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How to Decide: Marketing Agency vs. Freelancer

By Carter Severns on

So you’re a B2B company that wants to communicate with its customer base. You want to develop your brand, message like a pro, and engage your audience. Sounds like Marketing 101, right? Well, it pretty much is. The problem, of course, is figuring out how to do that. Should you hire an agency? An in-house team? Or should you use freelancers for your B2B marketing?

As infuriating as it might be, my response to all of those questions is patently generic – it depends. Yeah, I get it. You’re here for something more definitive than political speak, but it’s true. Choosing the best way to drive down the B2B marketing road really does depend on things like goals, resources, time, expertise, and a laundry list of other critical factors.

So to build on my previous thoughts on agencies and in-house-teams, today I want to spend some time on the opposite side of the coin – comparing marketing agencies and freelancers. Now am I going to tell you exactly what to use and send you off on your merry way? Nope. But I’m certainly going to bring up some good points, provide a bunch of killer information, and help you decide what’s best for you and your B2B marketing. Sound like a plan? Awesome.

Using Freelancers for Your B2B Marketing

Although probably unnecessary, I define a freelancer as someone that works for themselves, a mercenary for your marketing that you can hire for either a one-off task or series of jobs without an ongoing obligation. Thanks to the internet and an absolutely thriving gig economy, there’s no shortage of freelancers available for your marketing efforts.

Freelancer Benefits

 

  • Freelancers tend to be highly specialized. Need someone with long-form writing experience on the financial services sector? A still-life photographer in Austin for an Instagram campaign? Or maybe a paid media specialist? There’s definitely a freelancer out there – most likely quite a few – that’ll fit the bill.
  • The many freelance platforms available to you – Upwork, Fiverr, and even Craigslist, although that can get a bit dicey – make it easy to access those specialized skillsets.
  • Freelancers can provide an extreme amount of flexibility without adding additional fixed costs to your payroll. While not as expensive as an in-house solution, agencies have margins, benefits, rent, and several other financial demands. Yes, there are expensive freelancers out there, but you’ll rarely have an issue finding one that fits within your budget.
  • Some freelancers prefer to work on retainer, while others are more than happy with one-off projects. You can choose whatever suits your project and needs best.

Freelancer Drawbacks

 

  • Dependability can be an issue with freelancers. They’re not on a payroll – either yours or an agency’s – and therefore lack the immediate consequences of poor performance. Sure, if a freelancer misses deadlines for several clients or produces shoddy work, at some point it will catch up with them. Over the short-term, however, they can fumble the ball on your project and simply move on to the next client.
  • Professionalism and fit are other potential hazards with freelancers. Since they don’t work in your office and aren’t familiar with your culture or the personalities within your organization, freelancers don’t always play well with others. If egregious enough, such clashes can hurt your project and disrupt your team.
  • Reviews, second drafts, and editing can quickly turn into a nightmare with some freelancers. Since many of them are juggling multiple clients at once, they won’t necessarily give you the attention that you need to fine-tune your project past the first draft.
  • Freelancers won’t necessarily be familiar with your brand, making the tone and feel of your copy and design challenging to capture.
  • The more freelancers you use on a project, the more fractured and segmented your workflow becomes. A seamless flow and freelance work typically don’t go hand-in-hand.

Using an Agency for Your B2B Marketing

As you’ll see, using an agency provides many of the benefits of freelancers afford you while eliminating most, but not quite all, of the drawbacks.

Agency Benefits

 

  • Although usually more expensive than freelancers, agencies are still less costly than an in-house team.
  • Like freelancers, an agency will have specialists on staff for specific needs like paid media, copywriting, SEO, and design.
  • Agencies add a level of professionalism and accountability that freelancers can often lack.
  • Since agencies work as a team, they don’t suffer from the segmented workflow that can accompany freelancers
  • An agency is flexible, letting you expand your marketing without adding to your fixed costs or investing the time to ramp-up a new employee.
  • Agencies collect experience from a variety of companies and industries, giving your marketing a comprehensive, far-reaching perspective
  • Working with an agency instills a far greater level of accountability. Agency employees have coworkers and managers to answer to when they drop the ball, whereas freelancers only answer to themselves.

Agency Drawbacks

 

  • While an agency affords a far more streamlined experience than a group of freelancers, they still don’t work under your roof, sometimes making communication inefficient.
  • Similar to a freelancer, some agencies allocate their time by the size of the client contract. If you happen to be a smaller client in their book, an agency might not give you the amount of time and attention you need.
  • Agency fees can seem a bit nebulous, especially hourly rates. Granted, some freelancers charge an hourly rate as well, but you’ll pay most of them per project.

Ultimately, as I said up top, it really comes down to your needs. If you have some copy to write for a single project, it makes more sense to find a capable and reliable freelancer than hiring an agency. However, if you need copywriting, design, paid media, SEO, or any other combination of needs on an ongoing basis, an agency can be a very effective solution. This is especially true relative to the investment of time and money needed to expand an in-house team or the unreliable, segmented nature of a group of freelancers.

Read Next: How to Decide: Marketing Agency vs. In House

Long story short, let your needs determine your solution. But if you’re looking for a combination of cost-efficiency, flexibility, professionalism, and expertise, a really good agency is tough to beat. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

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