You received the directives for your yearly marketing goals, and now you have to execute. Unfortunately, you know your team is too small and does not have the expertise needed to achieve the results, so you have to choose: 1) Hire several freelancers to get it done or 2) hire an agency.
We will unpack both options and see what works for your company by using a few essential qualifiers to make a comparison. These qualifiers include Timeliness, Cost, Expertise, Availability, and Results.
Timeliness: If you're under the gun and need to execute those KPIs more quickly, agencies typically have more staff on hand and can put more bodies on a project to help move it through faster. Quality agencies also have systems in place to be more efficient at producing large projects. That said, small one-off projects are harder for larger groups of people to move as fast as a single freelancer due to the agency's protocol and processes to get a job started.
Cost: Agencies can be more expensive than freelance help, depending on the situation. If you need more than one freelancer, those costs add up fast. If an average freelance rate runs from $50-$75 an hour and you recruit 3-5 freelancers, you could easily be spending more than the typical blended hourly rate of an agency. The agency can plug the right expert in at the right time, saving you significant time and money.
Expertise: Agencies typically have a staff that covers the gamut of SEO, digital and print design, content development, etc. (make sure you ask the agency about their competencies and internal team while in the hiring process). With all the experts in one room, it makes executing needed tasks to accomplish your marketing goals much easier.
Availability: Your time is valuable. Agencies will allow you to work through one point of contact instead of managing multiple freelancers, thus enabling you to concentrate on results.
Results: With a team of experts working on your project, they can bounce ideas off each other instead of a freelancer working in a sound chamber. Collaboration typically leads to better decisions and, in the end, better results.
Timeliness: If you have a small specific one-off project that needs to get done quickly, a freelancer can be a great option. Depending on the freelancer's availability, this can also be an issue because they have to balance other clients that could possibly cause your project to be put on hold. It is also possible that you bring a freelancer in as a contractor. There are differences between freelancers, contractors and employees, and knowing the distinction is essential. Here is a good article on it.
Cost: Freelancers can significantly save over hiring an agency, particularly on smaller one-off projects or specific tasks. Freelancers in the Denver area range from 50-$125 an hour, depending on the skillset. It would help if you also considered your time in this cost as you will need to potentially spend more time managing the freelancer over an agency.
Expertise: Freelancers typically have expertise in one specific skill set. A specialist can have significant benefits if you have a clear direction and task that needs to be accomplished. You may also have to hire more than one freelancer to get a project completed. This approach can create a disconnect in communication if you are not on top of your project management and are not sharing resources with all the players with a comprehensive project management tool.
Availability: Work can be handed off to a freelancer if you have already strategized and can communicate what you want. Often, freelancers work alone and don’t have a team to help develop ideas outside of their experience, so you will need to be their support to fill in the gaps or provide others who can.
Results: Freelancers can develop great results and under budget. If you are looking for measured results over time, for example, an advertising campaign, you will probably need to hire an agency that has a marketing strategy plan in place for you to help identify metrics that can show results.
Both agencies and freelancers have their place, and the best results depend on your company’s needs and budgets. For example, if you are looking for an omnichannel marketing campaign, an agency is your best bet. On the other hand, if you are looking for a PPC expert to run a specific campaign for you, a freelancer may be the most cost-effective. Use this free template to help score what direction is best for your needs.