As a business, reaching your goals and targets is everything. There will come a time where you will be looking to hire outside assistance to help you on your way, and knowing what sort of support will suit your business best can be the key to success. Whether you want to hone in your digital marketing strategy or work on your content marketing plan, being well versed on the pros and cons of hiring an agency vs. a freelancer will ensure you are making the right choice for you.
Inviting someone else into your business will happen eventually, and whilst it is always going to be difficult making the right choice, it doesn’t have to be quite as daunting as it first seems! If your business is reaching that exciting point where you are in a position to hire staff that will bring a specific set of skills to the table and improve your business, then you have come to the right place!
For many business owners, in particular, those just starting out, finances can play a huge part in the decision-making process. However, when it comes to hiring individuals to work with there are so many other important factors to consider before making any decisions. What may be cheaper is not necessarily going to be what is best for your business, and more often than not it is worth making the investment!
With that said, here are some of the key things that I have learned along the way when it comes to the question of working with freelancers vs. agencies.
Freelancer Vs. Agency: What’s The Difference?
Before we jump into the pros and cons, it is first important that the difference between a freelancer and an agency is clear. If this is your first time hiring someone, it can be difficult to know what would work best for your business, and often it can be all too easy to go down the wrong path.
So what’s the difference? When you are hiring a freelancer, you are getting an independent individual that works on a self-employed basis. If you are hiring through an agency, you are essentially hiring a manager who is in charge of a team of individuals that will be at your disposal.
Depending on your specific business will determine whether a freelancer or an agency is best for the job. If you are looking for one specific job to be done, a freelancer may be what you decide on, or perhaps the task at hand is multi-faceted and requires a team of mixed abilities, in which case an agency would be your best bet!
Understanding the pros and cons of both options will help guide you when making the tough decision for yourself, and ultimately what may work for one may not work for you – so consider your industry, the nature of the job and the skills required to get the best possible outcome!
The Pros of Hiring a Freelancer
Hiring the right freelancer can be one of the most beneficial things you can do for your business. A good freelancer will bring not only a wealth of subject-specific knowledge but also a passion that is often unmatched when compared to agencies.
I may be biased, being that I am a freelancer myself – but even as a freelancer I have utilised the skills of other freelancers in order to develop that business over the years.
If it’s your first time hiring outside assistance then hiring a freelancer is almost always going to cost you less than an agency would. Freelancers simply have lower overheads; when looking to work with an agency team, be prepared that the good ones don’t come cheap!
As I previously mentioned, a freelancer not only comes prepped with all the relevant skills and knowledge required for the specific task at hand, but they also come with passion and drive by the bucket load! Most freelancers will have spent years honing their skills set to become an expert in their field. On top of that most freelancers have worked in an agency or in-house environment for a sustained period of their career in order to be experienced enough to be great at what they do. And don’t forget that they are business owners too, and that their reputation is everything, if they do a bad job for you it reflects badly on them. So you know that when they are working on your project, they are doing so with 100% effort.
Perhaps one of the key benefits that many business owners find with working alongside freelancers is their level of flexibility! You might only work 9-5 and perhaps only require work during those hours, but for many business owners, the normal working hours no longer apply. If you are working with an agency they are only going to be available to you during standard times of the day. However, a freelancer has the ability to work around YOU – meaning unsociable hours are a very common part of their job, which is great news for business owners!
Furthermore, freelancers are typically more reactive if something requires tweaking whereas agencies typically have account managers so there is an extra level of complexity when it comes to having last-minute work delivered.
The Cons of Hiring a Freelancer
Like with all things, there are of course negatives to consider when it comes to hiring a freelancer to work with. Whilst they may often be more reasonably priced and available, there are specific things that a freelancer simply cannot offer that can be obtained when working with an agency.
The first and most obvious point is that a freelancer is just one person. You could hire the most dedicated and hardworking individual in the world, but they are only human and cannot multi-task at the same capacity that a team of professionals could. If you are hiring a freelance writer to deliver weekly articles, and find yourself needing some proofreading and editing doing as well, you will probably find that they would be happy to help. However, many projects don’t run perfectly and often require unprecedented work to be done. If your freelancer hasn’t got the necessary skills to carry out these extra tasks, you are stuck in a position where more freelancers will need to be hired. More freelancers = more money. This will add an extra level of complexity as typically an agency will have an account manager to make sure everything runs smoothly whereas running with multiple freelancers will be down to you.
Another important thing to consider when working with a freelancer is their reliability. Whilst most freelancers will go above and beyond to make themselves available to you (after all their availability is essential for them to make an income!) there will be times where life gets in the way. Whether there has been a family emergency, sickness, or it’s simply down to a difference in time zones; it all could directly impact your business. If your freelancer is unavailable, then the work stops.
The Pros of Hiring an Agency
For many larger businesses, an individual alone is not going to be enough to follow through with the sheer gravity of the tasks at hand. Whilst it is, of course, an option to hire multiple freelancers from a range of backgrounds, it can often be more cost and time effective to go through an agency. An agency account manager will ensure the team picked out for you is the best of the best to carry out your requirements, saving you a lot of effort! This is particularly helpful for the more creative industries that are likely to require a multitude of skill sets. A website design business may require a content writer, a graphic designer, a researcher (the list goes on), and this is where an agency comes in!
There is also the level of experience that you will be getting with an agency. Whilst many freelancers have a wealth of knowledge and experience, it is entirely possible that you could hire someone new to the freelancing world, which could mean they are less capable perhaps than someone who has been doing this for years! The same can be said for some agency staff however given the work is spread across the team there will be a level of experienced and efficient individuals.
The Cons of Hiring an Agency
You can probably guess already, but the cost of hiring an agency often greatly outweighs that of a freelancer. This is not to say freelance day rates should be looked at as a cheap option but more so that agencies have far more overheads and thus charge for that.
If you are in a position where a full team of experts is necessary for the job, then it is likely that the fee for hiring an agency would be well worth it. However for many, especially those new to the business world, the fees attached to agencies may be far too much. The value for money really depends on the business and objectives that you have laid out, and these things should be considered in depth before making any big decisions.
One other negative commonly associated with some agencies is client churn and overall client satisfaction. From personal experience, the vast majority of my clients have chosen the freelancer route having had terrible experiences with agencies. This was due to lack of performance, accountability, and cost. Obviously, this is not a reflection of all agencies but a significant level of clients have cited this as a reason for going down the freelance route.
Making The Choice
Like with many business decisions, there is no universal answer to the question of hiring a freelancer vs. hiring an agency. It is completely dependant on what you are looking to get out of the agreement. I have many friends who work for themselves, most in the creative industries and they all work differently from each other when it comes to this topic. Some may hire a freelancer to put all their focus into one problem area, whilst the next has a whole team of people working on a variety of different areas.
Ultimately it is what is best for you and your business going forward.