With the constant growing demands to a business owner or manager, it can feel like you are juggling way too many responsibilities that do not fit in the limited number of hours in a day. This is why delegating, and possible outsourcing work has become a strong practice in leading a successful business tactic. In doing so, you may face a common dilemma: whether to hire a freelancer or a digital agency to complete your projects. This article can be used as a starter guide, outlining what the agency and freelance are, their advantages and drawbacks – ultimately placing you in a better position in picking the right workforce to best suit you!
What Is A Content Creation Agency Do?
A digital or content creation agency is essentially a cohort hired by a customer, the company, to provide marketing assistance from strategic design to on-field execution. They usually agree to carry the ‘grunt’ work, while the company representative, such as a brand manager, can focus on the internal company goals and overseeing final execution.
The brand manager works through an authoritative system, deciding the – overall direction, necessary iterations, dispensing of responsibility and setting deadline timetables. Although there may be a little wiggle room within the agency amongst peers, it is the brand manager that decides what projects needs to be worked upon.
A competitive digital agency would ideally draft a group of well-polished skilled marketing professionals that can cater to all the different needs that may arise during a marketing project execution including –
- Web Design and Development
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Content Marketing
- Paid Online Advertising
- Social Media
- Email Marketing
Their aim would be to a one-stop all solution for any online business needs that the company may require. In doing so, they can set up contracts based on individual project resource requirements, working hours and final deliverables. These contracts usually contain a confidential clause, especially for large companies working on large marketing campaigns for new products.
If the agency proves to satisfy the brand managers expectations, they would be more willing to extend the agencies contract to other projects, and avoid going through the beginning learning curve with a new agency.
What Are Freelancers?
A freelancer is a self-employed individual who offers professional services, usually for a project at a time, in return for an agreed upon payment. They may be poised to work on several jobs for multiple clients at one time.
Their contract is structured on a per-job bases and can be charged hourly, weekly or on specific project milestones as initially decided by the client. The contracts are usually short-term, but can be altered according the demands of the project.
Since the freelancer works alone, meaning they aren’t under obligated to work for one company – they can choose to handle multiple projects across different clients. This may not be the case if the customer/company chooses to keep a freelancer under a retainer. A retainer, is an agreed upon sum of money given for a dedicated amount of time of work.
With a retainer in place, the freelancer would receive the retainer fee, regardless of the amount of time being exhausted or not. For a freelancer to be considered for a retainer, they need to prove their value to the customer. Usually, freelancers value is assessed by the following factors:
- Work experience
- Referral from other industry professionals
- Technical professional skills
- Ratings – from past projects and clients
- Own Portfolio or websites
How To Decide Which To Hire?
Agencies or Freelancers, ultimately the correct decision to hire, lies in figuring out the most appropriate match with the project and how the customer/company operates. These can be broken down into the following factors:
While an agency has a large team of marketing professionals, the freelancer is a independent marketing consultant.
An agency would have a structured communication practice in place that can involve a lot of in person meetings. The freelancer usually works remote and largely work on their own timeline.
Since Agencies are working to build their own reputation, they provide a sound legal and official guarantee for good quality work. Freelancer may lack credibility and security as there isn’t much official document exchange amongst parties.
Agencies usually have a fixed cost structure tailoring to the specific company, while freelancer usually adopt a low hourly cost based on the project.
Long Term Relationships
Freelance developers don’t usually prefer long term relationships and usually end their contract upon a deliverable. On the other hand, agencies build long term relationships providing extended services like updates, bug fixes to their project.
Freelancers are flexible with their work hours, where as agencies usually resort to the traditional 9 -5 business hours.
As you can see, both the agencies and the freelancer commit themselves quite distinctively to different factors going into a project. In order to be thorough, lets dive deeper into the benefits and drawbacks to employing the freelancer or the agency.
Benefits Of Using A Freelancer
Most often, freelancers have served as experts in the marketing field and have acquired a great deal of experience under their belt. They can often provide a specific niche skill which can otherwise prove to be difficult in completing a distinct project.
