freelance vs agency
Debbie Ekins

Debbie Ekins

Freelance vs agency content writers: which is the best one (for you)?

Don’t hire a freelance {insert service here].

You’ve probably heard this before. Freelancers get a bit of a bad reputation regardless of industry. 

I recently came across a LinkedIn post that said that you shouldn’t hire a freelancer. Why? Well because (according to this post and a few others I’ve seen) they are just the worst:

They are unreliable

They are bad at communicating

They will work when they feel like it

And my personal favourite…

They will have “personal issues”, which will result in delays.

And as we know, companies never face any of these issues as they are made up entirely of robots…

First things first…I have a confession to make…

I am what you would refer to as a freelancer👋  (hey there).

In case you are wondering (because I know I am) the definition of a freelancer is:

“a person who sells work or services by the hour, day or job rather than working on a regular salary basis for one employer.”

OR (my personal favourite description)

“a person who contends in a cause as they choose, without personal attachment or allegiance”

I especially love that “without personal attachment of allegiance” – basically the mercenaries of the business world 🙄

So, while I am currently what you would call a freelancer, I don’t really think of myself that way.

I prefer to think of myself as a (really) small business owner – with a staff of one. Me🙋‍♀️#freelancer #freelancecontentwriter Click To Tweet

But anyway that’s neither here nor there.

I just wanted to acknowledge upfront that from an outsider’s perspective I would fall into one of the two categories. And be honest about why it annoys me when hardworking freelancers are torn down and branded with one overly simplistic brush.

Because the truth is it’s impossible to say that either freelancers or agencies are always better.

So, let’s get into it.

Should you hire a freelancer or an agency to do your content writing (really applicable to (m)any services).

Freelance vs agency content writers: what is the difference?

Before we go any further, I’d like to make clear that this is not a “why freelancers are better” blog. Because despite being in the freelance camp, I honestly don’t think that they are better…or worse. 

In fact, in many respects, I don’t even think they are all that different 🤷‍♀️

But I do think there are some misconceptions…

I think a lot of the confusion comes from the fact that when people think of freelancers their mind automatically jumps to a site like UpWork of Peopleperhour.

Now, I know a lot of people will disagree with this. But in theory, I don’t have anything against sites like this. I have previously used them in employed roles and found great freelancers with who I’ve formed an ongoing business relationship with.

However, I also know that there is a tendency for people to sell their services cheaply on there, which forces a race to the bottom and devalues the entire industry (not good). And for that reason, they promote the myth that freelancers are rag-tag creatives, just smashing out as many jobs as possible, for as low a fee as you are willing to offer.

Which isn’t the case for most freelancers I know.

In fact, as I said before, a good freelancer (like me) will likely think of themselves as a really tiny business. With bills to pay, and a reputation to build and uphold. It's a small industry and word travels fast, if they mess about… Click To Tweet

So, let’s clear up some misconceptions according to my world…

Misconceptions about freelancers and agency content writers…

There are some misconceptions (in my opinion) about freelancers (and agencies) which is why people often think one is better than the other.

❌ Freelancers are cheaper than agencies

❌ Freelancers work all hours (whereas agencies are 9-5)

❌ An experienced freelancer may be in demand and not have capacity when you need them

❌ You can’t develop and ongoing relationship with a freelancer

❌ Freelancers are less reliable than agencies, and will forget to communicate and miss deadlines

In my opinion, these misconceptions are no more true for a freelancer than they are for an agency. In fact:

✅ Good freelancers and agencies will charge what they are worth

✅ Both freelancers and agencies will set their own office hours (although freelancers may be more flexible/may quickly turnaround for higher rates)

✅ Experienced freelancers and agencies will be in demand, you may need to wait to work with them

✅ You can develop an ongoing relationship with either.

✅ Good and bad freelancers and agencies exist – research to make sure you find the right one.

So, which is best…freelance or agency content writer?

Oh, come on now, you’ve been here this whole time, you didn’t really think I was going to say one was better than the other…did you?

Both have pros and cons, and these are usually subject to your own personal circumstances.

I think there are great freelancers.

I think there are terrible freelancers.

However…

I also think that there are great agencies and terrible agencies 🤷‍♀️

Honestly, I don’t think that what type of writer you get is important, it’s just important to choose the right one for you.

Of course, it will depend on your individual circumstances.

For example, if you need a wide range of services (ie. content writing + Facebook Ads), and 24/7 support, then an agency might be a better fit as they have more than one member of staff, and potentially more than one service that they offer. This would offer a more comprehensive service.

However, as much as I said I don’t think there is much difference, I’d argue that in almost all circumstances freelancers will be able to deliver at least the same service.

In many cases, they will be more dedicated and accountable.

I know that the buck stops with me…there is no one else in the company, but that means there is no one else to fall back on. I have to be 100% accountable and committed in a way that arguably individual employees do not have to be.

How to choose the right content writer for your business…

In my opinion, the most important thing is to find a content writer that is right for you and your business. This can be in the form of an agency or freelance writer.

But how do you do this?

I’m glad you asked…

Here are somethings you should do to ensure that you hire the correct writer:

  1. Find a writer with the right “specialism”
  2. Research your options…
  3. Ensure your content writer is within your budget…
  4. Discuss the scope of the work & ensure boundaries are clear...

1. Find a content writer with the right “specialism”

I’m the first to admit that you don’t need to be an expert on the topic you are writing about. So, I don’t necessarily mean that you need to find an expert in your industry niche (ps. your specific industry might call for this, but I’d suggest checking out this article before making the final decision on whether or not it’s necessary).

But, some writers will be experienced and specialise in specific types of blogs.

