Freelancers vs Agencies – How Do You Know What’s Right for You?
One of the daunting first decisions in any creative project is deciding who to hire to get the job done. There are many factors that push you towards hiring a freelancer or working with a creative agency like budget, scope, and deadlines. Before considering those things, it’s most important to understand the strengths and limitations of both freelancers and firms:
Freelancers are self-employed individuals.
Some specialize in very specific skills, others wear many hats. Freelancers are typically much cheaper compared to creative agencies. They’re great to bring on board a project where there’s a skill gap or resource need that’s appropriate for a single person to fill.
Agencies, studios, and firms, are teams of individuals where each person generally specializes in a specific area.
Alongside the creatives in an agency team, there is usually a project manager (PM) who helps keeps the timeline in check. Similar to freelancers, some agencies position themselves as a one-stop-shop for a wide array of services, while others work more narrowly within a single niche. Creative firms are more appropriate for larger projects that require guidance from industry experts.
- Freelancers will generally charge less than a studio or agency.
- If you operate in a particular workflow (like agile, waterfall, or scrum), it should be easy to absorb a single person into your process.
- Can be more specialized to suit your specific project needs
- With the proper resources, anyone can decide to become a freelancer. Some of them will be more experienced than others. Thoroughly reviewing their resume, portfolio, and holding a discovery meeting can help determine if they can actually meet your needs.
- Can be less reliable than agencies to stick to timelines
- Fewer resources at their disposal (software, hardware, contractors, etc)
- Freelancers have super-flexible working hours, so they are always available if I need them.
In reality they are their own accountant, project manager, marketing team, and secretary on top of doing project-related work. You can expect freelancers who value your time and their own to set boundaries around when and how you get in touch with them about your project.
- Freelancers are cheaper because they have less overhead than agencies
Bills are just as real for freelancers as they are agencies. On top of wifi, software licenses, laptop(s), file storage, website hosting and domains, health insurance, and font licencing, some freelancers work from co-working spaces where they rent a desk.
- When you hire an agency you’re getting a full team of industry experts who you can count on to deliver top-shelf quality.
- When an agency has a dedicated project manager, you can trust there will always be accountability around deadlines and keeping the project on track.
- If there is ever a need for a specialized resource, agencies typically have connections to vetted, top-tier freelancers who can fill that skill gap.
- Agencies are expensive—there’s no getting around that. If you know you can’t afford the project but you’re eager to work with the team, you’d be wise to ask if they can offer a scaled-down version of your project.
- Can have multiple projects going at once
- Agencies are slow to respond because everything has to be filtered through the project manager.
Creatives can’t get to work without questions answered and requirements sorted, so communication is paramount. A team that values clear communication will CC their designers and developers to have direct conversations with the clients about the deliverables being created. A good project manager will step in to provide clarity on scope, and timeline—not micromanage the design process.
Ultimately, the best way to ensure you’re getting quality work and long-term value is by partnering with an agency. Freelancers are excellent when you need something simple, but complex projects are better handled by a team of industry experts. Paying top dollar buys you decades of experience, diverse skill sets, a project manager who can keep to the timeline, post-project maintenance, and, if all goes well, a business relationship that opens the door to future projects with a team you can trust.
Looking for an agency? Get in touch with us and let’s talk.
Looking for a freelancer? Call us too! We know several we’d recommend and would be happy to help.