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Marketing Pros & Cons: In-House, Agency or Freelancers

By Angelica Fierro on

Trying to determine the best route for growing your marketing efforts can be difficult. In this episode, Carter lays out the different benefits and downsides to all three of the most common options: in-house, agency, or freelancers.

Making this decision can be a difficult one, and a lot of times it can come down to your specific situation. This episode intends to inform you of all the possible advantages and disadvantages of the most common options out there for growing your marketing efforts.



You can give it a listen here:

You can also listen on Spotify or Apple Podcasts! Or a bunch of other places to listen here.

Enjoying this episode? Make sure and rate ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and share it with your friends! You can also connect with the host, Carter, on LinkedIn.


Here is the transcript: 


Hey, everybody, welcome back to yet another episode of the Marketing Cave. My name is Carter and this week's episode is actually covering something that I don't know if a lot of agencies actually talk about it or not. But we've been having a lot of conversations here at Creative Cave about when someone is starting to build out their their marketing function. Does it make the most sense to to go hire an agency? Do you go build your own in house team and actually hire people and bring them on? Or do you go find a bunch of freelancers and kind of pull them all together to make your marketing team kind of work? So I want to just walk through each one of those options. Today, I want to talk through what the benefits of each of those are of bringing in an in house team, bringing on an agency or going the freelancer route. 


Now obviously, each of these has their upsides and downsides. Of course, we're a little biased here at Creative Cave on what makes the most sense. But I do want at least present some of the things that we hear when we're talking to people who are going through this process of trying to decide what is the best process for them when when venturing into marketing for their company. So first, let's jump into freelancers. So some of the benefits of hiring a freelancer is obviously they're quick access, they're easy to grab, they're easy to get on board really quickly. And you also can go find someone who's very specialized and exactly what you need them to do. So if you need someone who knows how to do copywriting for the finance industry, you can very quickly go find someone who is specialized in that space as a freelancer. This also makes sense for one off projects. If you only need someone for a quick amount of time, that isn't going to be a long term investment. Go find someone who's really good at one specific thing that you need and utilize them for that project. And in that same vein, it's it gives you some some flexibility as far as your costs go. Obviously, if you were to hire someone or an agency, that's usually a long term agreement. a freelancer can be used once or a dozen times. It's completely have to you to determine how you want to handle that. And there's definitely no long term commitment to working with freelancers. And I mentioned that you have access to them really quickly or on very short notice, there's no time you have to spend recruiting and interviewing and then onboarding and training, you can skip that whole process and really get to someone very quickly and engage them, get them going on the project. And there's very little time it takes to actually get that ball rolling. So freelancers, they have their benefits they have their place, they're obviously very good for the things that I just mentioned. 


But there are definitely some some drawbacks to using a freelancer. So the first being kind of the opposite of what I just said is they're not on payroll, you're not committed to them long term. So things like dependability and turnaround times can kind of waiver based on what other projects they have going on. They might be getting paid more by someone else so they might push your project to the backburner. Another downside that we've seen with with people using freelancers is they really don't have any familiarity with your brand, your product, your service, your company, they're really just have to try to kind of figure that out on the fly based on a few conversations that you have with them. They're not really ingrained in who you are your culture, what you do how you talk about things. So sometimes that can be a little bit disjointed there, especially if you're creating very in depth specific industry type content. And then I think the biggest downside to trying to band together a bunch of freelancers to be your marketing function is you ultimately just become a project manager. Most of the time, those freelancers are not talking to each other, they're not interacting, and they're not bouncing ideas off of each other. You're probably not getting all your freelancers on one call every week, it's kind of not how freelancers typically work.


So we actually just went through something exactly like this with what is now an existing client. She was really struggling to decide between do I just go get a bunch of freelancers? Or do I bring on this inbound marketing agency and she ultimately decided that the little bit of cost savings and short term commitment to freelancers was the better choice for her at the time. So she went down that route and tried to execute that and ended up finding it was an extremely fragmented, disjointed, very difficult process to try to get all of these different. freelancers to be on the same wavelength and communicating with each other. And she ended up just happened to play kind of the middle person between all these different freelancers and became just a project manager. And that took away from her actually being able to focus on her business. So after about six months of her trying to wrangle these freelancers and, and kind of just piecemeal that together, she actually reached back out to us and said, Hey, I did the freelancer thing that's not working for me, I need to re engage with you guys. And she is now a full inbound client here at Creative Cave. So just wanted to share a quick example of a very hands on real experience that we've seen with someone trying to get those freelancers to work together to be your your outsourced marketing function, and it ultimately being not really worth the little bit of cost savings that you get and the short term commitments. 


