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Agency vs Freelancer vs Employee: Comparing Options While Thinking About Your Marketing Strategy

Without marketing, you’re invisible. So, how can you make it happen?

Many Central Florida companies start out as one-person enterprises. The owner does it all. This may work for a while – it’s better suited for some industries than others – but it is a recipe for burnout.

Sooner or later, your neck is going to get tired from “wearing many hats.” And then you have a big choice in front of you: How can you get marketing services done affordably and well?

Lots of business owners aren’t thrilled about marketing. We would even say they’re in the majority. Entrepreneurs have a vision for the world and a specific set of things they’re both good at and enjoy doing. Marketing might not be in that skill set. They often don’t know quite what to make of it.

Here in Central Florida, most folks were raised not to brag or make too much of their achievements. That attitude is understandable, but it adds another layer of difficulty when it comes to promoting everything your business has to offer.

Sometimes, an outside perspective is exactly what you need.

But there’s more than one way to get that perspective:

  • A marketing agency
  • A freelance marketer
  • An in-house marketer

Each of these options has different advantages in terms of quality, cost, convenience, and much more. As a leading Central Florida marketing agency, you might expect us to tout the agency experience first, but there’s no “one size fits all” solution.

Making the right decision for your business and its goals is critical.

Although all three of the options can deliver marketing output, it’s difficult to backtrack and start over if you find you’ve made the wrong choice. Before you make your move, it’s wise to sit back and consider.

Which option will really optimize your marketing output?

The only way to know for sure is to review the options in depth.

Let’s look at them in the same order many Florida business owners do.

1. Freelance Marketing: A Potential Money-Saver with Some Serious Pitfalls

If you want some blog writing, social media posts, or other online content out fast, freelancers have the potential to be the least expensive option. Unfortunately, you’ll rarely find a truly skilled or experienced freelancer charging bargain rates – when they learn their worth, the price goes up.

Marketing isn’t a commodity, so it’s a shaky proposition to make a decision based on the lowest bidder. A lot of other factors go into the mix, so let’s measure the ups and downs of hiring freelance marketers:

a. Freelance Marketers Can Be Unpredictable and Unreliable

Central Florida businesses tend to look for freelancers on platforms like Upwork and People Per Hour that actively discourage you from building a relationship with the people who work for you – they are generally not allowed to contact you directly, which limits your ability to communicate.

Since they are chased away from deepening their relationship with you, it should be no surprise when they simply aren’t around for work you need done. But, unfortunately, this often comes as a shock and can throw the timelines of your marketing campaigns into chaos.

While many freelancers are highly professional and consider marketing their “day job,” you’ll also find some who are just dabbling or looking for extra income in a “side hustle.” No matter what skill you’re hiring for, freelancers vary considerably in both their interest level and ability to deliver.

If you seek freelancers outside of established marketplaces, you may have the opportunity to get more skilled experts on your side. But you will also need to work at cultivating the relationship and may pay anywhere from 3x to 10x more than you would with a freelancer who is just starting out.

Yes, it is possible to develop strong relationships with freelancers … but it is a lot of work.

b. You Will Almost Always Need More than One Freelancer

Unless you are only doing one thing, you will probably need more than one freelancer.

Freelance marketers learn early on in their careers that being a “jack of all trades” dilutes their brand. Hyper-specialized niches like website link acquisition are what make the money for freelancers. With this in mind, a good “all-rounder” is getting difficult to find.

You might need a freelancer for your blog writing, a freelance voiceover artist for your video storytelling, a website designer, designers for all of your other collateral, a multimedia artist to set the voiceovers to visuals, an email marketing expert, an online advertising manager, and on and on and on.

By the time you orchestrate all this, you’ve herded lots of cats. You will find yourself documenting and monitoring what everybody else is doing instead of simply letting them get on with it and reaping the results. And you do all this without the stability of knowing they’ll be around in the future.

c. There Are Some Services Freelancers Just Can’t Perform

In the remote working era, it might seem like there’s virtually nothing a freelancer can’t do.

It’s definitely true that there are fewer things they can’t do than ever before. But when it comes to the nitty-gritty of digital marketing, there are still some important places where freelancers fall short. And it’s not even their fault: It is simply the nature of the work.

If you are using freelancers to do the bulk of your marketing, then it’s very difficult for anyone to have a complete picture of what’s going on. That makes it impossible for any freelancer, no matter how skilled, to advise you effectively about your marketing data and what it means.

Even providing that data means giving a freelancer access to secure information that’s increasingly more regulated by authorities around the world. And though they might be able to make some sense of it, it is just not possible to craft an entire strategy with a piecemeal view.

Another issue has to do with software tools.

As a discipline, marketing runs on software. Some apps cost thousands of dollars a year. Established marketing agencies can afford these tools, and they can be made available to your in-house employees. Freelancers usually won’t have them – and those who do will price their services to recover their costs.

2. In-House Marketing Employees: A “Go Big” Option with Limited Usefulness

How many people do you need in an in-house marketing team?

The answer is usually more than one, as you’ll end up hiring employees whose skills cover the different roles you could have hired a freelancer for. A small Central Florida company may get away with just one marketing employee, but most mid-sized organizations have 3-5, and larger ones have eight or more.

That first hire is usually the marketing director, a person who can provide the complete strategic view of your efforts. He or she also works to keep the rest of the team on track. But all marketing directors have different skills, and they don’t always function in a “player-coach” role as a producer.

So, that leaves you with at least two.

Assuming you can build up your own in-house marketing team over time, there are definite benefits. Full control over the production environment and the output are very attractive, especially for larger enterprises. And you can be pretty sure of the quality level you’ll get from one day to the next.

