• Lisa Silverman

Outsourcing: Ad Agency vs. Freelancer Which is Right for You?




There is a lot of debate in the marketing and advertising industry about which is better: Is it smarter to hire an ad agency or an independent freelancer? In this fluctuating economic climate, many people think that hiring freelancers, at least in the short term, will save their company money. At first glance, freelancers are cost-effective, and fast. But how much time will

it take you to manage their work or wait for them to clear their schedule to fit you in? Take a closer look at the two options. There are some additional considerations that warrant further deliberation when choosing which service model fits your project scope and objectives best.


The best way to determine which service model is right for your company is to consider your company's needs and expectations before you approach either with a potential project. Agencies come in all sizes to meet both your small projects and larger scale brand design, messaging and creative strategy and media needs. Freelancers often work alone and are a great alternative for quick projects.


Below are some key differences between ad agencies and freelancers that may guide your decision-making:

  • Agencies have more resources and can handle multiple client accounts and higher volume of concurrent projects. This means they're more likely to respond quickly and provide thoughtful, quality work than a freelancer may be able to deliver on their own. Freelancers often over-budget their time and may not have the bandwidth to cater to your deadlines or meet project milestones.

  • Agencies can attract a wider variety of talent. They have a wide network of people who they hire specifically for your industry and tactic specialty, meaning they're more likely to draw in a mix of experience and skill levels. With a freelancer, you'll probably only be able to access a singular service and skill level.

  • Agencies are comprehensive service providers that have a collection of in-house services and experienced personnel to service your brand's creative requirements, both in quantity and quality. You’ll benefit with more opportunities for diverse thinking and strategic creative from a team you can't find or afford with a freelancer.

  • Agencies offer full creative service packages that can coordinate and service multi-component marketing campaigns and disciplines, so they can handle any project from start to finish with the oversight of in-house project managers, production supervisors and traffic personnel. Freelancers are often the choice for small projects to meet an immediate, targeted need, for example to create a logo or brochure or illustration. These talented individuals tend to either be experts in a niche specialty, or general jack-of-all-trades, and you benefit from working directly with the artist, so communication is streamlined. Costs can sometimes be smaller, and project based as the scope of the work is usually limited. Generally, independent artists will offer quick turnaround times if their workload is light.


  • Agencies often have a better understanding of how to execute a client’s vision that will help your company reach its goals and objectives clearer than a freelancer would. In other words, agencies look at the bigger picture and from both a storytelling and strategic perspective with the end goal growing their client’s net worth and market share. Freelancers may not work based on metrics and won't necessarily know how to monetize the value of their work for the long-term.

  • Agencies are more likely to take the time to ask more upfront questions about your service or product, industry, competitor landscape, short-and long-term sale goals and strategic objectives, extracting necessary information in order to deliver the best product. Agencies will immerse themselves in your industry space and your brand to provide the best support.

  • You can hire freelancers on an hourly basis or project rate with certain types of service, such as website development, or graphic design and production, however agencies work as a team, featuring cumulative experiences and a collaborative approach to problem-solving with strategic solutions. When dealing with freelancers, sometimes their availability can be inconsistent, as they may have multiple projects competing for their time or may even be unavailable when you need them. Their area of expertise may be limited, so if your project grows in scope, they may not have the skills to satisfactorily complete the expanded requirements. Illness or emergencies could be a setback to your project timeline. Working as an individual, they have less support to assist them if needed or to add value or improve your project’s outcome.

Another benefit of an agency relationship is that they can become an extension of your marketing department through an in-depth familiarity with your brand standards, your products and services, industry, and your portfolio of both digital and traditional marketing collaterals and assets. This familiarity negates the need to constantly educate a rotating door of individual freelancers and can mean fewer mistakes and easier project management. Agencies understand your brand framework and how to work within your brand’s guidelines, and even when to pop in a creative surprise or two for effect, all while remaining compliant to your consistent image and messaging, while building affinity and engagement with your market. Agencies are reliable, knowledgeable partners that can relieve some of your stress.

If you're on a tight budget and short on time, look to freelancers first. But if you need something specific or want a team of specialists who love to geek out on business objectives, creative strategy and meeting or exceeding your goals, an agency may be your best bet.


In Conclusion

Before deciding which option is right for your company, it's important to clearly define the project scope of work you need, your budget, and the level of expertise required. Once you've done that, you'll be able to decide if a freelancer or agency would benefit you more.

Remember to check out work samples and references to make sure each candidate or agency is a good fit for the job and understands your industry and marketing goals.

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