Should we hire an agency or a freelancer? That’s a great question. Both have strengths and weaknesses. The key lies in answering questions about what your business needs.
It may seem strange for an agency to tell you the benefits of working with a freelancer, but we want you to work with the group (or person) best suited to your project’s requirements. We’ve found that, ultimately, matching well with our partners leads to a better experience for us and a better client experience overall. We’d love to work with you, but only if it’s the right fit for both of us.
While the list of questions below 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 you need this done?
You have to start this evaluation by being honest about how soon you really need your project done. It’s normal to want things completed as quickly as possible, but having an actual deadline is critical to finding the right project match.
Agencies are typically process-oriented and have a system in place to get the job done. That process comes with an established timeframe that’s hard to flex and still get solid results. Because they have a team, however, they’re better suited to handle an increase in workload because they can distribute it among more people. In other words, your project won’t be placed on hold during busy seasons.
Freelancers can be more flexible with timelines in certain seasons. If your project aligns with a slower season in their work flow, they may be able to direct more of their resources to your organization and get it done very quickly. Conversely, if they’re in a busy season or take on additional work, they may not have as much time to dedicate to your project. As a one-man shop, swings in work quantity can often impact the delivery timeline.
If you truly need it fast, reach out to a few freelancers and a few agencies and 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, however, you should always check out their work product (see the Engenius portfolio here).
During the sales process, 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 to settle for subpar quality in your marketing. Bad work will get overlooked by your audience. Expect high quality. In fact, demand it from 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 don’t have: a team. When you hire a freelancer, you’re dependent upon that individual’s capacity and longevity. Some freelancers are short-term freelancers filling the time between agency jobs. Some have been freelancers for a long time and have more staying power. Regardless, you should investigate.
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. While 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 who are multi-talented. There are some who are single-focused 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 questions and do your homework to see if the team or individual you’re working with has the talent(s) you need.
Do you trust them?
There are so many factors that should determine who you work with, but arguably 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 the big 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 and work to develop a relationship with the person or agency who might ultimately represent your brand online. Trusting your partner to have your best interest and put your organization’s best foot forward is key for a successful relationship.