Freelancer are often the least expensive option when hiring from outside. Especially if your company is in its infancy stages, such as a startup, they are focused on cost-cutting and looking for utility solutions that freelancers can easily provide.
The highly qualified freelance can build their work schedule catering to the needs and priorities of the project. This can include making travel arrangements to the customer offices and operating outside normal business hours. This is especially true if the freelancer is working through an online platform.
Drawbacks of Using a Freelancer
Sine the freelancer is the sole worker, it is possible for projects to reach a stand still due to unexpected interferences such as illness, time zone differences or family emergencies. This lack of credibility or project security is due to the informal nature of transaction with the customer – there is no official guarantee signed binding them to the completion of the project.
Replacing a stranded project with a new freelancer can be costly both time and money wise. Additionally, since the freelancer isn’t bound to work in a particular style, it may be confusing or even impossible for someone else to take over the project half way through.
Juggling Multiple Projects
Since freelancers usually work for multiple clients handling different projects, poor time management could lead to a deadline crash. They can be overworked, spreading their talent thinly resulting in a failure in delivering projects at the right time or quality.
Weak leadership Skills
Freelancers usually tend to operate best by themselves and may have weak managerial skills. Projects that require delegation and progress supervision may fall through the cracks with a freelancer. This is especially applicable when the freelancer is working remotely.
Limited Adaptable Skills
A freelancer may not be able to cope with a project that goes through unexpected changes or modifications. They are usually limited to the skill set as conveyed in the very beginning. Any full-scale solutions that expand into multiple disciplines would need a larger team.
The recipe to a successful project manager is one who is intimately aware of the company, the market and their customers. To find this in a freelancer may be quite difficult, and may require some training and knowledge sharing to get them up to speed.
Benefits of Using an Agency
One of the biggest advantages to hiring an agency is the access to a multi-disciplinary team catering to all the diverse needs of the project – from design, development and deployment. Since the agency works as one, the final output is consistent and polished.
They are usually well organized and coordinated within the team. This can help tackle complex projects that demand for expert and precise decision making for smooth working. The team tends to grow their expertise in the field, the longer they work together in the industry.
Post Project Support
Agencies offer ongoing support that extends beyond the project implementation. They have the manpower to create the necessary follow ups, analysis and user feedback for creating future iterations. This is especially valuable in todays ever expanding digital projects that are constantly changing to adapt to the consumer base.
Maintaining legal and Confidential Codes
Agencies act as a separate business entity, thus provide a legal and official guarantee to their customers. This becomes a prime importance for customers/companies that value the secrecy to their projects – like releasing a new product line etc.
Adapting to Changing Trends
As the sector is quite competitive, agencies look to differentiate themselves by constantly evolving and adapting to the latest technologies to implement within their projects. This means that when they aren’t active on a project, they are constantly sharpening their technical skills to provide an effective consultation when called upon.
Drawbacks of Using an Agency
With great quality service comes a great cost. Agencies tend to charge more than freelancers. The agencies higher pay is not just a reflection of their skilled team, but their need to cover the overhead costs such as office spaces, staff etc.
The initial agreement needs to be well structured by the customer to avoid paying for over time. Agencies usually work closely with the customer in drafting the payment agreement. They tend to provide multiple package services tailoring the customers project needs.
Agencies are an organization themselves. This means there could lack a certain flexibility when providing to the consumers project such as – working at non-office hours or having impromptu meetings on site. They are however very goal oriented and would look to satisfy the consumer through conventional business practices.
In the cases where there is a large group of expertise working on a project, a client may find it difficult to communicate with the specific person rendering a service to the project. Usually, the team in an agency would have set up an internal communication system to mitigate such issues.
When it comes to picking your choice between and agency or a freelancer it comes down the subjective needs of the project and company requirements. Although the advantages and drawbacks for both options have been listed, each of them will certainly work to their best to satisfy your business need.
In general, if your project is of a small scale and doesn’t require a holistic talent involvement choosing a freelancer may be your right choice.
Hope this article has allowed you to be better informed when having to choose between a freelancer and an agency. Please feel free to leave your thoughts and comments below!