Okay, now let's move on to in-house marketing. So hiring an actual full time team to sit in the office with you. I have actually been on an in-house marketing team, I was running a small marketing team for a B2B Saas company. And I understand the dynamics of this I actually completely understand the value of it. There are a lot of benefits when it comes to having an in house team. The first is that your team is always working on your brand and understanding your messaging and your positioning and they get your culture and all those things that can really that can really benefit your marketing campaigns by everyone sitting next to each other and being in meetings together and being solely focused on your service products whatever it is, however, there is a little bit of a downside to that too is sometimes you get so far under that rock you forget to look out and see what other people in the industry are doing or what other people in your your channel or your practice are doing and staying up to speed with things that are happening outside your four walls and sometimes that can be a detriment to having an internal marketing team but I will say you know if you have an internal marketing team, they definitely are going to understand your brand your product your service probably better than any other outsider ever could. That just comes with the nature of being there full time. Another benefit of having a team is kind of the opposite of the freelancer thing is you do have a full time person. They are committed to you for 40 hours a week and you can use that however you see fit. If you have new projects or new things going on, that person is there to do those things. And by being there full time and sitting with their team, there's also just a benefit of camaraderie and the culture that's built and people who have come up with great ideas at happy hour or over lunch together. And in that same way, communication is definitely just much more efficient. When you have an in house team when you've got people who are sitting right next to each other, crossing each other in the halls are passing each other in the break room, your communication is just going to be streamlined. If you need something, you just walk over to their desk and with an agency or freelancers that isn't so much the case. So there's some of the big benefits of hiring an in house marketing team, I definitely can't deny that there is value there. There is value there because you get to have them in your building all the time committed to what you're trying to accomplish as a marketing group. 


But there are obviously some drawbacks to that as well. So when you think about the thing I mentioned of getting so far under the rock that you kind of forget to take a look at what else is going on around you or you get so used to using all the data acronyms and the lingo and the terminology that you use inside your four walls that you forget that maybe that's not how people talk about it in the marketplace, or potential customers don't know your proprietary lingo. Therefore, they don't know to search that in Google and all of your content is using those terms. And obviously, the biggest downside is the cost, right? you're committing to salary benefits, payroll, taxes, technology, subscriptions, training, all the things that go into having a full time team sitting in your office, there's just a significantly longer list of expenses that you now have to bear because you've got them full time and you're responsible for their entire 40 hours a week to pay them for it. And then another difficult piece of that of having committed to someone full time is that what if your strategy changes or you finish a big project you've committed to a salary? What are you gonna do? You're gonna let them go when the project is over. Or if you decide that you don't want to invest in paid media as much anymore and you want to go a different avenue but you've got a person completely committed doing paid media, do they have other skills that can be applied elsewhere. It just can be difficult to be agile in your strategy and making adjustments when you're committed to a team that has a certain set of skills. And then the same thing goes if you're going the other direction, right? If you're trying to scale up really quickly, it takes time to to interview and recruit and bring people in and get approvals and all the red tape that goes into bringing someone actually on board, then when you get them on board, you got to train them and teach them all of your best practices and help them understand all the platforms that you use. There's just a lot longer of a runway there of getting someone up to speed as opposed to bringing in a third party, it can be a little bit more difficult to scale quickly or make decisions or be a little bit more agile in your strategy when you've got a set group of people sitting in the office with a set number of skills and it takes time to scale up or down. 