But, as with the other possibilities, nothing is perfect.

Let’s dig in and see the in-house marketing experience:

a. Getting “First Value” from Your In-House Team Can Take Years

The more senior a role is, the longer it will take to fill. A marketing director is a mid-senior role, but it can be expected to operate at a higher level than the title would suggest. So, it is not unusual to see hiring take six months or more for this kind of role, rejecting several unfit candidates along the way.

Even if you’re simply going to hire a social media manager or a marketing copywriter, you can still expect a minimum of three months in the hiring process. Marketing skills are in high demand, and career marketing professionals are often comparing their other options even while fully employed.

When initial hiring is done, the person in charge of the marketing effort needs to set the standards, develop the direction, and make sure everyone has the resources necessary to execute. That could take another three months. Overhead mounts with every purchase (but more on that later).

It takes about three months for even a well-conceived and smoothly executed digital marketing campaign to bear fruit. If you want faster results, you will probably go with paid traffic. That can accomplish nearly immediate attention, but it can also fall flat.

Assuming all of your hiring timelines took no longer than average, you are almost a year into your in-house marketing odyssey and you may not have made a single dime in ROI on the work you’ve done!

b. Hiring Adds Tremendous Overhead to Your Business … Permanently

Nothing else is more complicated than adding headcount to your business. If your marketing personnel are among the first hires you’ve ever done, it’s even more mind-boggling.

Payroll and taxes are only the beginning. You’ll also need to be sure your hires are equipped with the right software and kept up to date with training. Marketing changes fast, and if you are left behind, it could actually damage your ability to attract online traffic and make sales.

All in all, a huge amount of effort goes into the whole employee experience – not least because your marketer is only “your marketer” until a better offer comes along. When a staff member unexpectedly departs, the brain drain means your team will spend weeks or months re-inventing the wheel.

3. Marketing Agency: An Answer to All These Issues and More

A world-class marketing agency experience is built around having a ready answer to all these problems. The best marketing agencies combine all the benefits of in-house and freelancing without any of the drawbacks, giving you an expert third-party team that integrates seamlessly at the lowest cost.

Here’s how it all shakes out:

a. First Value Is Immediate

A Central Florida marketing agency should be ready to start making money for you from day one.

Yes, it takes a while for your digital marketing to take hold – “traffic” relies on people going online and looking for information. All that takes time. But with an agency, you spend no time warming up and all your time actually running the race. That cuts 6-9 months off the time it takes to see your ROI.

A reliable marketing agency will have proven plans that lead to consistent results. So, the longer you stick with a given agency, the more you will build competitive advantages. Each month, you can be doing better than the month before. That compounds over quarters and years.

b. A Marketing Agency Is a “One Stop Shop”

With a full-service Florida digital marketing agency, it is “one and done.” You don’t need to cast about looking for a blog writer, graphic designer, social media manager, videographer, or even a mascot (our office dog has that part covered). If you want something that your digital marketing agency doesn’t do, then they will refer you to someone who can do it or find a way to make it happen.

c. A Marketing Agency Is Highly Predictable

Agency marketers don’t just sit back in their office with a cigar in one hand and a martini in the other – we aren’t Mad Men. In fact, a truly trustworthy agency will be able to show you results each and every month so you know where your money is going. And even if you decide to part ways, your agency must turn over everything you’ve paid for. There’s no risk of losing control of accounts or assets.

d. Overhead Is Cut Down to Size

With an agency, your single monthly retainer pays for all the services you could ever need. That’s true no matter how much time someone spends on them or how many team members are involved. You don’t have to fund any 401(k) plans, either.

At New York Ave, we’re relentless when it comes to making sure you get all the value you expect and more. So, we ran the numbers by comparing our clients’ digital marketing investments to the latest figures from Wall Street. What we found could be shocking.

Hiring a digital marketing agency is not only less expensive but adds more value:

  • It costs an average of $7,779+ per month for Florida businesses to employ a marketing director
  • The same Florida business can spend around $3,000 a month to retain a marketing agency’s team

And that’s without all the HR, onboarding, retention, retirement, off-boarding … and the list goes on and on. Unlike an employee, a marketing agency needs to be able to prove a bottom-line value every month.

We know that working with a marketing agency won’t be right for everyone. Some companies really will find they want to go with the $7,779+ investment. Others can’t spare the funds just yet, even knowing it will all come back to them in a matter of months – as their marketing campaign ramps up in earnest.

If you are intrigued by the possibility of working with a marketing agency, however, we want to do our best to make sure New York Ave is the one you choose. We invite you to call us or visit our office for a free, friendly chat with no obligation. You can sit down to have all of your questions answered.

Marketing is your connection to the future customers and other supporters who’ll move your business into a prosperous future. It’s not just a “nice to have,” it’s a “must-have.” With New York Ave, you’ll get a team that cares about your success and will stand by you every step of the way.

Our goal is always to give you 5x the work at 10x the quality for just half the cost.

Contact us to learn more or get started. We’re looking forward to meeting you.

Need marketing? Get 5x the work at 10x the quality, for 1/2 the cost with an agency.

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1 Average median salary in Florida for ‘Marketing Director’, based on research by Glassdoor. 2 Retirement calculated at 3% contribution, based on research by 3 Health premium average calculated by ranges provided from a 2016 Health Benefits survey. 4 Total employee average calculated at first year and includes the following considerations: $4k onboarding and training, $1k software and subscriptions, and $3.75k outsourcing help. Total agency average based on Florida-located, full-service agency.