When to Choose a Marketing Agency vs. a Freelancer (Small Business Guide)

Laura Rodgers

Laura Rodgers

As a small business owner, you have to wear many different hats. The constant juggle of various tasks and projects at once often feels overwhelming. You want to encourage growth and scale your business, but if you’re drowning in a sea of to-do lists, it’s a struggle to completely tend to growth.

When it’s time to get help with your marketing and growth, it can be difficult to decide where to turn. Do you choose a small business marketing agency, or do you go with a freelancer?

Making the right choice for your business can be the life preserver that floats you to the top. There are advantages and disadvantages to both options. In this article, we’ll shine a spotlight on them so that you understand the differences.

Take a deep breath, start treading water, and get ready to find land (i.e. growth!) — it’s time to find a marketing solution that works best for your small business.

The Differences Between a Marketing Agency and a Freelancer

The biggest difference is that a small business marketing agency consists of a marketing team that carries out marketing duties for you – offering you a breadth of services. In the agency model, you typically have a designated set of team members assigned to work with your company, though you may often find that no one person is dedicated to you and learning your business.

A freelancer, on the other hand, is one individual who typically has one particular skill set. They will likely have some expertise working internally for a company at some point, but they provide their services on their own. Freelancing is very much on the rise: Three years ago, there were 57 million American freelancers alone.

The Pros and Cons of Choosing a Marketing Agency vs. a Freelancer

What’s right for one small business might not be right for another. That’s why it’s important to assess the benefits and drawbacks from both small business marketing agencies and freelancers.

Pros of a Marketing Agency

  • A range of skills: An agency will have an entire team of individuals that specialize in what they do. That means each activity should be strategized and expertly executed.
  • A system in place: An agency will have a structure to how they conduct business. It’s a formula that’s tried and tested, and has worked for their other clients.
  • More resources: Having more tools and resources at their disposal will enable them to provide quality work while meeting deadlines.
  • Reliability: You will know when your agency is available and you’ll be able to easily get a hold of them.

Cons of a Marketing Agency

  • Stuck in their system: The same benefit of the small business marketing agency having a proven structure or formula can be an even bigger con. Agencies often speak in their own lingo, believing their model to be the best. This often results in them trying to pound the “square peg” of their formula into the “round hole” of your business, rather than adapting themselves to your unique needs and customers.
  • No single individual who’s accountable or dedicated to your business: By having a team dedicated to your company, you may not often deal with the same person, and it’s unlikely any of them will take the time to truly understand your business. Then, when it comes to accountability, the “buck” doesn’t stop with any one person.
  • Costly: The average hourly rate of an agency can be close to $200 an hour. This can quickly get too expensive for most small business marketing.

Pros of a Freelancer

  • Affordable: Freelancers are often more affordable, especially since there’s so much competition. (But read on – this is also a major con!)
  • Subject matter experts: Freelancers often have strong expertise in one area of marketing, such as writing content or running ads.
  • Easy to find: There are countless website platforms for finding freelancers for your business.

Cons of a Freelancer

  • Hard to find someone who’s a good fit: With a huge sea of freelancers, the reduced cost can actually end up costing you more in the long-run. Finding someone who is committed, can actually deliver on your expectations, and will stick around long-term can be extremely difficult.
  • Limited skill set: One individual can’t be an expert in every field. A freelancer will be limited in what they can provide, so you may need a team of freelancers to get all of your marketing done (and then someone will still need to manage them and set the big picture strategy of how they all fit together).
  • Lack of strategy or executional chops: Most freelancers are really strong at strategy, or really strong at execution, but not both.
  • Unpredictable: The “free” in freelancer is true – your freelancer might suddenly disappear or move onto different work, leaving you and your business high and dry.

What About a Fractional Marketing Department?

What if there was an option that blended the best of both worlds? There finally is, and that’s why we created our Fractional Marketing Department experience!

Like a digital marketing agency, your Fractional Marketing Department has a large breadth of specialized skills across a team. And like a freelancer, a Fractional Marketing Department can actually be affordable for a small business.

At the same time, a Fractional Marketing department offers a commitment to learning your business and understanding your customers. You get your own on-demand Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) who immerses themselves in your business and is accountable to you.

That CMO will act as your main point of contact, and they’ll have a team of specialists to complete your work. Gone are the days of being passed around to five different people just to get one question answered. Plus, that CMO caters the entire marketing strategy to your business, rather than trying to force a system upon your business that may not be a fit for you.

It’s the best of both worlds — the expertise, experience, and commitment of a full-time team, but with the affordability much closer to that of a freelancer. In other words, you get a partner, and not just a vendor.

Think of a fractional marketing department as the lifeguard who is ready to help you get to land.

Which Will Work Best for Your Small Business?

A small business marketing agency is more focused and has more breadth of expertise, but can be costly. Plus, they aren’t always that interested in getting to know your business.

Freelancers, on the other hand, can be a great place to start for newer small business owners, and they’re affordable. But they’re not as dedicated as an agency, they only have so many skills, and they’ll require a lot of hand-holding.

With a Fractional Marketing Department, you get the best of both a marketing communications agency and a freelancer without the downsides. You get a full, yet affordable, marketing department and your own fractional CMO who partners with you to build and oversee the strategy.

Interested in learning more about what a Fractional Marketing Department can do? Reach out to our team today and find out how we can help grow your business.


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