In this day and age, businesses are not confined to the local talent in their backyard.
The rise of online platforms like Upwork and Skype has been instrumental in demolishing the borders of the old. They launched outsourcing into the mainstream, allowing companies to seek and hire professionals on a global scale.
Just as easy as you can order a driver from Uber, you can hire a pro for web design, social media marketing, SEO, and other, booming digital fields. The benefits are obvious, but there’s always the problem of finding someone who is the perfect fit. You are faced with an outsourcing dilemma: Should you hire a freelancer or work with a traditional agency?
Sorry to break it to you, but the answer to this million dollar question is not cut-and-dried. Both options can allow you to patch up gaps in human resources, save money in the long run, and complete your projects successfully. Ultimately, to make outsourcing work for your business, you need to carefully weigh the pros and cons before making the final call.
Pros of Hiring Freelancers
Pro #1: It’s cheaper.
First off, most freelancers work at cost-effective rates, which they set themselves. These may vary depending on the length of the project, but fortunately, overheads don’t play a role. There is also no need to pour money down the drain on wasted hours. Hence, freelancers impose lower total costs than agencies or full-time workers.
Pro #2: You get a specialist.
Freelance pros tend to be specialists. They hone their skills in one area of expertise. If you need a specific project done, you can handpick a freelancer who is the best-of-breed for the task. From a business standpoint, finding such reliable experts is sure to get you results.
Pro #3: Freelancers are flexible.
In general, outsourcing to freelancers is excellent for particular types of projects. This includes short-term and side projects, as well as those that don’t require a lot of back-and-forth or updating. If needed, you can hire multiple freelancers and just let them do their thing. It’s your choice as to how involved you want to be in the creative process and workflow.
Cons of Hiring Freelancers
Con #1: Scheduling can get tricky.
Most freelancers have flexible work schedules and they are location-independent, yet managing them can get tricky. This is especially true for companies that choose to work with multiple freelancers across time zones. Namely, freelancers may be unavailable when you need them the most.
Con #2: There’s no supervisor.
Freelancers are sometimes unreliable as they get caught up in juggling different projects and clients. This taxing position renders them prone to being overworked and makes rushing some projects enticing. There are also those who simply think they can get away with delivering poor performance from time to time. And when there is a problem with poor performance – you can’t complain to a manager or supervisor.
Con #3: Reliability is not guaranteed.
There are a lot of freelancers to choose from so finding a reliable one takes time. If a freelancer bails on you in the middle of a project you are out of luck. You have to go find another one. Whereas, with an agency, they can simply put another person on the project.
Pros of Outsourcing to Agencies
Pro #1: Accountability is built-in.
Agencies are more accountable and trustworthy. Quitting projects tarnishes their reputation, which is why they almost never do it. In fact, they initiate processes such as project planning and management, quality control, emergency response, testing, etc. This results in superior quality and professionalism more often than not.
Pro #2: Collaboration is streamlined.
Apart from refined processes, they also have a wealth of resources and powerful technology in place. Employees often share the same physical space, so there is little to stand in the way of their tight collaboration and coordination. Contrary to that, isolated freelancers are much harder to bring on the same page, even more so when using multiple freelancers to handle complex projects.
Pro: #3: Agencies have a track record.
Let’ say you want to revamp your website. Agencies like businesses often have an extensive portfolio of client projects, case studies, reviews, and testimonials. It’s easier to examine their track record as you are reviewing suitable digital agencies.
Cons of Outsourcing to Agencies
Con #1: It costs a lot.
The main drawback of hiring agencies comes in the form of steep costs. There is no going around the fact that freelancers are much cheaper. After all, agencies have to pay for office space, equipment, perks and benefits, and other overheads. The silver lining is that you get what you pay for, provided that you do your homework and choose the right agency for your needs.
Con # 2: Response time can be slow.
Finally, you are not dealing with just one person, but the whole corporate administration. This is to say that agencies can be slow to react and respond. Of course, this is not true for all agencies, but the level of agility and mode of communication are two concerns that need to be taken into account. No exceptions or excuses.
Outsourcing is an amazing way to grow a small business and has numerous benefits. For many startups, building the tech and business infrastructure from scratch out of the question, so outsourcing can be a lifesaver. But choosing who to outsource to can be a challenge.
Hiring a freelancer makes sense if you need someone for a smaller project and want to be as involved in the process as possible. It’s also a tactic that enables you to trim project costs. Although, sometimes you get what you pay for so there’s always a risk.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for a more predictable outcome, you are better off outsourcing to agencies. You can nail complex projects under strict deadlines and scrutiny. However, you must be prepared to pay more, which is a burden that some businesses, especially bootstrapped startups, cannot bear.
The takeaway is that like it or not, there are no one-size-fits-all solutions. Remember that it all depends on industry specifics, project type, and length, as well as your budget. So, your best bet is to weigh the pros and cons and make an educated decision. Then it’s time to tap into a vast ocean of talent and propel your business forward.
Editor’s Note: This article is part of the startup tools blog series Run Your Business brought to you by the marketing team at UniTel Voice, the virtual phone system priced and designed for startups and small business owners, and our partners at DesignRush, a B2B marketplace connecting brands with agencies.