Whether you’re a new business or you’re looking to revamp your marketing team, you may be wondering about whether to hire a freelancer versus an agency. There are lots of options out there, but your time is valuable. Making the right choice can improve your return on investment and get you results, faster.
First, we recommend to create a rough outline of your marketing strategy needs. Many teams don’t have an exact idea of what work they need before they enter into a relationship with a marketing agency or freelancer. After all, that may be the whole reason you’re hiring an expert.
However, taking even simple steps to determine the full scope of what you need can help you identify the level of expertise you’re looking for. Try to segment and prioritize your upcoming projects so it’s easier to figure out how a marketing freelancer or agency can help.
You’ll want to be deliberate about your interviewing process. Hiring an agency or marketing freelancer is definitely a “measure twice, cut once” opportunity for your organization.
Outline the skills, personality and qualifications of your next marketing person or agency hire, just like you would a brand-new position at your organization. Writing out your marketing “job description” can be a good way to narrow your targets.
And finally, you’ll want to keep in mind the importance of finding a solution that’s a cultural fit. No matter who you hire, make sure they’re a good fit culturally for your team.
For example, if your organization values process and organization, you’ll want to ensure the freelancer or agency has a defined way they communicate upcoming projects, work and its success.
All that considered, there’s an array of options businesses of all sizes can use to fill or support their marketing teams. Here’s a look at how an agency versus freelancer compares so you can make an informed decision.
Benefits of Working with a Freelance Marketing Consultant
A freelance marketing consultant is an individual who specializes in a form of marketing, such as email marketing, paid search, graphic design or copywriting. A freelancer can work with your business in the following ways.
- Look at what you’re currently doing and suggest ways to improve it
- Answer marketing-related questions and provide insights and recommendations when you need them
- Recommend marketing freelancers for specific projects
- Train your team to perform basic marketing tasks, like posting social media updates
- Help key stakeholders in your company understand the cost benefits and return on investment you can get from marketing efforts
Freelancers are becoming more common in all types of industries these days. According to Statista, the number of freelance workers in the U.S. grew from 53 million in 2014 to 59 million in 2020. It’s projected that by 2027, there will be 86.5 million people freelancing in the U.S., making up nearly 51% of the total U.S. workforce.
Some full-time professionals freelance on the side, while others work as freelance marketing consultants full-time. Some of the benefits of working with a freelance marketing consultant are:
- Cost: Freelance marketing consultant cost can vary widely, but it’s typically less expensive than hiring an agency. When you hire an agency, you may have to pay a more expensive monthly retainer contract. With a freelancer, you could pay per project and save.
- Close relationship: Freelancers must meet their clients’ needs in order to have a freelance business. That means your business (the client) benefits from being able to have close contact with a freelancer to get your needs met. This may also be true on the agency side, but know that with an agency, you may be working with multiple team members who were assigned to you. With a consultant, you’re in control of who you work with. You’ll be able to get to know each other better than you would your agency team, which may benefit your working relationship.
- Match projects to expertise: Take a look at a freelancer network like Upwork or Fiverr, and you’ll see thousands of marketing experts with specific skills to match your exact project needs. When you hire an agency, there’s always a chance that their knowledge isn’t exactly what you’re looking for. You may end up having to supplement with a freelancer anyway.
Considering cost, the one-on-one connection you can form and the ability to find the exact skillset you need, working with freelance marketers or freelance marketing consultants may be a fit for your business. Some businesses choose to work with a whole team of freelancers and assign work as it’s needed.
Another perk to working with freelancers is that they’re easier to replace. If a freelancer fails to meet your needs on a project, you don’t have to work with them again. It can be more difficult to replace an agency or find better work when you’re already locked into an agency contract.
Benefits of Hiring an Advertising Agency
Advertising agencies are companies with larger teams of digital marketing experts. These marketing specialists typically work with a variety of clients.
Each agency’s operations model will be different. Some ensure certain employees only work with certain clients, so that deeper client-agency relationships are built.
Like mentioned, advertising agencies may require contracts or retainers that are more long-term than freelancers.
Advertising agency rates may also be higher than freelancers, since the agency is responsible for their own overhead. While agencies may have access to a much bigger pool of resources (things like video production, expertise across multiple disciplines or deep expertise within a specific industry or marketing channel), you may be paying for resources the agency has that you might not need.
That being said, there are some benefits to hiring an advertising agency your business may be interested in.
- Expertise: Since advertising agencies typically employ larger teams, that means an agency may also have a wider breadth of expertise. That’s why larger companies with bigger budgets may prefer the agency route. Agencies may have much more combined experience in their ranks. Since they work with higher numbers of clients and may work with bigger corporations, an agency can pass on that knowledge to other clients and apply the best practices they’ve learned.
- Predictability: Agency processes are well-outlined. Businesses that work with them typically get detailed decks explaining strategy and process. Agencies are also able to predict return on investment based on other campaigns. The structure and professionalism an agency offers can help businesses understand their marketing investment. That can be a benefit, but agency process could also limit flexibility for your business if you have a specific need that disrupts the process.
- One-stop-shop: Advertising and marketing agencies typically employ a wide variety of experts, so their clients can get all their needs met by the agency. Businesses may be able to look at a menu of services and create a custom plan. Freelancers typically specialize in only one field or a few, so businesses will usually have to find multiple freelancers in different areas to get all their marketing needs met.
- Production value: For big-budget campaigns and complex brand initiatives, an agency may have better tools and production value available. Agencies provide creative services and can bring large teams together to brainstorm and execute campaigns. Depending on the impact you want a campaign to make and the reach of that campaign, it may be worth enlisting an agency that has the necessary experience.
Working with an advertising or marketing agency may be best for brands that can afford it, who need a lot of structure, who can deal with “fitting in the agency box,” and that have lots of production or complex brand/creative needs.
Large corporations can certainly work with freelancers and may prefer to do so. But companies that have lots of projects and big production value needs may find it easier to get agency help rather than having to assemble their own team of reliable freelancers.
Your Marketing Hiring: Final Considerations
There are also solutions out there that combine the best of both worlds, like smaller advertising agencies that employ a team of specialized freelancers. Whatever route you go, remember to:
- Identify your needs.
- Write out a job description to stay focused.
- Prioritize finding a cultural fit as you interview candidates.
Your marketing team will have a major impact on your business. Whether it’s a solo freelancer, team of freelancers or agency, you’ll want to optimize the results you can get with the right fit.