. They are usually easy to reach. They don’t take hours or days to respond to your emails and phone calls. Additionally, they tend to be very quick to make your requested changes or adjustments to your work when it is not satisfactory. Freelancers work contractually so when the project is over, there is no need to keep paying them.

Freelancers are ideal to work with when you have a specific need or project. They tend to be laser-focused regarding what they do. They typically don’t offer a wide variety of services, so you are usually paying for their specialized skills. Freelancers are a great choice when you are launching a new initiative or have a small, one-off project to roll out. They also are an excellent fit for marketing projects that don’t require regular updates.

Freelancers are an excellent option for smaller businesses, whether you have a limited budget,  just a few staff members, or both. Freelancers with specialized skills can enhance your company’s capacity, or they can serve as your pseudo-in-house team if you are hiring several at once for a particular project.  It typically takes six positions to fulfill a marketing initiative, and freelancers can fill in the gaps in your team.

The Cons of Hiring Freelancers

Some freelancers need to be given a lot of direction so that they can produce exactly what you need. This can be challenging if you don’t know what you want or don’t have your marketing objectives clear. You may not have the time to walk them through everything because you are busy in other areas of your business.

Freelancers often work solo and are their own boss, so sometimes they can be unavailable. This could be due to their own vacation time, sickness, or personal emergencies that may arise in their lives. Because they work alone, when they are unavailable, work on your project might temporarily be put on pause.

Sometimes freelancers have work overload. Others may have some poor time management skills, mainly if they are new freelancers. You may need to take a very hands-on approach to manage them and ensure they are sticking to deadlines and producing at a rate that keeps your project on track.

On rare occasions, freelancers might disappear on you and your project. They may become unresponsive for a period of time or indefinitely. Alternatively, they may formally quit your job, or you might terminate their contract because things aren’t working out. Whatever the reason, it can be challenging to find a replacement when you’ve lost or let a freelancer go. Sometimes, you may not be able to receive what they have been working on for you from them. It may cause your new freelancer to begin from scratch.

It can also be challenging to manage multiple freelancers at one time. They are not your employees, and they may all have different working styles and schedules. Some of your freelancers may not get along with each other. In these cases, you have to be very intentional about managing egos and coordinating schedules for group meetings. You will also need to provide a lot of leadership and guidance to ensure all of the moving parts work well together to produce an excellent final result.

The Pros of Hiring an Agency

Agencies shine on larger projects and initiatives. They have more people on hand and resources at their disposal to handle the details of in-depth projects. Depending on your needs, this can be a massive advantage over working with a freelancer who has one specialized skill.

Some agencies have experience in different industry verticles. Their prior experience can bring invaluable insight into your initiatives and increase the likelihood of your campaign being successful.

When you work with an agency, you typically get a structured working relationship. Accountability points and check-ins are built into the process. You will likely be assigned a Project or Account Manager who will communicate with you regularly and keep your tasks on schedule. They are typically the ones managing the relationships with everyone who has a hand in working on your project (be they freelancers, outside contractors, or internal team members) so you don’t have to.

When you work with an agency, you are more likely to be entering a long-term relationship. They are less likely to be totally unresponsive or just disappear.  Even if there is a change in team members or Project Managers, you likely won’t feel a big difference. The agency will work to make sure any transitions or staffing changes are seamless and you don’t see or feel any adverse effects.

The Cons of Hiring an Agency

Simply put, working with an agency is more expensive. Agencies charge higher rates than freelancers by several factors. They typically have the overhead of their physical office space, plus employee salaries and benefits. Additionally, they outsource talent and usually add on to those freelancer rates because they are the ones providing the project management.

Sometimes your project needs a specialized skill, and your agency might not have the required talent in-house. When they secure a freelancer on your behalf, you will be paying a higher rate than if you hired the freelancer directly.  Also, not every firm may have prior experience to draw from to relate to your industry or your goals. If you are the first, it will be a learning experience on both sides of the table.

Communication with your agency might lag for several reasons. For one, your Project Manager might have an overload of concurrent projects and may not respond to your call or email the same day you reach out. In other cases, you may not be allowed to directly communicate with individuals working on specific aspects of your project. The agency’s policy might be to have the Project Manager facilitate a three-way conversation. This lengthier communication process can cause your project to move at a slower pace than you might prefer.

Making Your Decision

Who should you choose to work with: a freelancer or an agency? The answer will depend on several factors. You’ll need to have a clear understanding of what you are looking to accomplish, whether or not a short or long-term relationship is beneficial, and how much you can afford to spend.

Hiring freelancers could be a great fit for your business if you only have small, one-off projects that are not too robust. Freelancers are also a good option if you have a clear marketing strategy in place and can relate your wants and needs clearly to your freelancer. If you have the time and willingness to dedicate to managing a team of freelancers, then hiring them will undoubtedly be a cost-effective solution.

Working with an agency is best when your company is approaching the “mid-market range” in terms of size and revenue. At that size, you likely have the budget to afford agency-level services.  Choosing an agency is also great when you have tight deadlines, more robust projects, and if you don’t want to invest time into managing marketing specialists.

Before you hire an agency or a freelancer, be sure you have an excellent grasp of your marketing objectives and strategy. You want to avoid hiring the wrong freelancer or agency Blackwood Impact Group is here to help you establish your marketing strategy, plus vet, engage, and manage your external marketing team. With our Agency Management Service, we help you understand what you are paying for as well as the analytical results of your campaigns, whether you are working with a freelancer or an agency. If you’d like to see how this might work for you, contact us today for a no-obligation consultation.