Freelancer VS Agency – What’s the right choice for me?
Freelancer VS Agency – What’s the right choice for me?
We’d like to start by saying that we will be fully transparent here.
We understand the precarious situation that we’re in, given that we are an agency. We’d like to assure you of our neutral stance in this, as it is in both our and your interest that you go with the right choice for you.
We have little interest in working with a business that we know would be better off with a freelancer work ethic and payment scheme. It wouldn’t sit right with us, and it wouldn’t inspire us to create our standard of phenomenal work, as it simply wouldn’t be the right fit.
Occasionally, we have clients coming our way that, we think, would benefit more from hiring a freelancer, than hiring us.
Here is a blog post dedicated to making the right choice for you, with a list of pros and cons to either option.
Flexible Work Times
Freelancers embrace the unstructured working day.
They’re able to set aside time for your project when it suits them and when they feel they are most productive. Their time is their money, so there is a sense of urgency when they tackle work. You’re often able to reach them at random hours, which is especially beneficial for when a crisis hits exactly at 7pm on a Sunday night. This is where a freelancer comes in handy, as they’ll sit down and hash it out for you, as their hours are not fixed to the 9-5 structure.
Yes, they might charge you a bit extra for the weekend service but we all know that it’s better to pay a little more and get the job done (and the crisis averted) than save the money but not have the job done in time.
Expertise In Tasks
Freelancers usually specialize in one or two avenues and choose jobs based on their expertise. They know what they’re good at and that’s what they put their head down and do.
They don’t need to aimlessly fill 40 hours of work a week where their employer asks them to do random tasks that they’re perhaps not best suited for, just to fill their workweek for their employer.
Freelancers gain nothing by taking on a job that doesn’t fall into their range of expertise, as it will simply mean them doing a poor job and receiving a negative rating from the company they work for.
What does this mean for you?
This means that you know when you hire a freelancer, and they take on the job (and you can see they have positive reviews on platforms like UpWork for example), you can be sure that they know what they’re talking about and will do a good job for you.
Usually Less Expensive Than An Agency
Freelancers bill for the exact hours that they work and have no overheads that they need you to pay for. Their system is simple and straight-forward: one working person who works a set number of hours and charges for exactly those.
There are little administrative costs, no HR costs and the time spent negotiating with them is often very little as they don’t need to run things back to an entire team, they can say yes or no almost instantly.
Offer Priority Support
Just like you, freelancers are humans too, who enjoy an easy and loyal work relationship. (sometimes I feel like we see freelancers (and agencies) as these money-sucking entities, when really they’re just a group of people wanting to do an outstanding job for you).
Freelancers will prioritize the clients who send them a steady stream of work. If you know that you have, say, 10 or 15 hours of work for your freelancer every single week, you can communicate the tasks they need to do easily. If you have both agreed on a simple checklist system (Asana boards are great for this!) then you’re onto a great working relationship.
By booking a certain amount of time you can become an important client and benefit from things like priority support, freelancers assisting during after-hours/weekends when you need them and loyalty of their service for the future.
Limited Skill Set
There is only so much that one person can do. An individual freelancer will only be able to offer you what they’re capable of doing as one solo person. They usually specialize in one thing and become experts in that and jump from business to business helping with exactly that.
Their skill set is limited, as they don’t have the capacity (or the team) to offer multiple services. It also wouldn’t be in their interest to offer many services, as it would mean diluting their offering and risk becoming a jack of all trades but a master of none.
As a client, you will have to consider the fact that you will need to be very active in managing your freelancers. You have to invest time, especially at the beginning of your work relationship, in communicating a lot about your company and work ethic.
Freelancers have no other way of getting to know your company other than through you and the material you offer them. They’re not part of the in-house team (if you have one), they don’t partake in group brainstorming sessions as often and don’t come to the monthly get-together events you may have. You need to set up a process and structure off which they can work, which is going to be very time intensive for you.
You also need to be very sure of what you need from them and have the ability to communicate this effectively. It can prove tricky especially if you are hiring a freelancer to do a job that you have very little experience in. It will be hard to communicate and gauge their performance if you’ve asked them to do something that you don’t actually know how it works or what the realistic finished product should look like.
A benefit would be if you hand them tasks that you used to do in the past, as this allows you to gauge their output and time spent on a task, so you can manage their pace and handle your expectations accordingly.
Freelancers have unfortunately received the reputation of not being the most reliable to work with. They typically work remotely and normal life can happen, they can get sick or something can happen that may prohibit them from working.
They rely on themselves and do not have the backing or tech support that working for a company comes with. If their laptop breaks, they can’t just call the IT department, for them this means a day trip to the Apple Store Repairs area, which is one day of not working.
They can vanish overnight and leave you in quite a mess if they do so. They aren’t tied to you as much as an agency would be, and the contracts aren’t as tight with a freelancer as with an established agency.
There is no structure to their performance, no middle man that can get involved to soothe the relationship between you if it gets tarnished in any way. Freelancers don’t have supervisors or managers that you can go to when you need to complain about their services or receiving work late.
The only thing you can do is professionally communicate your issues and hope that they don’t throw in the towel and leave you without a plan b.
Freelancers only have themselves as a resource. They cannot turn around larger projects very quickly as they’re the only ones in their team. It will take them longer to complete larger tasks as one hour as a freelancer is one hour of work, whereas in an agency with a team, multiple people can be working on different tasks parallel to each other, so one hour in an agency can actually be 5 hours as 5 people each put in some time.
You need to understand the size of the job you’re looking to outsource to a freelancer and communicate those very clearly with them. The freelancer will in turn supply you with the period in which they can realistically complete the task, and then you can compare this with an agency and make an informed decision. If your task isn’t time sensitive and can be completed ‘whenever’ then going the freelance route would be better for you.
