Freelancers and Agencies Are Not Competitors

Communications freelancers offer an alternative to small to mid-sized companies that don’t have the minimum budget required by agencies to achieve their goals. For larger companies and agencies, freelancers can also offer huge time and cost savings, especially when they bring on subcontractors for short sprints.

Yet some companies look at freelancers and agencies in the same light when they’re deciding to hire a communications resource. But it shouldn’t be an either/or choice. It comes down to knowing which situations call for a freelancer and which are best handled by an agency.

Three Factors Drive the Decision

It’s all about budget, staff and goals. If a client is planning a major launch or is a massive global brand and needs a team of senior counsel and an army of tacticians to execute against a six-figure budget, usually only an agency can handle that request. Also, if a client has a high five-figure monthly budget or more, they’re often better served by an agency with more resources.

However, if a client’s budget is at or under $10K per month, they should consider different scenarios.

If they choose a larger agency whose minimum retainer is $10K per month, the client could be viewed as a smaller account. Therefore, the agency’s staffing model might not be able to allocate as many hours to running the client’s communications program as an alternative resource would. Also, with the larger agency, the client might not have a lot of day-to-day interactions with senior counsel.

At boutique agencies, $10K tends to get the client more services and additional attention from senior staff. Keep in mind that in any brick-and-mortar agency, part of the retainer helps keep the lights on in terms of office rent, employee benefits and admin.

Companies with a communications budget of $10K per month or under might want to consider a boutique firm or a virtual agency. Both of these models tend to have lower overhead costs, allowing for more hours to be dedicated to achieving the client’s goals.

Another option is for the company to hire a freelancer that dedicates a significant part of their time each month servicing what is likely to be their biggest client. This can give the client a de facto director of communications without having to provide employee benefits or pay for the learning curves of junior staff.

The last option is for the client to hire a team of two to three experienced freelancers. This gives the client a dedicated team of senior pros offering additional ideas and advice. Additionally, since many freelancers tend to work from home, this model also minimizes overhead. It also gives freelancers the opportunity to add additional team members for collaboration and back-up resources.


Ultimately, the right team for the client is the one that has the most experience in the client’s market segment and can quickly achieve the goals within the budget.

It’s important to remember that there’s enough work out there for everybody. When a potential new client appears, the best thing communications pros can do – for the client and for each other – is direct the prospect to the business model that’s best suited to their needs.

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