Working with a freelancer VS Working with a creative agency
All businesses, no matter what industry they specialise in, will have the need for high-performing content. With this comes the choice between opting for a digital creative agency or a freelancer to provide content. This is a crucial decision when looking to advertise products or services as it can have a substantial impact on the ongoing success of your business. It is also something that needs to be weighed up financially. The outlay vs return does need to be carefully considered here. Marketing and distribution costs can be hefty, so you must be confident that the business generated from this investment will be worthwhile.
How do you decide who to hire?
If your business currently needs marketing, distribution and or creative content, then this decision will determine the speed of your business success, sales and growth. So, it makes sense to look into the important differences between using a creative agency and a freelancer. Here we look at the differences in availability, cost, suitability, timescales, knowledge and skillset. We look at potential risks of both options and the best way to form a positive and successful working relationship with your chosen content provider.
Asking the correct questions
Before you even consider hiring someone to provide marketing and content work, you must ask one fundamental question: What will help my business thrive? Determining your business goals will help you to establish exactly what services you require. Marketing, distribution, creative content, web design and development, SEO, branding. These are all services that could achieve maximum profit and results when applied correctly. Are you looking to feature your logo on stationery or letterheads? Perhaps you require video content for your website or some information leaflets. Maybe you are attending an exhibition and want the best possible advertising to catapult your business out to a broad audience. Or perhaps you want to build your online presence and rank highly on search engines. These are only some of the tasks that businesses face when looking to market their services and achieve success. The nature of business and technology today means this list is ever-growing. Depending on the particular services required by your business, you can make an informed choice on whether it is necessary to hire a freelancer or a creative agency to provide these services.
Budget is an important thing to consider before making any investment. It is all well and good spending money on what you perceive to be ‘the best option’. However, the results may not pay off the initial investment if the cost is too high. Having a tight budget is a common reason for businesses to lean more towards freelance workers than creative agencies. Initially, it seems that the freelancer option is the most affordable. You will find they charge hourly or by project rather than for a job on the whole, so this can cut some costs if you require services here and there. This often means businesses will hire freelancers for one-off projects as they seem to be the most cost-effective route. This could, however, be more expensive over time. Marketing is complex, and rarely will a one-off project not be followed up with other needs relating to it. As new content needs arise, you may find you are shelling out for more ‘one-off’ pieces. These could have been more effectively put together as a marketing project rolled out as one job. If your needs are the odd marketing campaign, some refreshed content, flyers or articles then this could work well cost wise with a freelancer. More in-depth services, such as your logo and branding, have a more significant impact on your business. This is an area where corners should not be cut budget wise. This can have a strong effect on the success of your business and although it may seem like a small, one-off task, is a vital part of developing your business. A good, strong and appealing company logo goes a long way and first impressions count. Therefore, you should only source this part out to a provider that you are confident has the right skills, knowledge and tools for the job. Your business can get off on the wrong foot marketing wise if not enough time, attention and expertise is applied to your logo and overall branding. After spending time and money on starting your business, you will not want to let it down by not investing correctly in its visual representation. So, you need to decide exactly what services your business require from a creative agency or a freelance and hire accordingly. Only use the cheaper option if you are very confident the right skills are being applied.
Skills and knowledge
When interviewing a freelancer, you will have the opportunity to look at their portfolio. You can gauge if this individual possesses the skills and knowledge that you feel are needed to provide your business with the best possible service. While a freelancer with extensive experience in the field is certainly capable of delivering a fantastic service, it would be wrong to say that would be better than a team of professionals. It really does depend on the level of service and the scale too. A team of people with in-depth knowledge would be priceless for a large marketing campaign. That said, the personal experience and expertise of a confident freelancer may well be the best option for content services for some business types.
The skillset of a freelancer will be very focused. The skillset of a creative agency may have more variety. You will find many departments within a creative agency. Some examples include:
- Web design and development
- Graphic design
- Marketing strategies
- Content writing
- Social media management
- Video and photo editing
- Project management
A freelancer will tend to have a handful of valuable skills that will meet many needs. However, for a broader project with varying requirements, you have more option when using a creative agency. Sometimes you will not initially know every service your marketing strategy will require. You could hire a professional freelancer and find down the line that you need a different service. Then you are tasked with finding someone else. With a creative agency, you should find that all of your content and marketing needs are under one well-managed umbrella.