Okay, so let's talk through agency, obviously, Creative Cave. That's what we are. So this is probably a more common one that we talk about definitely want to talk about the benefits of an agency. So first and foremost, obviously, it costs less than hiring a full time team, but you still get access to people who are absolute experts in their space. And you're not having to commit to all the things that I just mentioned of, of the technology and the training and the payroll taxes and benefits and 401k, and all the things that you'd be committing to with an in house team, you still get all of that stuff with an agency, but with a significantly lower amount of expense to have that. And then with the example I used earlier of, you know, having someone who only does paid media and you're deciding to scale back that paid media, when you use an agency, you're just using a portion of that person's time, they're not committed to you 40 hours a week to just to paid media, you only pay for the amount of time that you need to have someone focused on that. And in that same vein, if you decided to scale up and you wanted to expand to four different, you know, media channels, and agencies got people in place that they can quickly flip the switch, get them on your account and get going. There's no onboarding, there's no recruiting, and you don't have to go try to find and hire those people in order to make that move quickly. It just makes you a little bit more agile and more strategic in your decision making because you don't have that downtime of trying to get someone into that seat. 


So an agency, they all sit in the same area together the same place together. It's not like freelancers that are scattered about. So an agency has the ability to meet multiple times and talk strategy about what they're trying to do for you as a client. Also, by working with an agency, those people are probably working on a few other clients as well. So they're getting exposure to what's working in other verticals or other industries, and can maybe apply that to what they're doing for you as well. So you get that benefit of what they're seeing in the market. And maybe they can actually apply some of those learnings and help improve your campaigns and your strategy as well. Obviously, we could go on and on forever about the benefits of an agency. But those are some of the big things that I really wanted to cover, because I think that's what we hear the most when we're talking to people is that is the cost of it. And what am I getting from a commitment from a time perspective? And then how else do I benefit from using an agency. So all those things that I just mentioned, are very direct benefits that we see for all of our clients. 


And of course, it's only fair if I talk about the negatives of the agency, because I definitely understand that those are out there. We actually try really hard here at Creative Cave to make sure that we're combating or being the opposite of a lot of these stigmas or stereotypes around agencies. And one of those is communication. A lot of companies or people who have worked with agencies company that it takes forever to get back to you, it takes forever to get communication back and forth, or they can't get ahold of you or they're always waiting on an email. So, you know, we try to combat that through being on slack with all of our clients were really immediately accessible, as accessible as we could be without actually being in the room or in the office sitting next to them, but totally agree as an agency, there are going to be a little bit slower turnaround times as opposed to just walking over to someone's desk. And also, it's fair to say that as an agency, we probably will never understand your industry or your product as well as you do. And that's fair, we will literally never be able to understand our clients industries, that their products are what they do as well as they understand it. But we do have to get a really good understanding of that and be able to extract that information from our clients in order to use that in the content that we're creating for them in our inbound campaigns. Another big one we always hear that people complain about is being charged hourly from agencies. We totally understand that too. You don't want to get charged for an agency who screws up on a piece of content or video and has to go back and do revisions and you're paying for that that doesn't make sense to us. We don't work that way. That's not the way that we charge clients. I'll just leave it at that. But again, it definitely is a drawback of using an agency is getting billed an hourly rate that could add up really quickly. So one of the things that we hear a lot, or we hear a lot of complaints about is that if you're a smaller client or your agency has bigger clients than you, then you won't get the same time or attention as those other clients. So that is somewhat true. A bigger client definitely is going to have more team members more assets committed to them on a regular basis. But what we try to do at least that creative cave is we do have a dedicated contact you have a person that you can always reach out to on slack is always there so that you don't feel like you're being pushed away or you can't get in contact no matter how big or small the client you are. 


So obviously I just laid out a lot of different options, a lot of different routes, the drawbacks and the benefits of kind of all these different three options that I've laid out. And what I would say honestly, it comes down to is what are your needs? What are you trying to accomplish if you just have a short quick project, and you feel like you have freelancers in your network who are capable and understand who can execute. That's definitely the route. If you are a massive company that wants to have people completely committed in house at all times, and you can afford that, then go for it. That's definitely a great route, if you're somewhere in between, or you see the benefits of an agency and then having exposure to other clients and but also, hopefully, they're addressing a lot of those drawbacks I mentioned, then maybe that agency route is a right way to go. So again, I just wanted to lay these out here. It's something that we talked about a lot and we've got some content created around that on our blog as well. So I really just wanted to talk to our experience with this and the way that we see it so so thank you so much for tuning in. And thank you for listening. I appreciate it and I will see you in the next one.


topicIcon The Marketing Cave, Marketing Tips