For every new business, the dilemma of when to hire freelancers and when to go with an agency is eternal. The struggle, dear friends, is real! Agencies have been the traditional choice for long, but the freelancing scene in the country has also improved of late. Businesses today have a tough choice to make with most of an agency’s work being done by expert freelancers and at much better costs.
The decision is not an easy one; more so if it is an important campaign or branding activity that could potentially make or break your business. Below, we give you some tips on when to hire freelancers and when to select an agency. We hope these will have you heaving a sigh of relief!
1. Select based on engagement/availability
Freelancers are not full-time employees so the amount of work they can do for you is limited. They can devote a certain amount of time daily to your brand and might even troop into the office for important meetings and such. Still, the difference between a freelance expert and a full-time employee who works remotely is very palpable. The first step when hiring a freelancer is understanding this difference.
An agency, on the other hand, is more ‘available’ in this regard. Most agencies have client relationship executives who act as your go-to person for your brand’s every need. We are not saying (nor propagating the idea) that an agency will forever heed your beck and call, but they will definitely be able to put in more man hours if that is the ask.
Final word: It is better to hire freelancers for transactional tasks and agencies for more long-term engagements where you know you will always require a person on-call.
2. Select based on scope of work
Blogs can be typed out from any location in the world. A 360-degree branding exercise involving print, media, radio and outdoor advertising cannot be handled by a lone wolf. This is another important criterion that can help you choose when to hire freelancers and agencies.
Take the example of the Amul Girl. The character has been the face of the Amul brand since 1969. The job was first given to an agency called ASP (Advertising and Sales Promotions) and was designed by Sylvester daCunha and art director Eustace Fernandes. When daCunha left ASP and created daCunha Communications, the brand stuck with him and the account moved hands to daCunha Communications. This single agency has been handling all of Amul’s branding for years now. Similarly, if your brand requires a holistic approach with multiple collaterals across channels, you should hire agencies. Creating a series of YouTube videos, for instance, requires scripting, acting, videography and a host of other skills. A team of freelancers could surely do this, but it’d be much easier to deal with a single agency executive in this regard.
3. Select based on number of working hours
Part of the charm of being a freelancer is being able to do many things at once, and most freelance experts use their time to learn new things or work on their own ventures. It would be hard to find a freelancer who’s solely dedicated to your brand. You can hire a freelance video maker to work on a single brand campaign for a special occasion. You can even re-hire them for a different project. But expecting them to show up at your door every day and work solely on your projects – that’s foolhardy! Or say you need aUI designer for your app. It’s a simple job for a freelancer and you will find many experts in this field. If you need someone to work on your app every single day though, you ought to get a team. Or, hire an agency.
If this kind of time-intensive and collaborative task is a regular fixture for your brand, an agency is the best fit for you. An individual expert might find it hard to dedicate a large chunk of their day just to a single project.
4. Select based on creativity
It is not easy to think outside the box, even though everyone claims to be doing it. Many times, agencies get stymied in their approach to brand solutions and they tend to repeat themselves without intending to. For every Vodafone pug, you have a hundred different deodorant ads with the same borrowed pitch. So, if you want to get a fresh perspective on something that you have been doing in a particular way for years, hire freelancers.
Freelance experts are the unrecognised Jack of all trades. A freelance writer can also be a designer or a travel enthusiast, and a coder who freelances on the weekends can have a stand-up gig on other days. Does that mean people who work in agencies have sad lives? Nada. But being able to freelance does give you the opportunity to work across verticals and with different brands. This varied experience can help a freelance expert in bringing freshness to your brand’s collaterals.
5. Select based on cost
Apart from a few instances (like the one mentioned above), freelancers are actually more cost-effective than hiring an agency. Unless the volume of work is heavy, it makes no sense to hire an agency on a retainer. For projects where the numbers are low or the volume keeps changing, you can always hire freelancers and work out a payment model that is mutually satisfying (this seems like a good time to add some more gyaan on freelancers and payment models).
Say your website needs a design or content overhaul, or you need a photographer to document an event. You should absolutely hire freelancers for such gigs. This way you keep the budget from breaking the bank and yet get an expert to handle your core projects. Freelance experts are a boon for SMBs and early-stage lean startups who want to keep their overheads low.
6. Select based on your brand’s needs
While all the above holds true, your brand’s requirements trump everything else. Before you even begin your hunt for the Superman-like freelancer or the agency straight out of Mad Men, know what it is that your brand needs. Is your company at that stage where you wish to make a big splash through marketing and advertising, or are you okay with guerrilla methods of spreading the word? Blitzkrieg or a silent storm – the choice between these will decide whether you need an agency to come to your aid, or a freelancer full of a creative spark.
A freelancer who is well versed with social media and branding can help you come up with a monthly calendar of posts and hashtags you can use for your handles, and can even write copy for your ads. Only an agency can, however, turn these ads into billboards or get ad space in newspapers. Your freelance writer could write up a good PR piece for you, and it would be your agency’s work to push this piece to relevant channels and get it published. It’s crucial for your business that you understand the kind of work an agency handles, and how a freelance expert can add value to your brand. This way, you will never have unrealistic expectations from either of them. Best of luck!
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