Digital agency vs. freelancer: How to make the right choice?
Today, many skills are required to implement a good digital marketing strategy. Today, most of them can be acquired by following some online training courses or trough different resources. However, if you want to reach the full digital potential, the use of specialists is crucial for the success of the overall strategy.
The responsibilities a manager has toward his or her team and superiors do not always leave room for learning new skills.
Using external resources ensures that you get defined and specific help.
This way you can deal with the priorities of your team. For example, the strategy and objectives of each member, management’s reporting or even communication with other departments. These are tasks that are usually reserved for internal resources.
However, You have to choose between an agency and a freelancer when it comes to external resources.
If you are planning to use one of these solutions, I invite you to take into consideration the different evaluation criteria presented in this article. This will help you to make the best choice in regard to your needs.
The importance of making the right choice
Questions arise as soon as your project becomes concrete. Once the business plan or strategy has been defined, you will have to make choices about the digital marketing activities.
Of course, at the beginning, you can deal directly with the different activities. However, as your project evolves, you will have to make a choice in terms of partners (agency or freelance). Ideally, they will support you in the development of your global digital marketing activities.
Choosing a freelancer means first and foremost having someone with experience in a specific field. For example, in digital advertising, A/B testing or analytics. They usually work alone and are directly involved in the project.
A digital marketing agency offers a complete team of professionals with the different profiles required to complete a project. However, the support needs can be very different for each client.
There are many options, so let’s see which solution is best for you.
Flexibility in relation to a defined project
Generally speaking, working with a freelancer offers greater flexibility than a web marketing agency. Having direct control over their schedule, offer them the possibility to easily adapt their availability to your needs.
An agency is mainly governed by a schedule that varies from 8 am to 7 pm. These restrictions are difficult to adapt or change according to your needs (e.g. main activities in a different time zone).
Also, if you choose a freelancer in your geographical area, they can easily work full time directly from your premises. This is a definite advantage from a communication and alignment point of view during the different stages of your project.
Some agencies offer more and more solutions to meet the requirements of their clients. Nevertheless, the additional costs involved (special working hours) give the freelancer a clear advantage.
Of course, flexibility is not the only criterion to take into account when making your choice; the skills and services offered are just as decisive.
Skills and services offered by an agency and a freelancer
Unlike a freelancer, an agency offers a solution in all areas of digital marketing. Whether it’s email automation, paid campaign management or social media strategy. Using an agency allows you to cover most needs.
A freelancer offers these services in a well-defined field. He is primarily expert in one channel (SEO, advertising, analytics, web design, etc.) or one skill (project management, digital strategy, marketing campaign, test implementation).
Also, from a scalability point of view, in most cases, an agency is the best opportunity. It can adapt the resources needed for your project quite easily, compared to a freelancer who has certain limitations.
Finally, an agency is generally more autonomous thanks to its structure and number of employees. It can easier manage the constraints linked to holidays, sick leave and employee holidays.
For large projects that require a high number of skills, an agency is clearly an advantage.
Of course, the price reflect his availability and scalability. Another selection criterion to take into account when you are searching for the best solution for your business.
A question of price
By comparing services, an agency is on average 30% more expensive than a freelancer. This is mainly due to the very different costs between the two types of service.
An agency has significant costs related to the office space made available to its employees. Also, you have to take into account the different salaries and social charges. This varies according to the experience, but also the area of expertise of a web agency offering to a client.
A freelancer, on the other hand, has fewer costs. In particular, because he usually works remotely or directly at his client’s office. He can also define his salary, which often varies according to the projects he is hired for.
Of course, cheaper does not necessarily mean better opportunities. An agency has experience on large projects and is much more adaptable to the workload than a freelancer.
For Switzerland, at first sight, outsourcing across Europe may be a good idea.
However, it is important to analyse the different aspects of working with an agency or hiring a freelancer and not only the price of the services.
The question of offshoring
At first sight, offshoring projects abroad to a Swiss-based company is a very good opportunity. However, it is important to take into account all the facets of a project, such as communication, deliverables and also the degree of expertise.
Being able to speak an official language of the country does not necessarily mean understanding the culture and expectations of its citizens.
One important thing to mention here, the price differences for agencies based in countries bordering Switzerland are very attractive (France, Germany and Italy). You can even have access through specialized platforms (Upwork, Fiverr) to profiles based in Eastern Europe, Africa and even India.
Hourly rates are very competitive, and the difference in price for a project can vary from one to three times that of a Swiss service provider.
Objectives of your project clearly defined
Nevertheless, you should consider the objectives of your project and the expectations of your clients or prospects in a global way.
First, you need to find the provider who understands your needs and offers services that meet your expectations. You will need to carry out advanced research and checks to identify the right provider.
Secondly, managing several languages is not an easy task. You need to find a provider who speaks at least 3 languages natively and understands how Switzerland works.
From previous experiences, simply translating texts or advertisements is not really effective. A rewrite by someone who lives in the country of the campaign will perform much better.
Also, the difference in time zones can work against offshore work. You need to set up all meetings early in the morning or late at night and adjust your working hours accordingly.
Finally, you should also take into account the legislation and clauses of a contract. In some cases, exclusivity and confidentiality may be complicated to claim. The exchange rates applied when the currencies are different need to be taken in consideration as well.
As a result, the initial price difference can quickly become a constraint that can have indirect costs on the whole project. (and at least, less time for you to manage other priorities and marketing efforts)
To be fully transparent, certain tasks in a project could be covered by a company that is not necessarily domiciled in Switzerland.
The operational part can be here taken in consideration. The implementation of campaigns or optimization are standardized tasks in most cases. As well, once you have defined a clear strategy, an offshore agency can take care of reporting and recommendations.
Developing a digital strategy with providers based exclusively in other countries is risky. Just because a campaign works well in one country does not mean it will be a success in another.
I believe that for digital strategy, it is always best to have support from an online marketing agency or freelancer with experience in the Swiss market.
What is the best opportunity? An agency or a freelancer?
There is no right or wrong answer to this question. With pros and cons, it all depends on your project and your expectations. Here are three ways to help you make your choice:
- If you have a short term project and your budget for strategy is limited: Using a freelancer can help you achieve your digital development.
- If you want to develop your business in the long term and need an adaptable and scalable structure, an agency will be a very good choice.
- If your strategy is already defined, and you only require support for operational tasks: choosing an offshore provider can be a good and economic solution.
I had the chance to work with many marketing professionals, from international agencies to small businesses. I would be happy to give you more details. My different experiences may help you if you have not yet found the ideal size fits.
Please do not hesitate to contact me with your questions or experience!