As companies grapple with the challenges of producing high-quality content on a consistent basis, many are turning to outsourcing options, including freelancers or agencies, to meet their content needs.
Some 17% of companies are outsourcing content to agencies or freelancers, or both, according to a recent survey by Curata (where I work).
But who is faster and more agile—freelancers or agencies? And who makes more sense for your budget?
Below, freelancers and agencies go head to head in a five-round match.
If you have a clear idea of what content you need and when, and you have the resources to manage that workflow, then you could likely assign individual pieces to freelancers and use internal resources to edit and publish that content. But if you need more of an end-to-end solution, including content planning and editorial calendars, an agency might be a better fit, as agencies can create that structure for you.
Whether you're hiring an agency or freelancers, it's a good idea to discuss workflow expectations in advance. Some agencies have robust content management systems that will integrate seamlessly with the tools you already use. Others, not so much. Similarly, some freelancers are tech-savvy enough to use your internal content management system, whereas others are still wedded to Word documents and may not be able to adapt to the programs you use.
Freelance and agency fees run the gamut—from pennies per post to thousands of dollars per month. In general, though, freelance content creators tend to be less expensive than agencies.
Freelancers have lower overhead, and they often charge by the hour or word, which means you don't pay them when they're not writing for you. Some agencies will charge a minimum monthly retainer regardless of whether you use their services, and there may be extra fees for planning, strategy, and analytics.
Of course, price shouldn't be your primary consideration. Buying cheap, low-quality content may actually cost more because of the damage to your brand's reputation or the extra time it takes to make those posts publishable. As they say, you get what you pay for.
Interviewing agencies and completing their internal onboarding process could take weeks or months, but you can often hire a freelancer after a brief exchange of emails. If you have an urgent need for content, you might opt for a freelancer instead of an agency.
Turnaround time is another key consideration. Some freelancers can accommodate last-minute requests or respond to emails on weekends or emails, whereas agencies may take more time to mobilize.
Keep in mind, though, that the best content partner is not necessarily the quick fix. Take the time to identify content creators you'll want to work with again and again, and make sure they understand your brand and its voice. If you're constantly changing your agency or stable of freelancers, you might be creating an inconsistent voice that could confuse or alienate readers.
Working with an agency may mean signing a long-term contract that could make it challenging to pivot your content strategy and approach as needed. With freelancers, there's typically no long-term contract, so the work may ebb and flow as your needs evolve (of course, that flows both ways; they may need to scale back or pause their work for you as their workload changes).
However, whereas agencies often have internal sources or a pool of trusted freelancers who can help you ramp up your content quickly, freelancers' work may be less scalable.
Discuss turnaround times, communication processes, and capacity with freelancers or an agency before you make any hiring decisions.
5. Breadth of Services
Do you need lots of different content types, such as videos, blog posts, whitepapers, and e-books? Or do you plan to focus your content in a single area, such as a blog or social media? Often, freelancers have expertise in a few formats, such as long-form brand journalism or short, voicey blog posts, whereas agencies might be able to provide a cohesive content plan across many different platforms and formats.
If you need writers in other countries to create country-specific content, then you might choose an agency with teams of writers in those countries. Finding and managing those writers yourself could prove challenging and inefficient.
To Sum Up...
Ultimately, there are pros and cons to hiring either freelancers or agencies, so you need to consider your organization's needs and resources before choosing the right approach.
Assuming that you have a big enough budget, I'd recommend adopting a hybrid model, hiring freelancers and agencies depending on the scope of the project; that approach has worked well for us here at Curata. I'd love to hear your thoughts: Which method do you prefer and why? Leave a comment and let us know!
(For more on content marketing best-practices, see The 4 Steps to Content Marketing Enlightenment e-book.)
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