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Should You Hire a Freelancer or an Agency? Five Key Criteria to Use in Deciding Who to Hire.

If you are reading this article in hopes that it will give you a clear-cut answer to the above question, you should stop reading now. Just like paper versus plastic, there are times where either of the options may be the better choice. Rather, the purpose of this article is to weigh the pro’s and con’s of each, using five important criteria that can help you determine which is the best fit for your project. But first let’s start by taking a closer look at what the two typically have to offer.

Freelancer:

According to dictionary.com, a freelancer is “a person who works as a writer, designer, performer, or the like, selling work or services by the hour, day, job, etc., rather than working on a regular salary basis for one employer.” While there are full-time freelancers out there, it is not uncommon for freelancers to have full-time day jobs and pick up freelance work they can do at night or on the weekends for extra income. Because most freelancers specialize in one area, such as writing or design, it can be difficult to find one freelancer to meet all of your needs.

Agency:

An agency, on the other hand, is “an organization, company or bureau that provides some service for another.” Typically an agency is comprised of individuals who may be specialists in their respective fields (graphic design, website development, marketing, writing, etc.) and fulfill specific roles for each project while following established processes under a clear chain of command. While this generally means higher overhead and a higher cost, it also equates to a broader array of services and on-demand availability.


Freelancer-Vs-Agency

Since there can be advantages and disadvantages to working with each, this article will strive to offer a fair comparison of each in terms of five areas that are most important to prospective clients: price, quality, time to completion, experience and dependability.

  • Price. The reality is, cost alone is often the number one reason behind the decision of who to hire. However, it is important to consider several other factors before awarding the job.
  • Quality. In theory, quality should be the most important driver in the decision. You’ve heard the expression “you get what you pay for,” and that is generally true. Even if the price is right, take the time to browse the agency’s or freelancer’s portfolio and make sure their style and quality is a good fit for you.
  • Time to Completion. No matter how good the quality or how low the cost, it won’t do you any good if your project comes in late and you miss a critical deadline. If you have a project that absolutely must hit a specific launch date, this could be the single most important criteria for your decision.
  • Experience. The simple fact is the more experienced you are, the more efficient you are. Hiring an inexperienced freelancer at a lower hourly rate could ultimately cost you more if it takes the freelancer 40 hours but would have taken an agency professional only 20.
  • Dependability. Nothing can ruin a project faster than putting trust in someone who isn’t dependable. If you’ve ever encountered unanswered e-mails or phone calls that regularly go straight to voicemail, you can relate to just how important this criteria is.

Now that you understand the decision-making criteria, take a look at the following chart which is designed to provide an at-a-glance reference as to how freelancers and agencies stack up in each category.


How They Compare

Freelancer Agency
Price Lower prices thanks to lower overhead, although rates can vary from as little as $25/hour to more than $100. In general, prices are higher than freelancers, although again rates can vary widely from $55/hour to upwards of $250.
Quality Most seasoned freelancers are passionate about delivering a quality product and will work with you until you’re satisfied. Can be all over the board in terms of quality, which is why it’s so important to carefully review their portfolio.
Time to Completion Because many freelancers aren’t full-time and don’t have additional personnel to rely on, a 40-hour project could take 2-3 weeks. An agency can assign multiple people to your project in order to meet even the most challenging deadline.
Experience Freelancers tend to have experience in one or two areas only, and there are also many young freelancers who get work by offering low prices with little first-hand experience. Since most agencies consist of three or more employees, it’s more likely you’ll find a broader range of experience across multiple specialties.
Dependability Because freelancing is supplemental income for many freelancers, your project may fall to the bottom of their priority list. Additionally, those with full-time day jobs can be difficult to reach. When dealing with an agency, you can almost always reach someone during normal business hours and beyond.

So back to our original question, should you hire a freelancer or an agency? While there may not be one answer that’s right for everyone, I hope this article has given you more to think about than just which one is cheaper. Making the right choice and ending up with a product that best represents your business can ultimately have just as much of an impact on your bottom line as the cost of the project itself.



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