There are some tasks that can’t be completed in-house. Perhaps they require very specialized knowledge, and hiring someone to take on that job full-time wouldn’t be cost-effective. At other times, you only need this specialized talent for one specific task that is not ongoing. For these one-off and specialized tasks, it is more cost-effective to hire outside of your company on a temporary basis.

When farming out work, you have the choice to hire a freelancer or an agency to work on the project. There are pros and cons to both methods. Sometimes, choosing a freelancer or an agency will come down to the aspects of the project and who can better meet your needs in a timely fashion. Here are the pros and cons you should consider when making your decision.

Finding Special Talent

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Studies indicate as many as 42 million Americans are freelancers, and forecasts indicate that freelancers may make up half of full-time workers by the year 2020. Some of the best and brightest may not be hired by an agency but work for themselves. One of the biggest benefits of hiring freelancers is you can hire on-demand work for projects. This can keep your fixed costs in check as you can throw this into a variable costs category per project.

Agencies tend to hire staff who have general skill sets and can create ad campaigns, content management and similar more general, ongoing projects. Some agencies may require a retainer to work with you. Freelancers tend to be more flexible in these areas. You can hire a freelancer to do a single project and make sure you work well together before working with them again.

Choice for special projects: Freelancer.

Social Media and Blog Management

Do you need someone to manage social media posts or manage your blog? Hiring a full-time writer may not be in your budget, but hiring a part-time freelancer or agency to manage your blog might fit within the parameters of what you want to spend.

Hiring a professional social media marketer can cost anywhere from well under $1,000/month up to $10,000/month, depending upon the scope of the work you want completed. If planning to spend more than a few thousand dollars, you might be better served to go with an agency that will have a plan in place to help you get the most bang for your online advertising buck. An agency also offers additional options, such as an all-in-one campaign that will tie into other advertising you have planned.

On the other hand, if your budget is small, a freelancer typically charges less per hour than an agency. There may be a slight learning curve as the freelancer figures out what works best for your particular target audience, but after you work together for a while you should get into a work flow and see good return on your investment in social media marketing.

Choice for online marketing management: Agency for a bigger budget, freelancer for a smaller budget.

Web Design

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If you need a web design project completed, should you work with an agency or an individual?

Some of the benefits when working with a freelancer:

  • Personal attention on all aspects of the piece.
  • Consistency with one designer rather than several designers with different styles.

An agency offers advantages in these and other areas, such as:

Choice for web design work: This is completely dependent on the type of work you require and the amount of money you’re willing to spend.

For Startups and Smaller Businesses

Startups and small businesses may be on a limited budget. Remember, 96 percent of small businesses fail within the first 10 years. One of the top reasons is cash flow issues. Freelancers are typically cheaper to hire than an agency. While it’s true you’ll give up some of the extensive expertise an agency brings to the table, you’ll also save a bundle of money.

As a startup, you may not need everything an agency has to offer just yet. You can start with a freelancer and grow into the agency later if you have a need for additional services.

Choice for startups and small businesses: Freelancer.


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Quality is another area you should consider. While you might at first glance think an agency would provide higher quality, many freelancers started out as agency employees and have many of the same skills. The average freelancer knows that to complete poor quality work will not only lose them a client but result in fewer referrals for new clients.

Agency quality can be fabulous or can be lacking. It all depends on who is in charge and what employees are currently in their employ. Because it is a corporation versus an individual and they likely have many big-name clients, they are not as dependent on your happiness with the finished product as a freelancer is.

The bottom line? Quality can be equally good both with a freelancer and with an agency. At the same time, quality can be equally bad with both. The key is to find an agency or freelancer whose work makes you happy.

Choice for quality: Either, but you may have to try a few of both to find the best fit for you and your business.

The Deciding Factor

As you can see, there are clearly pros and cons to both freelancers and agencies. Which one is best for you depends upon the time, size and budget of a project. The best way to proceed is to interview whomever you consider hiring thoroughly. Figure out what pitfalls you’re trying to avoid with the project, and ask the candidate how they will help you avoid those.

Choose the freelancer or agency that fits your needs the best. Don’t worry too much, though. If you are truly unhappy with the end result, you always have the option of hiring someone else to work on the next project. That is one of the benefits of hiring work out.