Freelancer vs. In-House vs. Local Agency vs. National Agency — How do I choose?

Let’s set the scene — you’ve been managing your marketing collateral, social media, website, and strategizing all on your own so far. You also do a bunch of other things and you feel like it would be so nice if someone could do the marketing part for you. You did an initial Google search and realized there are so many options to go with. If only someone could spell the difference out for you. Well, look no further!

We know determining the right fit can be overwhelming. Many of the options may sound so similar to each other and the descriptions are filled with jargon. How do you pick? We’ve lined out some of the pros and cons for these common options and hope this will make your choice easier.

Freelancer

A freelancer is a free agent or an independent professional who is not affiliated with other agencies. When considering a freelancer, chances are you found their website or profile. The good news is their online presence can already give you a solid idea about their style, what their previous jobs have looked like, and how they work.

Pros of Hiring a Freelancer

  • A freelancer will be a straightforward contact for your projects and the process will likely be very personal.
  • Freelancers can be more budget-friendly as you can often pay per project and will avoid many fees large agencies can have.
  • As someone who has not been with your team for a long time, freelancers can have fresh insights and bold ideas for your specific projects.

Cons of Hiring a Freelancer

  • If your project is a big one, you might need more than one set of hands working on the marketing side.
  • Freelancers may be available for certain projects only and some are not available for a long-term commitment.
  • Some freelancers don’t have the training, tools, or experience compared to established agencies. Make sure to interview your potential hires thoroughly to understand what they offer.

In-House Marketing Specialist

In-house simply means they are fully part of your team and your team only. In-House Specialists were especially popular in the early 2000s when marketing was focused mainly on the traditional channels such as billboards, newspaper ads, and TV commercial spots. Many still prefer to have someone in-house, but here are some things to consider.

Pros of Hiring In-House Specialist

  • Unlike any others, your in-house specialist will be fully focused on your brand, your team, and your projects.
  • Having someone in-house can help you keep your brand voice and work consistent. The person will be able to establish long-term patterns and keep track of what has worked/not worked before.
  • In-House Specialists can save you money in the long run as they build extensive knowledge about your industry, company, and clients. Outsourcing marketing talent will most likely involve times of research, adjustment, and reassessing.

Cons of Hiring In-House Staff

  • Having an in-house person means adding a person to your full-time team. If you’re not able to allocate a full salary for another employee, in-house might not be for you at the moment.
  • Outsourcing talent can bring in fresh ideas, different perspectives, and tools or skills you might not be able to afford on your own. Having an In-House Agent would require you to provide them all the software and tools to work with. Make sure you have those funds if considering adding a team member.
  • Bigger projects and campaigns might require a whole team of marketers. Are you able to hire a whole in-house marketing team at the moment? Similarly, try to build a broad understanding of the creative side and processes of marketing to establish whether you need someone who’s part-time, full-time, or a whole team — this can save you a lot of money.

Local Marketing Agency

It is likely that there is a marketing agency nearby your office. There could also be multiple ones in your town or in the nearest city. An agency can be a great choice for longer partnerships and bigger projects that require more hands on deck. Here are some things to consider.

Pros of Hiring a Local Agency

  • They are local! They know the population and they probably have heard about your company. They have the ultimate inside knowledge, after yourself of course.
  • Continuously working with one agency can keep your results consistent. Compared to working with multiple freelancers, a long-term partnership with an agency can help you build on what you’ve previously done. They also have access to more advanced tools, software, training, and experience that some individuals don’t.
  • They can cater to your needs. Need a whole team or just a single person? Someone for a current project or for all your future endeavors? Want to be involved or hands-off? Local agencies are usually good at making your vision work your way.

Cons of Hiring a Local Agency

  • Make sure you are looking at credible and established local agencies. Reviews and testimonials can give you a good sense of their experience. When considering a newer agency, make sure to interview them thoroughly to get a sense of what their process looks like and what their services include.
  • They might be working with your competitor. Many agencies don’t take on directly competitive businesses. If they do, you want to make sure they have policies in place to protect your company from your competitor’s.
  • If you are targeting a more global or national audience, you want to make sure your agency is up for the challenge. Not all, but some local agencies like to keep it local or lack the experience of working with bigger audiences. Ask your potential agencies about their SEO practices and how local campaigns would translate to national audiences.

Large or National Agencies

You know their name. You might be a fan of the work they’ve done for some major brands. But are they for you?

Pros of Hiring a National or Global Agency

  • Chances are they are a well-known name. It’s easy to find the work they’ve done and to check their track record. There’s definitely an appeal to being their client.
  • Lots of resources. Well-established big agencies possess many advanced tools and connections to take your presence and campaigns to the next level. They can be helpful to expand your audience from local to global.
  • They have a big team. If your project requires many bright minds to come together and take care of things for you, a bigger agency might be the answer to your search.

Cons of Hiring a National or Global Agency

  • The team working with you is likely working on other projects and clients as well. Their attention is needed in many places and their schedule might be very different from yours. Make sure to establish clear communication and expectations from the start.
  • They will be the most expensive choice. They offer a lot — but what do you need? Keep in mind that larger agencies tend to have entry-level employees do most of the work, while managers will be the ones bringing you the results. You might not need all the different services they offer or could save money on hiring an individual. If that’s the case, maybe a different option would fit you better.
  • They might not have the same personal feel to them. Hiring a big agency out of state might mean that they are only able to fly out a few times a year for a bigger project or two. If you want someone who’s available to attend your important meetings in-person, tour your locations, and/or produce content on the spot, it might not be as easy with a bigger agency.

At the end of the day, it’s all about what your goals, needs, and priorities are. Make a list of your wants and needs and compare them to the services offered on your potential service provider’s website. You can try it out with ours!