How will the working relationship differ?
With a freelancer, you will usually be working solely with an individual. With a creative agency, you could be working with 20/30 different people. Each one of these individuals has their own sets of skills. People will sometimes wrongly assume that the more hands-on the job, the better the finished product. While this may be the case in some circumstances, it is most definitely not the case with everything. A sizeable creative agency may outsource the small parts of your project, perhaps even going to a freelancer themselves. This is a very common method of maximising profit margins for big companies. Working with an agency could have a less personal feel, simply because you may not be dealing with the same person each time you communicate. It is best to meet your agency in person and see what your impressions are. Ask exactly who will be dealing with your requirements. Also, make sure you are confident they understand your business and are dedicated to driving it forward.
This advice also stands for a freelancer. Make sure you arrange a meeting, face to face if possible, the telephone if not. You will be able to gauge the competency and professionalism of the freelancer once you have had a meeting. The one-to-one working relationship you have when using an individual for your content work can be a huge positive. They are more likely to want to provide a fast and reliable service as they are keen to deliver results and secure future work as well as good reviews. Just be sure they are fully capable of the tasks at hand and are not taking on more than they can realistically handle. A freelance will need to build your trust themselves. A creative agency will have people at hand to jump in if the deadline is a bit tight or somethings has proven to be more difficult than initially thought. You will be safe in the knowledge that a team of professionals are available to assist when needed. A freelancer may struggle with this side of things. This would only be an issue for larger projects, of course.
You may also find that the wealth of knowledge and experience that comes from a large team means you can work together on projects and develop your vision. They may be able to advise and guide you in a way that one freelancing individual would not be able to.
A creative agency will keep you on their books. They will have detailed records of your company needs so you can often use them again easily and quickly. A freelancer is perhaps less likely to be readily available as they are not obliged to have the same level of loyalty to their clients. This is simply the nature of their business as work is not as stable as that of a creative agency. When you are relying on one individual to provide a service it will have to be when they can do it. This may not always suit your business needs. Creative agencies have many skilled team members, so there will usually be someone readily available to help. In uncertain times, a freelancer may have to change career or make other commitments due to poor work flow. This is less likely to happen with a well established creative agency. A freelancer can only be in one place at a time, do one thing at a time. A team of people will have more availability and flexibility.
Speed of service
A freelancer will usually work solo. This can mean that they take a little longer to get work finished, particularly if they have other commitments. When using a digital agency, you have many hands ready to do the job. You will usually find an agency will produce quicker results and work to a tighter deadline due to the vast experience and availability they have. They will have set individuals and teams for each task, rather than one person working on the entire project. A creative agency will adapt to the fast-moving nature of marketing, and they will often deliver results much quicker than a freelancer. If time is of importance, then an agency is the best way forward.
A freelancer will usually be someone working from a home office or a similar set up. This is fine for projects that are not too in-depth. But more extensive and complex projects may require more tools and office space that a freelancer does not have access to without incurring extra fees. A creative agency will have all tools and space at hand so they can get on with the project immediately without having to worry about logistics and facilities. Everything they will require will usually be onsite or easily accessed as well as included in the overall job price.
A creative agency will store records and copies of all the work they have carried out for some years. They will know the history of your marketing needs and branding and be able to access it at the click of a button. This means they can recall your details quickly and get up to speed for any future projects. A freelancer may not have the tools to do this. They may have email trails or saved documents but often not the ability to use the sufficient back up tools and data storage that a creative agency will employ. A creative agency can use previous project work to propel into new ones rather than starting from scratch, which can save valuable time.
The decision of whether to hire a freelancer or a creative agency for your business content and marketing would mainly depend on the size and depth of the project. A creative agency will offer a fast, reliable and entirely sufficient service from a multitude of skilled individuals. It may not be the cheapest option in most cases, but you have the safety net of them taking control and tailoring to your needs. A freelancer is a fantastic option for cost-effective smaller projects. One-off jobs that do not require extra resources can be ideal for an individual freelancer. However, the security and professionalism teamed with the variety of skillsets that a creative agency can offer will champion as a choice for most successful businesses.