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5 things to consider before choosing between a freelancer or a digital agency

When it comes to your B2B marketing needs, the choice is yours: Do you opt for a single freelancer to solve a marketing problem with expertise or rely on the balanced approach offered by an agency? 

Choosing between a freelancer or a digital agency for your B2B marketing needs used to be simple choice. Small-scale limited term projects would require a freelancer; larger scale would be the purview of agencies. But as marketing has evolved, agencies have become more accepting of ‘micro projects’ and the full-service offerings that agencies provide can now be easily replicated by a team of freelancers acting together.

This choice is even harder in the B2B space, when choosing the right person (or people) for the job depends much more on their niche knowledge and industry experience. Thankfully, there are a few factors you can keep in mind that can help you make the right choice. 

1. Experience and skill sets 

Freelancers have usually worked in a few companies before deciding to go their own way, meaning they usually come with a honed set of skills and industry knowledge they can draw on. While there are some highly effective generalists out there, as a rule, freelancers should be considered for their specialisations - website building, SEO, social. etc. The more niche your requirements, the longer it can take to find a perfect fit.

Digital agencies are easier to find and can provide a broader range of skills and services in one package, but the trade-off is that you do not get to pick who you work with. While high-level staff at an agency may have the industry knowledge and experience, which will be on full display in the pitching process, there is often no way of knowing how involved they will be in the day-to-day running of the account. The agency will allocate resources to work on your account based on the size of your business, with smaller businesses often managed by less experienced staff.

This can be particularly noticeable when it comes to B2B marketing, where target audiences are smaller and more concentrated than in the B2C space. Expert knowledge of the space you are working in should be the first thing you test for when vetting both freelancers and agencies. 

2. Providing efficient services

A freelancer’s need to deliver an excellent service is obviously more personal. It is in the best interest of the freelancer to push for the best results within tight timeframes, and this often translates into better outcomes. While employees at an agency will be under similar pressure to succeed at their jobs, the buck doesn’t necessarily stop with them.  

They are, however, much more inclined to offer more structure, likely hosting regular meetings to check in on marketing progress against the official contract and KPIs, and recalibrating as needed. Agencies are usually better equipped to change direction and service levels than freelancers thanks to their broader resources. It is much easier to try something new with the same agency than it is with a specialised freelancer. 

With digital agencies, you can always guarantee you’ll be able to speak to someone. This may not sound like much, but there are horror stories about freelancers vanishing off the face of the earth at inopportune times. 

3. Ability to manage workload

Both agencies and freelancers are capable of juggling multiple projects and shifting workloads, but only freelancers are able to make you and your company their sole priority. Obviously, this can be dependant on their current workload, and how big the project is that you are giving them, but being a freelancer’s only priority is as close as you can get to having your company’s own in-house marketer. 

In most cases, freelancers will work on less projects than a digital agency and are more able to make your project their priority in the time they are assigned to work on it. That said, a lack of resources, a lack of direction and inefficient time management can all impact how well a freelancer prioritises your project over another.

Digital agencies will often insist on a plan ahead of time for this exact reason. While digital agencies can often be inundated with projects, they are specifically designed to do this in an effective manner. The best agencies allocate their resources and time appropriately to fulfill objectives in a timely manner, but no matter how organised they are sometimes, it may take a little bit of pressure from you to get the results you want.

4. Flexibility in working hours 

Freelancers are more flexible. While it may be possible to find an agency with the capacity to work weekends, odd hours, or whenever a crisis hits, theses are the exception rather than the rule. The downside of this is freelancers are just one person, and if they have other projects on-the-go or plans they cannot change, they may not be available when you need them in a pinch. This can be mitigated by getting to know what their schedule and workload is like outside of the work they do for you, but by the problem’s very nature, it is difficult to plan against this.

Hiring more than one freelancer may seem like a perfect solution to this, but this would essentially be replicating what agencies already do extremely well. Freelancers can be more flexible with their time, but agencies can be more flexible with their resources. Having a guaranteed point of contact 9 to 5 may suit you better if there is only a low chance of needing support outside of regular business hours.

5. The digital costs for each 

Freelancers don’t expect a full time in-house salary, and depending on your agreement with them, it will usually be possible to pay by the hour, meaning that you pay for the time you need and nothing more. Agencies by their nature are less transparent but are usually easier to work with in terms of a regular payment schedule. 

In terms of digital costs, however, agencies have much higher overheads. Rented office space and hiring multiple staff may equip them to be more flexible, but it does mean they are more expensive as a result. This isn’t to say that agencies are always the more expensive option (there are plenty of expensive freelancers out there) but if you are looking to fastidious with your budget, then it pays to be aware of exactly where your money is going. 

The decision is yours...

The choice between a freelancer and digital agency will ultimately come down to your company’s specific needs. Experience, industry knowledge and availability can often have a bigger effect on which one you choose than any of the above considerations on their own, as the fact of the matter is that the marketing space moves fast, and the best people are usually the busiest. 

So do your homework before hiring. Ask questions to reveal how much the freelancer or agency really knows about your industry or niche. While some B2C marketers are capable of flubbing their way through a conversation about industry trends or past experience, B2B marketers are rightly held to a higher standard, given the more contained spaces they operate in. 

While this upfront research can end up being a lot of work, you don’t have to do it yourself. There are services available that can help you make the right decision for your business's unique needs that take the hassle out of finding the right agency or freelancer. Whichever you end up choosing, you can end up with a high-quality product, so there is nothing wrong with making it as easy as possible for yourself to gather all the information you need.

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