CRO:NYX DIGITAL BLOG

Should I Hire a Freelancer or an Agency?

November 11, 2020 / by Tanya Wigmore

There are pros and cons to hiring freelancers and agencies that go far beyond cost. Here's what you need to consider before hiring an agency or a freelancer.

What to expect: Agency vs Freelancer

  Marketing Agency Freelancers & Specialists
Availability

Agencies, particular those with remote workers, often span multiple timezones which means you can have someone available to support you around the clock. If it's more of a 'traditional' agency you can expect typical 9am-5pm Monday-Friday availability.

With larger teams, they're equipped to scale and can handle fluctuating workloads better than a freelancer. Larger teams with overlapping skills keep you covered over holidays, illnesses and other time out of the office.

Your freelancer's availability will depend on their individual workload and other commitments. If they're fully committed, your project will have to wait until they're able to pick it back up again. They may also have different bill rates for different clients and your prioritization may shift accordingly. 

One of the draws to being a freelancer is that you can set your own schedule. While some will prefer to work 9am-5pm Monday-Friday, others will not. 

 

Turnaround time for deliverables Agencies generally have more man power at their disposable and can pull in multiple people to work over multiple timezones to get the job done quickly. On the flip side, having too many cooks can burn or undercook the broth and slow down the delivery time. Too many people on a project can also blow your budget, depending on how that agency bills. 

Freelancers are responsible for their own work which can be a blessing if they have enough capacity. They're not limited to 9am-5pm or capped by their salary and may choose to work extra hours to churn out your project quickly. 

Expertise An agency will typically have a project/account manager who might need to check with another member of the team before answering you. However, an agency will have a wider field of knowledge and will have additional areas of support for you.  With a freelancer you'll likely speak directly to the subject matter expert and he/she will be able to answer you almost immediately.

Turnaround time for questions

This ties back to 'Expertise'

With an agency you would typically have a project/account manager to field your questions and who might not be able to answer you immediately. You may find that some of your questions are answered quickly while others take a while as the account manager seeks to find the answer from others.  With a freelancer you'll speak directly to the subject matter expert who can answer your questions quickly. However, if you contact a freelancer out of hours, they likely won't reply or have a backup to cover for them.  

Cost per deliverable/hour

Agencies tend to cost more than freelancers as they have to charge more to pay their staff + add some buffer to cover their own agency costs. 

Agency rates can differer a lot from agency to agency.

Freelancers tend to cost less than an agency (no middle man/ less overhead/ fewer hidden costs). You may also find that freelancers with different specialities and in different locations charge different rates as their costs and market conditions are different. 

If you do not care about location, you can find excellent freelancers around the world. 

Deliverable quality

 

Varies wildly based upon the deliverable and the person who is doing it. 

Varies wildly based upon the deliverable and the person who is doing it.  

Presentation quality

Some agencies have standardized templates and will invest more time for a 'polished' and professional looking documentation, but others won't. Generally speaking, agencies will have fancier decks as they have more resources to support their internal teams and their clients.

For both agencies and freelancers, you'll get an idea of what their presentation standards are while you're going through the sales cycle.

Flexibility for urgent work

Agencies have more capacity and flexibility and may find it easier to accommodate a last-minute request. However, some agencies do have 'rush work' fees associated with shifting due dates and requirements. 

Some agencies are quick while others are slow. When interviewing your agency ask them a few questions about timelines to get a better feel for what to expect when working with them. 

Freelancers have limited capacity, might be less likely to take on last-minute requests. 

Stakeholder Relationships

You may not always get a choice of, or get along with, the key stakeholders who get placed on your account. With a large team you have the benefit of being able to ask for a different account manager or specialist. If a key stakeholder leaves you'll have better transition and continuity in the agency model. 

You will have a direct 1:1 relationship with the person working on your account. You will be able to build that relationship and you'll know who is working on your account. The downside to this is if they take on another job or cannot take on your work, your transition to someone else will require building a new relationship. 

Ongoing partnerships & growth opportunities

If you're looking for someone to be a long-term partner for your business, both agencies and freelancers can be good options but ultimately it depends upon what you need and how much you are able to pay.

Generally speaking, freelancers are more tactical partners who will move your idea from concept to creation. 

What's the Better Value?

How valuable your partnership with a freelancer or with an agency can be depends greatly on the engagement. In both cases, not being clear on what you want, not committing to a strategy, changing your mind frequently, asking for lots of different variations and holding lots of calls and meetings can cause your budget to balloon with little to show for it. 

Freelancers are a better value when you need the assistance of a specialist who will work with your current team members on your project. 

Agencies are a better value when you need the assistance of multiple people with unique specialties to work together efficiently to complete your project. 

In any scenario you're going to be balancing speed, cost and quality and you will most likely have to prioritize these to determine who is going to help you it your goals. 

Project Management Triangle - Speed, Cost and Quality

When You Should Hire a Freelancer

  • You know what you need and are comfortable being the 'project manager' to get it done
  • You only need one type of service from a specialized practitioner
  • You want to keep 'control' of the project
  • You have a small budget 

When You Should Hire an Agency

  • Your project has overlapping elements that you may not totally understand (ie., design and development for a new website project)
  • You need help with the strategy & overall vision
  • You want to see a few different options and 'talk it through' with a team of experts
  • You want to make sure you're following the industry best standard
  • You want/need the stability of a larger team that can 'cover' for each other when someone is out
  • You have a bigger budget 

How to Find the Right Partner

Before contacting agencies or freelancers, take the time to really identify what your business goals are and what you'd like to do to get there. If you don't know what to do to get there, start talking to agencies. They'll have some ideas and you'll get a good idea after a call or two if their team is one that you'd like to work with to drive that strategy. If you do know what you want to do but need the specialized help to get it done, you might be better off hiring a freelancer to work as your speciality partner. 

We can help 🤝

Let's chat (no obligations!) about your project. A quick call is often enough for us to clearly identify the scope and requirements of what you're looking to achieve and we can help you identify your priorities (cost, quality or speed) and make a recommendation on how to proceed. 

Topics: WordPress, SEO, Analytics, Web Design, Development, Paid Search


Tanya Wigmore

Written by Tanya Wigmore

Tanya Wigmore is the founder of CRO:NYX Digital and is passionate about growing healthy teams and businesses. With an extensive background in inbound marketing, search marketing, web analytics, CRO & UX, she's always finding new ways to apply optimize and improve.