For example, I specialise in They Ask You Answer writing, as outlined by Marcus Sheridan. This means I mainly focus my writing around The Big 5.

The Big 5 are the five main topics that dominate search traffic regardless of industry and they include:

  1. Cost/Price
  2. Problems
  3. Best of Class
  4. Comparisons
  5. Reviews

I focus on these types of blogs as they are the most effective in driving organic search traffic, and they have a very high success rate in attracting and converting new customers. And I write these for a number of industries including (but not limited to):

  • Construction
  • Marketing Services
  • Hot Tub Retailers
  • Carpet Fitters
  • Electricians
  • Architects
  • Online Curriculum Developers

(And many more)…

industry expert content

Other content writers may specialise in other types of blogs ie. lifestyle or e-commerce specific, which may make them a better fit for you.

It’s worth finding out if the type of writing you considered a content writer specialises in will be a good fit for your company.

Related content: How can I write content for your business if I’m not an expert in the industry?

2. Research your options…

You’ve got the world at your fingertips…

I bet you found this blog by Googling. So use your skills to research a future collaboration with a content writer.

It’s a writer – they are bound to have examples of their work online. Whether it’s their own blogs or client examples.

(ps. remember, part of their expertise is in writing in a way that sounds like you, so don’t worry if it’s not exactly your style they should be able to adapt).

As well as checking out examples, you can also check their testimonials, to see that they have existing clients who are happy with their work.

Here is a testimonial of mine btw for the lovely Cara Mackay of Gillies & Mackay😉

Debbie rode in like a knight in shining armor and delivered to me – work complete, far beyond my capabilities (and I’m really good by the way). The return and engagement I am receiving on Debbie’s content speaks for itself.  Blogs that she wrote are performing 3 x more effectively than ones of a similar nature on our website. 

Cara Mackay: Gillies & Mackay managing director

Researching their content and testimonials will give you an idea of their experience, and the results that they have achieved (although of course, these are not guaranteed).

I don’t like to judge experience by years in business as it’s often not an indication of capability. However, it is important to ensure that they have experience delivering what you are aiming to achieve.

3. Ensure your content writer is within budget…

It’s long been accepted that freelancers are cheaper than agencies, which is why they have been popular with some people. And, why they are seen to be lesser than agencies in some respects.

However, as discussed earlier that is not necessarily the case as good freelancers will usually charge on par with an agency.

Prices for blog writing can range on average between £50 per blog and £500 per blog.

You usually get what you pay for, and if you want quality content that will make a difference to your bottom line then you probably don’t want to pay peanuts. But you do also need to consider your budget within this.

I personally charge £225/blog article. However, if I am doing multiple blogs per month for a client then this may be reduced.

Find out more about my blog writing service here.

NOTE: If you can’t afford to outsource yet, then try and make time to write yourself. Not only will this save you money until you see a return, it will also help you understand the process and the value making it easier to outsource in the future.

Related content: Should I put pricing on my website?

4. Discuss the scope of the work & ensure the boundaries are clear…

Before you start a partnership, you need to ensure that the scope is outlined and that the expectations are clearly set on both sides.

For example, are you hiring them for 2 x blog posts/month exclusively or are you also going to expect them to “pitch in” and help with other marketing jobs.

Some freelancers and agencies will work with multiple services. However, some will only offer very specific services.

You need to ensure the expectations on both sides are clearly set so that both parties know what the outcome will be, and you don’t get any scope creep.

What about a content trial?

Some people will offer a content trial to ensure that you hire the right writer.

However, that’s not something that I offer. Instead, I start with a 3-month period minimum.

This is because firstly it’s really unlikely that you will see results after one blog. So allowing a trial sets the wrong expectation – and you’ll expect to see leads and sales come flooding in after it’s published. It might, but it’s usually the cumulative effort of content working together that drives sales.

In addition, the first blog that I write will likely be the worst, as it takes some time to really get to know you as a company (don’t worry it will still be great). So, you’d be judging me on my weakest performance. Which, admittedly is still good, but no one likes to be evaluated on their worst day.

I am happy to privately send you examples of work that I have completed for clients so that you can see the standard of work.

That’s why I recommend the above steps to ensure that you are hiring the right content writer rather than jumping into things.

So, should you hire a freelance content writer?

Freelancer (contrary to popular belief) is not a synonym for cowboy🤠

And part of the reasons, why this assumption annoys me so much, is that imposter syndrome is rife – especially among freelancers. And no wonder…with people constantly telling you not to hire freelancers because they are lazy and unreliable.

But, news flash!

Bigger doesn’t mean better...(is it weird that I usually see these kinds of comments from men…anyway I digress).

Some people’s business will grow over time, some people are perfectly happy being a little company of one forever. And that’s okay.

Freelancers are not a poor mans agency. They are a perfectly legitimate business, that just happens to only have one person.

So, yes, if you find the right one then you should hire a freelance content writer.

Think of a freelancer as a small business – rather than an entity with no allegiance to anything or anyone. They have bills to pay, and a reputation to build and uphold, much like a business. If they dick about, they won’t be in business for long. 

But the must more important thing is to ensure you hire the right writer – freelancer or agency.

So, who should you hire….

Well in a word if you want to hire a content writer then you should hire a🥁….

PROFESSIONAL…

Whether or not that is a freelancer or an agency content writer doesn’t really matter. As long as they are experience, and professional and able to delivery on what you require them to.

Of course, there are pros and cons to both depending on your personal circumstances, but assuming you take the time to hire the right person, then you should be fine. 

Anyway, guys, I’d love to stay and chat but I’ve got a “personal issue” that needs to be taken care of 😉

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