Marketing Agency vs Freelancer: How to Find the Best Fit For Your Marketing Partner

Apr 30, 2021

Let’s have the talk about hiring and finding the right partner for your business.

Marketing is tough. It encompasses a lot. If you’re a super small marketing team with just one person in charge of everything, it can plain overwhelming.

You may have some great skills in this arena, but you may not have everything necessary to do what needs to be done in today’s digital marketing world. That’s OK! In fact, it’s actually a good problem to have — it means you’re growing!

That said, you’ll need someone to augment or supplement some of those things that you’re responsible for but don’t have the skills to execute.  What we at Banker Creative have found is that it’s really important to make sure you have the right fit with an agency. 

The Pros and Cons of Hiring a Small Marketing Agency as a Smaller Company

When we say small agency what do we actually mean?

 Let’s talk about size,  both for your company and the company you’ll be hiring. First, how big is your company?  There are pros and cons, but If you’re with an agency where you’re the smallest client for them, it’s going to feel like a big stretch for your own budget, and you’ll basically just be a really small fish to them. 

That means the amount of revenue that your account brings to the marketing agency will be really low for them. Now that’s not to say that they are intentionally going to ignore you or try to give you bad service, but your expectations may be high (because they’re a big agency). And what they’re able to deliver at that price point is low (because you’re a small client). That’s an easy way to spot a mismatch.

That’s a problem for a lot of reasons. You’re going to be frustrated because you’re not getting the service that you need. They’re frustrated because you need a lot more of their time than what they’ve budgeted or scoped for.  On the other hand, if you go too small you might end up hiring someone who doesn’t have the experience and the skills to do everything you need. Again, another mismatch

Marketing Agency vs Freelancer
Finding a freelancer vs a marketing agency is about the right fit for your organization

The importance of matching a marketing agency to your needs

Finding a good match is important because a bad one wastes time and money

If you don’t have a good fit with your marketing agency or freelancer, you still need that thing done (website design, SEO, email marketing, etc) which means you’re gonna have to go back and either redo it or find someone else who can do it for you.

So it’s important to make sure you’re with the right size agency. Banker Creative is a small marketing agency, and we intentionally keep our overhead low so that we can be a good partner for small to mid-sized businesses. That’s what we look for in a client. It wasn’t always this way. 

I started off as a freelancer. Basically, I was a generalist. I kind of did everything for my clients. And then over time, we built a team, but we’ve intentionally kept our overhead low so that we can serve clients in that niche, and at a rate that makes sense.

Hiring a marketing freelancer: Finding the right match (and adjusting your expectations)

Hiring a freelancer can be a great option, just so long as you understand what you’re getting.

Let’s talk through a couple of those things. If you’re hiring, say your nephew or niece, just to do data entry work, or really basic things — that’s great. You’re getting what you need at about $15 to $30 an hour. But once you get into an area where you want someone who has more expertise than you to be helping you, it’s going to be a bit more expensive.

So, in the freelance space, you’re usually looking for someone who is a specialist in a particular area. If you want a copywriter because you need copywriting done, be specific in the skills you are looking for. For example, some copywriters may be good at SEO, but not all of them specialize in that. And a lot of SEO folks may not be very good at writing for humans. Not that there’s anything wrong with that 🙂

So make sure you match the skill with the task at hand. If it’s not a good match, you’ll be disappointed, they’ll be overwhelmed, and it’ll create more problems than your freelancer solves. 

How much does it cost to hire a marketing freelancer?

Generally, a freelancer is going to be anywhere from $50 to $100 an hour. Sticker shock is a real thing.

That represents an entry level fee for most marketing freelancers. For some professional work — especially if it’s more strategic or higher-level work like SEO it could be even higher than that. Good people cost money, so be aware of that to minimize your own sticker shock. If you’re talking to someone whose work you really, respect and admire and you find out, “Oh, they’re $120 an hour.” that’s not an uncommon rate. In fact, that’s the reality of the industry.

Hiring a small marketing agency: Starting at $100 per hour

We are not the cheapest agency in the world, but we’re established.

The next step up is hiring a small marketing agency (which is the category that we fall in at Banker Creative). Our base rate is a hundred dollars. That’s not a flat rate. It can go as high as $175 per hour for certain strategic and high-level work, but generally, we base our projects around a hundred dollars an hour.  

We aren’t the cheapest agency in the world, but we’re established. We’re going to be here tomorrow. We’re going to be here next year, you can count on us. And so having someone who has a variety of skills, which is what you get with a team, is good. You have a track record of success, a wide variety of portfolio pieces to look at, and you generally know what you’re going to get. That’s a big step up from a freelancer specialist, and that’s reflected in the price.

When to Hire a Bigger or Mid-Size Marketing Agency

It’s not always about size

If you’re a bigger company (5 to 60 employees) a midsize agency might be a better fit for you. Now if you’re a large company, you’ve got 200, 300, 400 employees and your revenue is 4 million a year or more, you may be looking at a larger agency. That might not always be the best move.

Yes, the annual revenue and size of business can tell you a lot, but some of that is actually relative. You may feel like you’ve got 6 million in revenue, but you still feel like a small company. Lean into that feeling. Your instincts are usually right in this regard. You still may want to be looking for someone who is in the same mindset as you — this could be a smaller agency. After all, this business is about relationships. Finding the right agency that will grow with you makes a ton of difference in the day-to-day working relationship. 

When a budget affects a agency-client relationship

The size matching works both ways. Here’s a story from our perspective as a small marketing agency.

I have, in the past, occasionally taken on clients who were too small for the size business that we were. We really did our best to do the work that we had agreed to and do — and do it well. And, and I hope that that really is what happened. We pride ourselves on honesty and giving valuable service to all our clients. 

Unfortunately where a too-small company or under-scoped project really breaks down is on the relationship side. I want to see my clients succeed, but if what they’re paying us is too low for our margins, it adversely affects the relationship in a way where I end up resenting the work. I don’t mean that I resent the client but I might resent the fact that I said yes to something with a budget that couldn’t support the work it would take to do a good job. It’s stressful, it’s hard, and it leads to a strain on anyone dealing with those problems — for both the client AND the agency. 

That’s not the recipe for a long-term partnership. I can’t be fully invested in your business and want what’s best for you. If I’m frustrated or resentful of what we’re charging you.

Communication and trust are the keys to a lasting partnership between a client and their marketing agency

If you’re a marketer, make sure that you’re clear and upfront about your rates that you charge.

Give your clients an understanding of why you are worth what you’re worth as a marketing agency. Never apologize for what it costs. And if you’re a small business owner and a super small marketing team, make sure that you’re finding a good partner that best fits what you’re looking for. Anything less than that has the chance to be disastrous.

That said, when you find the right fit, the results can be amazing. Some of our favorite clients have come together with us because both sides were clear and forthright in the communication of their needs and goals. That’s a beautiful thing.

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