When it comes to website design, marketing, or graphic design, there are a multitude of providers to consider. There are freelancers or digital agencies. There are generalists or specialists. There are local providers vs. nation-wide providers.
If you are referred to one provider and do not seek further, your perspective will be limited. You may agree to something outrageous or get the deal of the lifetime. Choosing a provider without doing research is like rolling the dice and seeing what happens.
Kreative Solutions always recommends doing your homework, educating yourself on the market options, requesting proposals, and reviewing your options internally to choose a provider that fits your needs.
To truly choose the right provider, you need to understand the scope of your options, how various providers are positioned, & then determine what is right for you.
What are the key differences between a freelancer vs. a digital agency?
A freelancer is an independent provider who is self-employed and contracts with various companies. A digital agency is a company that provides services to various companies.
When you work with a freelancer, you are working with an individual. When you work with a digital agency, you are working with a team. The difference in the scale of the team gives rise to differences in communication, motivations, skills, priorities, resources, processes, price, and flexibility.
When you work with a freelancer, you communicate directly with the individual. Without a middleman, you have a clear and direct path of communication which is great for efficiency and effectiveness. However, when you are working with one person, you rely on one person’s expertise rather than an entire team of specialists.
When you work with a digital agency, you will communicate with the project and/or account manager who manages the rest of the team of specialists. With a project manager and a team of specialists, you have access to a breadth of expertise. However, more communication and coordination are necessary to keep everyone on the same page.
#2 Motivation & Reputation
When you work with a freelancer, the results of the project directly affect their livelihood, day-to-day commitments, and reputation. Freelancers are their own boss, choose what projects they take on, and allocate their own time. Freelancers make their own rules which makes it easier to go above and beyond in the interest of the project. However, some may be flaky, have poor communication, etc.
When you work with a digital agency, you work with a team of specialists who have assignments and objectives to achieve. These team members are plugged into a hierarchical system, assigned to projects, and have allocated time budgets. Of course, the overall agency will work in the best interest of the agency’s reputation, but that doesn’t mean the individual team members will be accountable in the same way.
A freelancer often goes out on their own after finetuning a specific skillset while working with different companies. These skills give them a broad perspective when it comes to business. However, they may only have a specific set of specialties so you may need to work with a few freelancers for different needs.
A digital agency brings an experienced team of marketers with a wide breath of skills. However, you don’t get to pick who is assigned to the team. It is important to keep in mind they are running a business as well. Therefore, if you are a large business with a high budget, you are far more likely to have experienced marketers assigned to your team. If you are a small business with a limited budget, you are more likely to have marketers with less experience assigned to your team.
A freelancer sets their own priorities. With fewer projects and guidelines, a freelancer is well positioned to make you a priority.
A digital agency has policies and procedures in place to determine team members priorities and where they dedicate their time. It is very common for the scope of the project and the budget to directly influence the project’s priority.
Freelancers are just one person. Although a team of freelancers may come together for larger projects. Freelancers can get only so much done in one day. There is the chance it might take a freelancer longer to finish a project due to a lack of time and resources. However, on the flipside, they may be more nimble, able to quickly shift priorities, and pivot quicker.
A digital agency will have a team and many more resources in place to execute the project. Scheduling and project management is of the utmost importance. There is a chance the agency is booked out and inundated with work. With so many team members and moving pieces, it can be difficult to adjust timelines or make project pivots quickly.
When working with a freelancer, they can have a standard process or a more go with a flow approach. They may take on specific elements of a project, rather than the whole process (i.e., website design without a comprehensive communications strategy).
When working with a digital agency, they have a standard process from start to finish that incorporates research, strategy, and implementation.
The difference in processes makes freelancers very appealing if you want a dedicated individual to plug in for specific needs. On the other hand, a digital agency is very appealing when you are looking for a full scope agency to take you from start to finish.
A freelancer is often more affordable with less overhead to compensate for. With how their time is directly related to profits, productivity and efficiency are essential.
A digital agency is often more expensive with greater overhead to compensate for. The agency will have a team, office, and many more resources to account for. With the team members being employees, the get paid when they show up.
When you work with a freelancer, they set their own projects, schedules, meetings, and priorities. Together, the two of you can directly adjust the scope of the project with a contract addendum, plan deadlines and meetings, and coordinate priorities.
When you work with a digital agency, the project manager often sets the schedules, meetings, and priorities for the project. If the scope of the project changes, the project manager may need to consult the owner or another team member for a quote and to adjust the overall project scope.
Pros & Cons of a Freelancer vs. Agency
With the above eight differences in mind, there are a few pros and cons to working with a freelancer as well as a few pros and cons of working with an agency.
Regardless if you work with a freelancer or agency, the contract serves to protect both you, the client, as well as the provider. By entering in a contractual arrangement, you have more legal grounds if the project does not work out. Plus, each party will have accurate expectations of the deliverables, contingencies, timeline, etc.
Make sure whoever you are working with is reputable and has references, testimonials, and/or is regularly referred. It is a fallacy that freelancers don’t use contracts, pay taxes, or have business insurance. Professional freelancers have their own contracts, separate business bank accounts, pay taxes, and invest in liability insurance. It is also a fallacy that all digital agencies suit up and are expensive, some are down-to-earth and affordable.
Freelancers may work around the clock while others have established business hours just like agencies. Make sure you know what to expect when it comes to standard hours versus nights and weekends. There may be no services offered or after-hours upcharge.
What is Kreative Solutions?
That is a great question! Kristina started Kreative Solutions as a freelancer and created an LLC on January 13th, 2017. Over time, Kreative Solutions grew, adopted business and liability insurance, hired an accountant and attorney, and contracted an administrative assistant to support account management, bookkeeping, invoicing, networking, and quality assurance. Kreative Solutions also has a list of specialized contractors who we collaborate with and/or team up with on a project basis.
Kristina still thinks of herself as a freelancer who is the dedicated contact, deeply cares about her reputation and the project success, excels in communication and project management, has a diverse set of marketing skills based on a wide range of experiences, makes every client a priority regardless of budget or scale, schedules projects to allocate time and resources appropriately, and strives to deliver affordable quality.
However, at the end of the day, Kreative Solutions is not a full-service agency who offers video marketing, photography, and advanced custom development. Yes, we have contactors who we work with on a regular basis, but they are not on staff. Furthermore, Kreative Solutions does not have a snazzy office space for team and client meetings, just shared office space with reservable meeting rooms at the Innovation Center.
With all of that said, Kreative Solutions would be classified as more of a freelancer but is moving towards a nimble contractual digital agency. The end game is to be able to deliver full scale marketing services by bringing on contractors on a project basis to ensure quality, effectiveness, and efficiency while avoiding the complexities of employees and keeping overhead low.