Full-Time Employees, Freelancers, Agencies – Pros and Cons

What are you supposed to do when you need special digital work whether it be marketing, web development, design or etc.?

There are three common options that you can pick from:

  • Hiring a full-time employee
  • Hiring a freelancer
  • Working with an agency

I have been a part of all three. I have been an employee, a freelancer and part of an agency. On the other hand, I have hired freelancers, employees and offloaded work to agencies.

There are different combinations that you can pick from. On top of that, it becomes more complicated depending on the type of skills you are looking for, expertise, the amount of time you want to be spent on a project and so on.  I am going to break them down to 3 different categories.

Hiring An Employee

First is hiring an employee. Let’s say you want some digital marketing work or web development and you want to build a project that is going to be work on an ongoing basis. You could be in one of the many possible situations.

For example, you may have another 50 marketers or developers already so your good to go you have processes, you have majors, you have team leaders and etc. Or you may be a very small team that essentially has 5 people only, looking to expand by hiring new people in-house or by reducing costs and offloading externally.

Those are different combinations but in a nutshell, if it is a small project that takes 5-10 hours it obliviously doesn’t make sense to outsource it to a full-time person that you have in-house because this person is going to get paid for a 40-hour work week while only being busy for 8 – 12 hours a week.

On the other end, if it is a large project then you are relying on a single person to handle that activity which is normally impossible.  You usually need 2 or 3 people for that, people that have different skill sets, with different expertise, with know-how in different areas to be able to take on that challenge. On top of that, you need someone to manage them.

Let’s look back at our previous examples.

For the marketing example, you will need a marketing director who is going to communicate with people that are dealing with branding, with creative and with development and to also handle other types of activities advertisement and PR activities that are not directly related to marketing.

For our web development example, they have to coordinate and also find people dealing with quality assurance, server management, deployment, infrastructure and a lot of other activities that you don’t really think of while working on the project.

Like I said, it gets more complicated. In a nutshell, hiring an employee makes sense if you want to develop the whole department yourself if you want to build a team of experts full time dealing with these activities. Hiring just one person, for the most part, isn’t that efficient. It isn’t the best solution and more often than not, there are more effective solutions like off-loading that work to someone else.

Hiring Freelancers

The second is freelancers. Freelancers share some commonalities with full-time employees in a way that they don’t posse all the skills that you need but they are available a few hours a week, a few hours a month or available on-call. So, it is a flexible agreement that works especially for small projects. But it gets a bit tricky as your project grows larger because you need more commitment and more time. A freelancer is normally working on numerous projects and they may not be available. Or they may be having a hard time on other projects and could be looking for a full-time job since you normally only cover around 20% of what they are looking for on a monthly basis.

That is something that has actually happened, I have worked with freelancers who have started full-time jobs because they couldn’t pay their expenses. Not all freelancers are successful. There are also freelancers that work part-time jobs. There are freelancers that freelance as a part-time job. Those are things that need to be considered along with skills.

For example, you want a web development platform, this platform may require back-end development, front-end development, creative, DevOps jobs and etc. Finding someone that is a full stack, being senior and also affordable isn’t trivial but you really need to consider the different options.

It’s an opportunity, it could be cheaper than hiring someone full time or using an agency but you have to be prepared to deal with their time frames, limitations of their skills, or hiring several different freelancers dealing with different activities.

Outsourcing to An Agency

The third option is agency, hiring an agency that handles everything. Even though I own an agency I am going to reveal a secret, most agencies don’t do a great job in what they do. The smaller agencies are trying to scale and deal with far too many things at the same time. The larger agencies often work with the systems, interns and assign people who are “on training” for different projects.

You need to make sure you work with a type of agency that is similarly sized or a little bit smaller than your company, an agency that you can familiarize yourself with the team and where you can explain your expectations. Otherwise, you may just get random people assigned to your project that incurs additional overhead and so forth.

Most agencies that we have vetted and agencies we get pitched for outsourcing our services don’t really have any legitimate processes for dealing with the type of work they are supposed to do. These agencies expect to receive a specification, deliver what they think is right and get paid. The process is a little different they need to invest in:

  • QA
  • understanding of business requirements
  • the business needs of the customer
  • what they actually want from that specific project
  • types of monetization strategies,
  • the needs of the project as it evolves
  • and a lot of other different things.

Professional agencies deal with these things by combining different people on their team and by introducing specific processes that work on specific cases.

This option is more of expensive, but not always we have had clients reduce their headcount in terms of technical staff and have hired our agency because we are more effective, faster, communicate better and etc.

With an agency, you receive the full package you receive different people with different capabilities and different skill sets. But this is not someone you can bring in-house as an employee sometimes it is going to be a little bit more expensive at times depending on your agreement.  It might be slightly slower because you have more comprehensive processes that ensure stability, security, and performance.

With an agency, you do receive a stable reliable solid working product, something that could grow and scale in time and most importantly you work with people who are fully qualified and fully professional in that particular type of business world or industry.

An agency works with dozens or hundreds of different clients and they have their process that they use to solve certain types of problems. Whereas with employees that is often a problem they simply don’t have enough background or they haven’t been exposed enough to those types of problems which could potentially slow them down or may lead to specific mistakes preventing them to complete.

So, there are three different options hiring a full-time employee, hiring a freelancer or outsourcing to an agency. Each has their pros and cons. Choose wisely.