When you need help with your marketing, you have a few options. You can DIY, hire a freelancer, or hire a creative agency to either assist you or take over completely. (BTW, if you’re not sure how a creative agency differs from other agencies, here’s a breakdown.)
Which should you choose? It depends. We’ve seen small marketing teams create great content themselves, and we’ve seen sizable marketing departments struggle to get anything out the door. Whether you’re a small, medium, or large operation, it’s really about what you need to get done and how well equipped you are to do it.
But if you’re at a crossroads and unsure of which route to take, we thought we’d give you an overview of the benefits of each, as well as important things to consider. We hope it helps you make the right decision for your team.
If you have the ability to execute your marketing strategy in-house, this can be a more cost-effective option, assuming you have the bandwidth and skills to do so in a timely manner.
The benefits: Doing your work in-house can be convenient and efficient. Your team already understands your brand, you know what you need to do, and you can coordinate easily. It can be cheaper (assuming you have the resources you need on hand), and you also have the flexibility to pivot or tweak without needing to coordinate with an outside team.
What to keep in mind: While it is great to have insight into your own brand, sometimes you can end up in a vacuum, unable to see outside of your brand. Without outside perspective, you may overlook new opportunities or different (but highly effective) ideas.
Additionally, if you don’t have the tried-and-tested skills to produce something, you can end up wasting much more time and energy redoing your work later. (For example, things like interactives can be highly complex and thus require pro developers.) Also, if you need to bring on new full-time team members to do those things, it can end up being more expensive than using an agency or freelancer.
When you need someone with a specialized skill for a one-off piece or someone to fill in the gaps, a freelancer can be a great resource.
The benefits: Freelancers can help take the load off your stressed team and support you in areas where you may not have the time or skill to execute something. There is certainly no short supply of freelancers, and they can be particularly helpful if you have smaller projects that you need to get out the door quickly.
What to keep in mind: It can take time to find the right one, and there is a learning curve to get them up to speed. They may not always be available to take on your work, and they may require additional oversight, particularly when it comes to things like applying brand guidelines, etc.
A Creative Agency
A creative agency can be a useful partner if you have blindspots in your strategy, don’t have the bandwidth, or lack the particular skills required to properly execute your strategy.
The benefits: We’ve previously outlined the benefits of hiring a creative agency (fresh perspective, expertise, insider networks, quality, etc.). But, in general, an agency provides the overall guidance, skills, and support you need to succeed. If you’re struggling to launch a content operation, constantly missing deadlines, or backburnering projects because your team can’t seem to get it done, an agency can be a huge asset. You can also work with them in whatever capacity necessary. They may steer your entire strategy or simply supplement your content creation.
What to keep in mind: Consider your time. An agency will sometimes move a bit slower than you initially envisioned because they want to take their time through the discovery process, get to know your brand, and follow their creative methodology to come up with the best ideas. If you need something done quickly (like tomorrow), they can’t always accommodate you. You should also consider the size of the agency you’re working with.
- Larger creative agencies often provide a larger range of services. However, with more overhead and therefore more inefficiency, they can come at a higher cost. Additionally, their larger roster means they don’t necessarily “need” your business, and thus may not be as invested in building a long-term relationship with your brand.
- Boutique creative Agencies are usually smaller and often specialize in a particular area. This gives you the benefit of highly specialized knowledge, as well as more access to senior leadership. They have fewer clients and are highly invested in building long-term relationships, which can benefit your brand immensely. That said, while they may have a specialty, because of their size, they will likely have a network of vetted partners that they sometimes contract work with. This isn’t necessarily a con, as their partners are pros in their own area, but it is something to consider in terms of team dynamics.
What to Do Once You Decide What You Need
Hopefully this has provided a little more clarity to help guide you in the right direction. No matter what you choose, you want to make sure it’s the right fit and a good creative partnership. You also aren’t limited to one route. You can experiment with each approach or mix them up to see what dynamic works best for you (e.g., you might do one project in-house with freelancer support, and use an agency for a larger project). Either way, here are a few more resources to guide your next step:
- If you need a creative agency, here’s how to find one, what to ask before you start working with them, and what to expect from the process.
- If you need to use a freelancer, check Dribble to search pro portfolios.
- If you’re going to stay in-house, check out these 100+ content marketing resources to make your life easier, as well as our guide to content strategy, building a brand identity, and a visual identity checklist.
We’d also be happy to support you in any way you need. If you want to chat with us, just holler.