Read the latest news and tips

Agency vs. Freelance: Which is Right for Your Business?

When a small business needs a new website developed or a new line card designed for a trade show, what do they do? Small businesses have it rough, when it comes to marketing. Does the sales assistant put together a brochure in Microsoft Publisher? Does the Vice President of Sales and Marketing ask a college-age niece to build a website from her dorm? The truth is, it depends on your budget, but it pays to hire a professional.

Professionals come in many forms. The two most common are the freelancer and the agency. A freelancer is a professional designer or developer that usually works solo on single projects. They have a narrow client base and commonly focus on specific areas of expertise. Freelancers typically have lower overhead, which translates to lower costs. For small businesses, this sounds great.

Agencies work a bit differently and bring a lot more to the table. They work with many clients on multiple projects and incorporate many facets of marketing. An agency’s team consists of different disciplines, from designers and coders to copywriters and project managers. While agencies do cost more, they also have much more to offer. For small businesses, this could mean the difference between growth and stagnation.

Why Would a Small Business Hire a Freelancer?

Imagine a small Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) is getting ready for a trade show. They already have a booth and most of the materials they need—except for a sales sheet showcasing their new widget sorter. The VP of Sales & Marketing has just received product photography, and all the specifications are in a Microsoft Word document. It just needs to be designed and sent off to the company’s print vendor.

A specific deliverable with images and content ready to go? Delivery to a known printer? This sounds perfect for a freelance graphic designer. Because there is a relatively small scope of work with a single deliverable for an established brand, this small business might be best served by a freelancer over an agency.

How often do you have all of your materials set? Is product photography ready? Did you write your copy ahead of time? Do you work with a printer? For most small businesses, a simple sales sheet means a lot more than just getting the design work done.

Why Would a Small Business Hire an Agency?

A kayak and canoe rental shop is getting ready for the summer rush of tourists. They have an online reservation system, a growing email list, and a good following on social media. With a lean staff focused on the shop, there is a need to maintain the marketing efforts throughout the busy season. While a freelancer may be able to help, an agency can provide more resources and support.

The agency can help by:

  • Developing a marketing plan for the season
  • Updating the website to support the online reservation system
  • Writing blog content and regularly update the website to boost search engine performance
  • Designing and sending email newsletters to the mailing list – sharing blog content, specials, and events
  • Posting to social media with activity pictures, links to blog posts, and to announce specials
  • Fostering a good rapport with local tourism groups to draw more attention to activities
  • Reporting on key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics


The first comment by most small businesses would be, “we can’t afford it,” or “I can do it myself.” While the objection sounds legitimate, what if you look at the marketing from a cost-benefit perspective?

  • What is your “hourly rate” as a business owner?
  • How much of your time would be taken up?
  • Would a single person or intern be able to accomplish all of it?
  • Would they have the knowledge, tools, and expertise?
  • How much of a sales boost would make it profitable?


In this specific example, an agency will utilize their entire team of experts to accomplish the kayak shop’s goals. Agencies offer resources to the business owner that are less expensive than the sum of the parts. The additional support allows the marketing to “just get done” for the small shop. There is also one more bonus to working with an agency…

“We’ve got a really cool idea!” Agencies provide collective, creative brainpower to come up with the marketing concepts that cause your brand to stand out from your competition.

Q&A for Choosing an Agency or a Freelancer

Agency vs. Freelance: Which has more to offer?

Are you looking for a specific project or support for a wide range of projects?

A specific project is great for a freelancer. Many projects and developing a plan for them is best accomplished by an agency.

Does your marketing follow a plan or just “what you’ve always done?”

If you have a documented marketing plan, congratulations! Coordinating efforts with a freelancer might be a good fit. If you don’t have a marketing plan, working with an agency might help deliver a better bang for your buck.

Do you have photography, text, or other graphics ready to go?

A freelancer might help with a specific service, but an agency gives you a talented team at your disposal. An agency will also help gather the needed materials to build your project, for example:

  • Arrange photography or videography
  • Design supplemental graphics or manage imagery
  • Develop written content or copy
  • Coordinate efforts across web, social, email, and print marketing channels

Do you have print production arranged or preferred digital platforms set up?

A successful marketing effort is more than a single component. An agency can cost-effectively apply a range of tools and personnel toward your goals. The varied expertise of a team can be an excellent force multiplier for your marketing dollars.

Why Choose Signalfire as Your Agency?

Choose Signalfire as Your Marketing Agency

Signalfire is an award-winning marketing agency with an excellent track record of creative success for our clients. Our ability to develop successful campaigns utilizing print, web, email, and social is celebrated by our long-standing clients.

With experience in B2B and B2C industries, we can help generate an impactful marketing strategy as well as the honed skills to see it through. Call us at (262) 725-4500 or request a meeting so we can show you the difference Signalfire can make for your small business.