When a small business decides to spend money on digital marketing, they will inevitably face a choice between an agency or an independent or freelancer. The decision to choose an agency might seem like a no-brainer to some businesses, as the idea of having a whole team of marketers in your corner, driving leads and getting the phone to ring, will help you sleep better at night. While it may be true that partnering with an agency means more hands on deck, this isn’t always beneficial or even necessary.
Covid Related Influx of Digital Freelancers
Tech and digital services are among the many sectors feeling the effect of “the great resignation”. The tug-of-war of working from home, working in the office, going back home, etc., was an eye opener to many in digital industries. The tug-of-war of working from home, working in the office, going back home, etc., was an eye opener to many in digital industries
I was among those that found a way out of this cycle. Like many others with years working for larger companies in the digital space, I had been weighing the pros and cons of going independent or freelancing. The idea of owning my ideas, instead of selling them had always seemed like the path to professional and personal peace to me.
Well, as it turns out, I was anything but alone. According to a study performed by Upwork, and reported by NPR, two million Americans have chosen to freelance since the beginning of the pandemic. While not all have deliberately decided to freelance, losing their job instead of leaving, a majority of new freelancers have said no amount of money would convince them to go back to a traditional job.
What does this mean for small businesses seeking digital marketing services?
This trend is nothing but good news for small businesses, as having options rarely is anything but. As someone who has worked for a bustling, rapidly growing digital marketing agency, to someone who is now fully independent, I am qualified to speak on this issue. For small businesses looking to detangle or enhance their digital marketing efforts, the question of whether to choose an independent or agency it’s more of a matter of style, as opposed to quality now.
This is due to the amount of experienced, highly qualified SEOs and internet marketers on the market now. That’s not to say that there aren’t still a share of “expert” freelancers out there, trying to make a quick buck. There are. Just as there is a percentage of agencies on the market who take business's hard earned money and do half of the work that they promise.
Why should you choose a freelancing digital marketer?
Direct Communication The business owner that chooses a freelancer of an agency is the type of person that finds value in connecting directly with people. When working with an independent marketer, there is a 1:1 relationship between what you and your marketer decides is needed, and what work gets done. When working with an agency, a game of telephone is played between the business owner, their account manager, then to the SEO and Development teams. This isn’t always the case, but what is lost in translation can cost time and money.
Work Gets Done Faster Another benefit of working with a non-agency marketer is the speed at which work gets done. In the digital marketing space, things change rapidly. A technical problem can arise, a new search engine guideline can come out, something that happens locally can become a marketing or lead generating opportunity. When these situations arise, working with someone who can respond quickly is worth something. As mentioned above, working with an agency can mean you are competing with your account manager’s other clients, and if those clients are paying more, you’ll have to wait.
Constant Attention Moving on, this benefit can’t be understated. Working with a freelancer means more focused attention on your account. A freelancer’s clients are their bread butter, and if something goes wrong with one of their accounts, there’s no one else to blame. This means quality care taken with the ins and outs of your website and campaigns. An account manager at an agency has many clients’ accounts to maintain and keep an eye on.
Personalized Out Of The Box ideas SEO and digital marketing is a constant game of trying to outdo your clients' competition. When working with an independent marketer, there is a one to one relationship between what you and your marketer decides is needed, and what work gets done.Coming up with unique content opportunities, marketing strategies, and innovative ideas is the name of the game. When working with an independent, you are part of a small group of clients that benefit from any new concepts your marketer comes up with, most of which are probably not in your same industry. This is not so with an agency, where a new concept is used across the board with all clients, a high chance of which are in the same line of business as you. This means that the agency’s client roster as a whole may perform better than the next agency’s client roster, but client’s that are competing within the agency’s client list don't really see the full benefit. With an independent, you will be part of a much smaller group that benefits from any new techniques that they come up with.
Personally Invested Lastly, a good independent marketer is personally invested in their clients. They don’t have the benefit of a sales team that funnels new leads to them or a development that supports them. When you succeed, they succeed. That’s not to say that an agency wouldn’t be invested in your success, but it’s not the same way a freelancer would be.
Why should you choose a digital marketing agency?
You Have A Large Business This one is pretty simple. If you have a large business with many employees, a full fledged agency would, most times, be a better fit. The only time this wouldn’t be the case, is if a freelancer was serving your business soley. If you have a large business, with many locations and are growing fast, an agency will have more people to respond to your needs, and respond to them simultaneously.
You Have Complex Business Needs If your business has unique needs, an agency might be better for you. Complex issues that require high level programming and problem solving, whilst regular month work is being performed at the same time, is something agencies thrive at. Again, a highly qualified freelancer would have no problem tackling these tasks, but more so if they were dedicating all of their attention to your business, which, from a diversification point of view, may not be the best choice for the freelancer.
Access To Top Tier Digital Services And Tools This benefit, again, really only benefits larger businesses that are seeking growth. Agencies typically invest heavily in expensive marketing services that freelancers just wouldn’t need to invest in. Marketing tools that utilize the cutting edge technology of AI and Machine Learning can help businesses make accurate budget projections, and to predict and track the success of highly complex marketing campaigns. These industry level tools can be of great benefit to your business year over year depending on your goals. Freelancers most likely aren’t paying for access to these services.
So Which Is best For You Business?
If after evaluating the points above, you are still unsure about which direction to go when choosing a search optimization service, there’s one more metric that has yet to be discussed: price point! Marketing budgets vary widely depending on a whole host of factors: type of business, cash flow, and time of year are just a few. Freelancers are better suited to handle these situations, as they are more elastic and know you on a more personal level. Agency level services have an overhead that is many multiples larger, and don’t have as much wiggle room with their monthly SEO packages.
Does that mean, because you’re paying less, that a freelancer is the lesser option? It does not mean this at all. If a freelancer is surviving out in the wild, it means their product has value to businesses in the community. If you should come away from this article with anything, it should be knowing that in a pandemic stricken world, there are more highly qualified freelancers than ever before that are more than capable of helping small businesses grow. Developing a long lasting relationship with your digital partner can be a mutual beneficial experience all involved. Thanks for reading!