Working On Multiple Projects
As Dr. Seuss so famously wrote ‘’Life’s a great balancing act.’’
Freelancers are constantly on the lookout for more work.
They don’t have the same job security that digital agencies have, and so they’re more often than not working on multiple jobs at once. This could mean that their progress on your job could be slower than with an agency.
Whilst you might have given them a deadline that they accepted, they may postpone that deadline as more important (higher income) jobs might have come in the meantime that they need to prioritize over your job. The deadline security is something that you won’t have with freelancers as much as with agencies.
Streamline Skill Set
You get a whole team when you work with an agency. They have taken the time to recruit and hire the best in the field and depending on which needs you have, the agency will deploy the suitable team for your businesses tech success.
Agencies possess a wealth of knowledge and information. With access to an agency, you gain access to their team and the powerful technology that they work with. The team works together as one unit with one common goal: to deliver impeccable work. They move as a well-oiled machine for you.
Each team member has a list of skills that they’re experts in. Together, they often cover all bases you could ever need when it comes to your tech requirements.
You don’t have to look over agencies like a hawk because their internal project managers work for you. They’re the ones who delegate tasks, come up with work flow structure and check on progress within the team for you.
Agencies have a reliable structure that they have created through a lot of trial and error. They’re established businesses that have all their ducks in a row. Their processes are set up, and they can even supply feedback on how their processes are going during recurring meetings that you are bound to have with them.
The tech work that you require for the development of your new website, or the creation of a new app is quite advanced and full of jargon that you as a client don’t have the time to understand. Project managers for agencies can usually bridge the knowledge gap between you and the tech professionals doing the coding and software development.
Agencies have a portfolio when it comes to clients that they have worked with in the past. They often have these in the form of case studies on their website, testimonials on their media pages, or as a client project section on their site.
They are more reliable than the freelancer as they have entire teams with which to work, so if one software developer gets sick or goes on leave for any reason, they have a plan b and plan c to replace that person so that the workflow for your project doesn’t suffer from their internal personnel rotation.
Furthermore, they would also never let you down as they’re a lot more established and have a lot more to lose through bad reviews than a freelancer. Legal contracts with agencies are very normal, and they contain rather strict guidelines which both parties need to follow, so again, a lot less likely to leave you in the lurch.
As agencies have multiple resources working on a project at one time, they’re able to deliver demanding projects within the allocated time frame (if not before!) and meet deadlines. They have a whole team behind them that can divide the workload among themselves so that each team member has an ‘easy-to-handle amount’ of work.
This is again where the structure, experience, and process of having a project manager comes into play as he/she is able to distribute the work evenly to ensure deadlines are met.
This is harder for freelancers to do as everything falls onto their one plate, whereas with an agency, many plates are involved and a manager is leading all of them, so consistently great output is a lot more likely.
In general, they can also handle more intense, time-consuming and demanding projects as they have the resources to do so. When we say resources we mean the team of course, but we also mean all the powerful technology that comes with an agency who has a higher budget to afford certain tools.
The thing that makes agencies great and reliable is their structure. It is the same thing that is their slight downfall too.
Agencies do not have the fastest turnaround time for tasks as they have an entire team that the workload first needs to be filtered through. They can not do small ad hoc tasks easily, as they usually require a certain amount of minimum work before they can start delegating jobs around the team.
They’re not as flexible as freelancers for small jobs, so they cannot simply jump and do something you need spontaneously on a Tuesday morning. You’d have to send in a request, wait to hear back (usually within 24 hours) and then see when the agency can fit that task in for you.
It’s also hard to modify details of a job that is a work-in-progress and has been signed off on by both the agency and the client.
It’s due to the reliable structure that agencies have created that their flexibility is not so high. If you are a client who puts all their needs on the table in the initial discussion, and you’re organized in telling the agency what you need (with a few weeks notice) then you’ll never experience the lack of flexibility when it comes to agencies.
For the organized, an agency is perfect as they are organized too. For the spontaneous, an agency will come across as very rigid and at times unaccommodating even.
Agencies are often working with various clients at all times. They are constantly in demand and have to manage a high volume of work and answer a whole bunch of questions. They cannot answer and get to every single enquiry instantaneously, so you will need to be patient when hearing back from them.
The reason for this is because you are not dealing with one single person, but with the whole corporate administration.
This isn’t the case with every agency, some agencies have dedicated project managers on your case that reply within 24 hours. This would be the ideal situation.
However, it unfortunately isn’t always the case. You are one of many customers, so you don’t get priority over others and an agency can only work as fast as it can with spontaneous requests, which is sometimes slower than the client would like.
Again, structure. You’re paying for the complete package. Agencies have to pay for office space, equipment, perks and benefits. They need to cover all their overheads, which form part of why their quotes for clients are higher than if you went with a freelancer.
Agencies will never be the most inexpensive option, when you are shopping for a price. Yet, you will get a lot of value; Quality comes at a cost though, right?
You will get access to a team of highly skilled graphic designers, creatives and other specialists, who have tons of experience from projects that are similar to yours. The team will be managed by an experienced project manager, who will help translate your requirements into a technical solution and make sure that you get great results consistently.
It is entirely up to you, which option you go for. Our intention here was just to highlight some of the pros and some of the cons of either going with a freelancer or with an agency.
We are a digital agency, so we naturally gravitate toward advising customers to go the agency route but if we are completely honest, sometimes we also advise them to go with a freelancer. If their job specs aren’t too complicated, they have a smaller budget and have a very tight deadline – then we’d honestly advise them to look for a freelancer whom they can trust.
If you have any questions about this or if you’re perhaps looking into hiring a digital agency, please feel free to contact us through our website here or pop us an email on firstname.lastname@example.org
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Natalie MillerMarketing Manager
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