agencyvsfreelancer

Squad or Lone Wolf? Pros and Cons of Agencies and Solo Freelancers

5/05/ 2015   |   USource Team  |   Outsourcing

A question of smart bargains, of getting much for little. ‘Smart’ is the keyword. Would your business need the Avengers? Or should you hire just Batman for every task or project?

The key to being ‘smart’ about your hiring preferences is to know what is best-suited for your needs. Premature engagement, whether you outsource to an agency or one freelancer, just bleeds money and eats time you could have saved instead.

Leaning toward an agency?

Outsourcing tasks to an agency is like having a team of lawyers, not just one. “Big-shot feels.” You’re leaning in the right direction if:

You have a project, not a task. For example, you want to build your social media presence. Hiring an agency, or hiring a skilled virtual assistant affiliated to one, gives you a well-rounded focus: images, videos, text, scheduling, interaction all handled by a team member who specializes in it. Yes, ONE freelancer can handle all of that effectively, but a team would deliver it better and faster.

Other examples:

Content or press release campaign. One skilled virtual assistant writes, another does research on requirements of various publications you’re aiming for, and yet another team member handles the images that would go with the text, and another team member is the website expert who will code the text and make it and the images look pretty on your website.

Data organization. Many startups become so busy with starting up that their data and files pile up on them. They don’t notice until the pile is on a threatening scale. Outsource this to an agency. Bring in a team of skilled virtual assistants to clean up and organize everything, and to maintain order. This can be overwhelming for one freelancer–and while many freelancers would rise to the challenge, an agency would systematically tackle it, speedily and thoroughly, missing very little to nothing, despite the sheer amount to wade through.

An example of an agency outsourcing scenario: at USource, we’re a team of skilled virtual assistants in the true sense of the word. We know each other. We talk (not a lot, Dan). We’ve become friends. We help each other. But when a client hires one of us, that person handles the job exclusively, and if she needs the expertise of another in our team, she informs the client first.

It’s a win-win situation. Not only does a client have a back-up in case his/her chosen freelancer is unable to work, the client also has a reserve of expertise to be tapped when needed.

Is that an argument in favor of contacting an agency? Yes. If you need it.

Leaning toward just the one freelancer?

Hiring ONE skilled virtual assistant or go-to expert is like having a doctor on-call. “Big-shot feels,” too. You’re leaning in the right direction if:

You have a task rather than a project. For example, email correspondence and newsletter creation/scheduling. In addition, your skilled virtual assistant can also add your Twitter account to her workload. Tweeting is correspondence as well.

In several cases, there is such a thing as too many cooks spoiling the broth. And for small, repetitive and routine tasks, especially for startups just going off the ground, not only would ONE skilled virtual assistant do it better, it would also free your time and focus for bigger things.

Other examples:

Social media management. As opposed to a campaign, managing your social media ensures you’re up to date and active. It doesn’t require a team–if anything, you need ONE consistent voice and style in your posts across the board.

Data entry. If you’re in the stage of preventing an avalanche that would later be too much for one person, one freelancer can take care of your spreadsheets and file organization.

Website content. An empty website can be so visually appealing and still be penalized by Google if it doesn’t have unique and valuable content. So hire a writer, but not two or three. As mentioned in social media management, find a skilled virtual assistant who creates/adapts a voice and style for your brand.

Agency vs Solo Freelancer

Adaptability

  • You can train a freelancer, or the freelancer will self-train, if s/he doesn’t already know the system/platform you prefer/develop as you go.
  • Outsourcing to an agency means they can adapt to your preferences, even if they are likely to have established their own system. If you don’t want to, or don’t have the time, to train, an agency’s established system is a plus.

Price/Cost

  • You get what you pay for. Hire skilled virtual assistants with a feedback of quality.
  • You get what you pay for. Outsource to agencies that don’t require a retainer, and whose freelancers have a feedback of quality.

Turnaround Time

  • One freelancer can talk to you one minute and start on your job the next. Done. If you need revisions, you talk to him/her. S/he takes care of the revisions. Done again.
  • Oursourcing to an agency might take time before they take you on. We call this the “onboarding huddle.” But note that if your job requires a team, you do get a team, and a team of skilled virtual assistants needs to huddle to become an effective force.

Range and flexibility

  • One freelancer has one skill. That skill is why you hired him/her in the first place. Should you find yourself needing an infograph to go along with an article, and your freelancer doesn’t happen to know how to create an infograph, you repeat the hiring process, this time for a graphic artist.
  • An agency makes sure it has a well-rounded team ready to answer a client’s needs. It will have a writer AND a graphic artist, and a video editor to boot.

Image Credit HISHE