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What works for you: Freelancer, In-House or Agency?

Most businesses need to outsource some aspects of their operations. Even if you have in-house marketing resource, it’s likely that certain projects will require external help. But what are the benefits of freelancers vs agency marketing support?

GO! Insights

Sam Stanhope, Content Manager
The GO! Network

You've got a new project - maybe it's a big 'add-on' project that will take up your teams capacity, or it's a specialist piece that you don't have time/long-term cause to invest in upskilling the team on.

So, here’s the big question: do you go freelancer, agency or get it done in house? Ultimately, there are a few factors that you need to consider before deciding. Let’s look at the different options, what solutions they offer and what fits best with your overarching goals and strategies.


Freelancers


One of the biggest factors to a business when considering which route to go down is cost. And while profit plays a big part of this, it’s not always best to go for the cheapest option.

When to use a Freelancer


Freelancers are usually the more affordable options of the three. They charge less than agencies because they don’t have to deal with overhead costs. Hiring freelancers also means that you aren’t paying out for equipment or software, because most are already equipped for the job. You also won’t need to spend much time on the training or management of a freelancer.


As for capabilities, you will usually find a freelancer that is specialised in any type of project that you have. Freelancers work with a wealth of different clients, projects and industries, bolstering their portfolio and expanding their experience. It’s highly likely that a freelancer will have worked on a similar project to your own and will have proven results to bring to the table.


A freelancer’s ability to get work depends highly on the feedback they receive and the relationships that they build. As such, it is of their own interest to ensure their work is consistently of a high standard, and they are delivering what the client wants and more.


Flexibility is also a bonus when it comes to freelancers. They are not a long-term commitment and can be re-hired if you need their services again. There is also a level of personal accountability to provide work on time and be available for questions and queries. 

Potential challenges

One of the largest challenges when using a freelancer is their capacity and skillset - if you have a particular niche requirement, this most likely won't be an issue, but if you're looking to expand the scope of a project, you run the risk of hitting a wall. It's common for a smaller business to find themselves hiring multiple freelancers rather than switching to agency support as they grow, and this can lead to a confused marketing team model and a huge amount of time investment.

The other thing to bear in mind is that freelancers are their own managers.  They are used to working remotely and on their own. This isn’t good if you’re someone who enjoys having more involvement in a project. If they become ill or there’s a hiccup in the delivery of a project, you don’t have much control over this. It’s important to use ones that are proven and have a good reputation.


Agencies


There are many benefits to partnering with an agency on a project. Agencies usually work by billing on a monthly basis. Depending on the project or requirement, the cost maybe higher than paying a freelancer, but less than an in-house employee in the long run.

When to use an agency


In the case of control and management, it is very much the agency’s responsibility to run the project in its entirety, from planning through to goal achievements. If a problem is encountered within a project, it is the agency’s job to offer quick solutions to this. A project manager will oversee the experts that are working on the task. You won't need to closely mind the activity of the agency or 'manage' them beyond the point of initial briefing, which can make it a far lighter load in terms of capacity.


Download: Mutual Success - The Best of Brand-Agency Relationships


Because agencies are larger and have teams of people, they are generally much better at managing large amounts of work than a freelancer. An agency also has the advantage of giving an outsider’s perspective on a project. They are experts in their field and will know what’s best for your project from an outsider’s point of view.

The larger amount of resource at their disposal can also often even mean the cost of the project comes in under that of a freelancer, due to the speed they can wrap up at.


It is of a benefit to an agency to build great, long-term relationships with a client in order to win potential further projects. It helps them to grow and have a guaranteed amount of work. As such, they will be wanting to prove themselves and will deliver high-quality work.

Potential challenges

An agency can certainly embed themselves within your business - many successful ones do - but there isn't the same amount of direct individual accountability as when using an individual freelancer. Their motivation to deliver to what you need and do a good job will come down to the quality of the agency.

Download: The Marketing Agency Evaluation Checklist

The other big challenge with finding an agency is the huge amount of choice, and lack of visibility when assessing who's the right fit. Understanding their communication style, project management approach, and other 'internal' factors that might impact your decision won't always be visible straight out the gate, and finding the right one can be time consuming. This challenge is why we exist as a business - you can learn more about that here.



In-house 


For management, an in-house team is the most time-consuming and costly option of the three. More time will be taken up getting involved than it would if a project was sourced out to a freelancer or agency. But again, this depends on what level of involvement you would like. And while an in-house team might produce some good results, their work status doesn’t often depend on the quality that is produced. 

When to stay in-house

In many ways, the want of having an in-house marketing team sounds appealing. In-house teams will be invested in the brand and will benefit from the growth of the business. It's a great option if you need a broader resource that you can shape and develop over time. An example would be if you're a lone marketer looking to expand your capacity to cover a variety of projects, or a larger team looking to add a specific skillset to be used across your marketing strategy.

One bonus of having an in-house team is the direct and constant communication that you can have with them. They are there in the office (unless working remotely,) and you will have a lot of control over your project.

Potential challenges

The main challenge for bringing someone new in house is the costs involved and the budget associated for hiring a team dedicated solely for marketing. Recruiting top talent to come in-house can be difficult, and you’ll need to offer competitive salaries and benefits. You can spend lots of money and time training someone up, and then they could leave, and you must start the process over again.


It’s also unlikely that you’ll be able to get all the skills you need in one place. To improve marketing, for example, you’ll need someone who can do PPC, social media, SEO etc, rather than a marketing team with not many resources.



We hope this has given you something to think about when considering 'freelancer, agency or in-house.' If you think your project would benefit from the support of a best-in-class agency, get in touch here.

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