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This is a question that I’ve been hearing since I first started in marketing: should we hire an agency or hire a freelancer? It’s a great question. Both have strengths and both have weaknesses. The key lies in answering questions about what your business needs. Those answers should help you understand which group works best in your specific situation. 

Now, you might read this and ask, “Shouldn’t you be steering folks to an agency since that’s what Engenius is?” The answer: Sure, we’d love to work with you – but only if it’s the right fit for both of us. Truth be told: sometimes a freelancer might actually be a better fit for your needs. At the end of the day, we want you to work with the group (or person) best suited to your project’s requirements. We also want to do the work that is the best fit for us. We’ve found that, ultimately, matching well with our partners leads to a better experience for us and a better client experience overall. 

While our list of questions isn’t exhaustive, it should give you a running start at determining who can best help your business with your next marketing initiative.

How urgently do I need this done? Be honest.

You have to start this evaluation by being honest with how soon you really need your project done. We all generally want things done as soon as possible, but when do you really need it? 

Agencies are typically process-oriented and have a system they use to get the job done. That process comes with an established time frame that’s hard to flex and still get solid results. Because they have a team, they’re better suited to handle an increase in workload as they can distribute it among more people. 

Freelancers can be more flexible on timelines in certain seasons. If you’ve asked for some work in what is a slow time for them, they may be able to steer more of their resources to your project and get it done very quickly. Likewise, if they’re busy, they have fewer colleagues (sometimes none) to lean on which could extend out the life of your project longer than you hoped. 

If you truly need it fast, reach out to a few freelancers – and maybe even your agency – and just ask how soon they can get it done without sacrificing quality. 


Do you need high-quality work?

This is actually a trick question. You should always expect high-quality work – whether it’s from an agency or a freelancer. Before you work with either, check out their work product (See the Engenius portfolio here). Ask to talk to some of their clients (especially if you’re looking for a long-term relationship). There is too much noise in the digital world today to settle for subpar quality in your marketing. Bad work will get looked over by your audience faster than a snowflake melts on a hot summer’s day. Expect high quality. In fact, demand it of your agency and freelancer alike.

Is it a one-time project or something that will need recurring attention?

Agencies, by design, have a benefit that freelancers, also by design, simply don’t have: a team. When you hire a freelancer, you’re dependent upon that individual person’s capacity and longevity. Some freelancers are short-term and in between working with teams. Some have been freelancers for a long while and have more staying power. You should investigate this. 

Generally, agencies are made up of a team of people so that, even if something happens to one person, the agency can still get the work done. Smaller agencies may have key people and be more susceptible to turnover or unplanned outages. For long-term projects or something requiring recurring attention, an agency may be a safer bet as you manage your risks. There are certainly a lot of questions to ask here – but all are important to consider as you weigh which is a better fit for you.

Does your project require a specific specialty or a range of talents?

No matter who does the work for you, think through what skills are needed. Just need SEO? Make sure your freelancer or agency has SEO experience. Just need web design? Make sure that skill is present.

There are some freelancers that are multi-talented. Some, however, are single-focus and really good at one thing. A freelancer, for instance, may be excellent at content strategy and content creation, but may not be as talented at web development. The same can be true of agencies. Just because it’s an agency team with multiple people doesn’t mean there are a variety of skills present. It is always prudent to ask the questions and do your homework to see if the team or individual you’re working with has the talent(s) you need. Some teams have all of the skills you need. Some freelancers might have them too. Regardless of agency or freelancer, make sure who you’re working with has the experience necessary to handle your specific project. 

Do you trust them?

There are so many factors that should determine who you work with, but one of the most important is trust. Do you trust the individual or the team you’re considering working with? Have they been honest? Are they seeking to help you understand the strategy and bigger picture? Are they helping guide you in what you need vs what you don’t? Trust is key.

As you explore who to work with, ask lots of questions. Develop a relationship. The questions above will help guide you – but ultimately it’s up to you. As I tell folks often, “make good choices.” The success of your marketing depends on it.

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