Richard Branson once said: “Everything in your business can be outsourced, if you’re not emotionally attached to doing it.” Indeed, any project type can be outsourced, including content creation and distribution.
You’ve just expanded your business to operate in another customer channel or geography.
As your business grows and your content marketing needs become too much to tackle in-house, consider outsourcing.
Freelancer vs. content marketing agency
One question foremost on businesses’ minds when deciding to take the outsourcing route for their content marketing is:
Should I hire a freelancer or an agency?
This article will explore the advantages and disadvantages of hiring freelancers over agencies, and vice versa, so you can hopefully arrive at the best possible decision when confronted with the same dilemma.
Option 1: The freelancer
Freelancers can come in handy for any project type – writing, administrative assistance, design, data entry, or transcription services.
And with job sites like Freelancer, Upwork, and Craigslist carrying a diverse and massive pool of freelancers from all over the world, depending on your objectives and the amount you’re willing to pay to achieve them, there’s a freelancer that’s just right for you.
You can hire freelancers for a specific skill set your full-time employees don’t possess. That said, you can hire as many freelancers with certain skill sets (e.g. subject matter experts, writers, editors, designers, video creators, community managers, and social media professionals) as you need.
If you already have a roster of freelancers to tap into, you can award projects to those whom you think are best qualified for the job.
When business is on the upside, keeping full-time staff to perform needed tasks and other activities is an advantage. It’s a different story, however, when the amount of work fluctuates.
Freelancers, on the other hand, can be hired per project or for a limited time. If you no longer need their services, you’re not obliged to keep them. You can always rehire them when business booms again.
3. Lower costs
Freelancers have less overhead expenses compared to their agency counterparts, which explains why they normally charge less than the latter.
There’s a saying among those seeking lifelong partners that goes, “All the good ones are probably already taken.”
This also applies to freelancers, who are known to juggle multiple projects and multiple clients.
There are good, dependable freelancers, and there are also those to avoid like the plague. Good freelancers take it upon themselves to regularly update you of their progress, while others can disappear into thin air when it suits them, without any way for you to contact them.
A procedure that’s not entirely off your hands
Creating an organized, committed, and cohesive team of freelancers from different parts of the world, from different time zones is no easy feat. Face-to-face relationships with fellow workers are a necessary ingredient for successful teamwork.
This being the case, you must have the right tools and strategies in place for your team to effectively bond, collaborate, and communicate.
Also, if you hire multiple freelancers, you will have to take on the role of project manager to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Time-consuming selection process
Choosing the most qualified freelancers involves time and attention. You will have to look through their work portfolios, ask for samples, and even check with their previous clients if they can be relied upon. As freelancers come and go, the vetting process will have to be done repeatedly.
Also, freelancers may be limited in terms of the things they can do and are willing to do. Often, the good ones are experts in their fields and possibly won’t take on projects that are beyond their field of specialization.
Where to find freelancers
LinkedIn is a good place to start when looking for freelancers. You may also post job openings to your Facebook or Google+ business pages.
If you have an email list, inform your subscribers of the opening, requesting them to also send your email to people they think are qualified, particularly if they themselves aren’t in the market.
There’s Craigslist, Upwork, and Freelancer, and they’re worth looking into if your content marketing budget isn’t much. Then again, like most marketers have already realized, you get what you pay for.
You can also look into advertising at Inbound.org, Smashing Magazine, and Problogger.
On blogs/online publications
Freelance content writers and marketers use guest blogging or run their own blogs to showcase their expertise and market their services. Take time to scour relevant blogs for skilled freelancers.
Option 2: The agency
Freelancers, in general, work alone. Agencies, on the other hand, are composed of a group of people who are experts at certain fields. They can even be a team of skilled freelancers working together.
Agencies can range from three-member teams to full-service marketing agencies handling hundreds of content marketing projects simultaneously.
Content marketing involves a wide range of skills. The Content Marketing Team Matrix by Chris Lake, DueDil’s VP of Inbound Marketing, presents 16 roles and their required skills. Most people possess two or more of the said skills, but those who possess all of them are a rare gem.
Agencies, generally, are a one-stop shop. And they already have the necessary communication and collaboration tools in place, all you need is to lay down your objectives and expectations, and then measure their output against your ROI benchmarks.
Besides being made up of a team of experts, agencies use specialized marketing tools and strategies to grow your digital presence on various channels. The tools at their disposal can include integrated reporting software, social media analytics tools, SEO software, even subscriptions to stock image sites.
Agencies also have structured processes and can easily scale.
Because agencies are made up of multiple people with varying expertise, with a project manager to monitor each member’s progress, you don’t need to find and select the right people to create your own team.
Compared to keeping an in-house content marketing team or organizing a team of expert freelancers, agency services generally cost more. In his article on Quick Sprout, Neil Patel says:
“Typically, you’ll need to be spending at least a few thousand before an agency will take you on as a client.”
A process that’s completely off your hands
Delegating content marketing – and most other business processes, for that matter – to outside providers is an entrepreneur’s dream. However, there’s always the chance that an agency’s output, particularly if they’re not as familiar with your business and industry as you are, won’t hit the right note with your more savvy prospects and customers.
Hiring content marketing agencies specializing in your field is the safer bet.
Time invested on your projects may not be adequate
While this is in no way a generalization, agencies working on several projects at the same time may not afford you the dedication you expect of them, particularly if you’re not a “big fish”. Also, once your contract expires, you don’t get to keep their services until you renew your contract with them.
Gartner predicts that by 2020, 85% of all customer-brand relationships will be made without human interaction, which further reinforces the increasing value of content marketing.
If you’re not equipped with either the expertise or resources to tackle content marketing in-house, know that your budget, objectives, and the effort you’re willing to put in are essential to figuring out if it’s a freelancer or an agency you need to hire.
As to the lingering question of whether an agency is better than a freelancer, all I can say is this: I know of companies who have expressed disappointment over agency performance while lauding the efforts of independent freelancers.