Should you hire an agency or freelancer or do it yourself? Tami and Joe talk about the pros and cons of hiring externally or working in-house.

Episode 3 Transcript:

Tami: Welcome to High Energy Marketing, a podcast with us, the digital marketing agency Ajax Union, where we interview our CEO Joe Apfelbaum on key marketing topics and we share everything you need to know to properly grow your business online. 

This is a Q&A podcast, where we will ask Joe questions about different topics and trends in marketing and he will give us amazing answers based on his book High Energy Marketing. You can get this book at AjaxUnion.com/book to follow along with us. 

This is the third official episode of our podcast about high-energy marketing. And today, we are going to discuss how to know if you need to hire an agency or a freelancer or if you should just do it yourself with the internal resources you have at your company. But first, a little housekeeping. If you could please rate us on Apple podcasts, that purple icon on your phone if you have an iPhone. Give us a five-star rating; leave us a review. Let us know if you’re enjoying the podcast. That would be great. Now, let’s move on to our inspiration of the day. Joe, do you want to hit us with a quick inspiration minute before we get started?

Joe: Yeah! I don’t know if you guys know this, but it is three times harder to be positive than it is to be negative. It’s so much easier to be negative, especially in a marketing department or especially in a business where things are almost like a war. It’s like an army, you’ve got to get things done. And it’s easy to make assumptions, it’s easy to be negative, it’s easy to think that people have negative intent. And I want to inspire you to focus on doing the hard work to be more positive, to be more positive with your coworkers, to be more positive with your vendors, to be more positive with your clients, and to be more positive with yourself. Be kind to yourself. Be more positive, show some more gratitude, just more appreciation, and you’re gonna have a better life.

Tami: Amazing. Thank you so much. First, let’s jump right into our Q&A. I have a couple of questions for you. So Joe, what is the difference between hiring in-house or hiring external support?

Joe: When it comes to hiring in-house or hiring external support— the difference is the control that you have. A lot of people think that when they hire somebody full time, that they have more control over that person. And when they’re hiring out-of-house, they don’t really care. They can’t really control what they’re doing. And often they think it’s less expensive to hire in-house. For example, if you’re hiring a developer, a developer externally might cost $150 an hour. But if you hire an internal developer, maybe you can get away with $100,000 a year, which is $50 an hour. The question is, are you going to be able to fill all their time doing the things you need them to do in an organized way? And are there gaps? So when it comes to hiring in-house, you’re hiring one person, usually with one set of skills. And when you’re hiring external support, often you can hire a team or you can hire a freelancer and you’re only using a portion of their time. Sure they’re charging a higher fee per hour. But ultimately, your total cost might be lower by hiring external or you might get more control by hiring internal. It all depends on your situation and also where your company’s at.

Tami: Okay, so what are the pros and cons of hiring a freelancer?

Joe: Some companies are not ready to hire an agency, but they’re also not ready to hire full-time in-house. There is a whole entire team of diverse skill sets that you need in order for you to properly run a marketing department. So they decided, you know what, let me hire a freelancer and let me go on popular freelance websites. 11 million people quit their jobs; there are more freelancers today than ever before. And so hiring a freelancer could be very advantageous, because typically you’re working directly with the person doing the work. When you’re working with a department, maybe you’re not working with that person directly. Freelancers that are good can have really high-quality work for a very low price because they don’t have any overhead. Freelancers typically study and they have a certain level of expertise, very deep expertise in what they’re doing, because they’re usually focused on one niche. You’re not going to find a freelancer that does everything. Usually, you’ll find a freelancer that does copy really well or that does graphics really well, or that does video editing really, really well. And so finding a freelancer could be really advantageous and really affordable, and you can really tap into an expert for an affordable fee. 

The thing is, freelancers are not always reliable. I’ve hired freelancers and they went M.I.A after I paid them. I’ve hired freelancers and they did really low-quality work. I had freelancers, and initially, they did really high-quality work, then their quality of work plummeted after something happened in their life. And if you’re putting all your eggs in one basket, you might end up losing big by hiring freelancers. I’ve hired freelancers that got really sick suddenly, and then I lost it. And so hiring a freelancer, you can have your pros if you find the right one, and you can have your cons. Even if things are right, they can go wrong very, very quickly. I’ve even had companies that were audited because they hired freelancers. And often the Department of State, the government, doesn’t necessarily allow you to hire a freelancer for that much time and pay them in that way, because you end up not paying them certain taxes and certain benefits. So you know, speaking to your employment lawyer of whether or not this person qualifies as a freelancer, you can have some tax ramifications as well. So there are pros, there are cons, I definitely do think that companies should leverage freelancers for some things, but you should be careful of what you give them and who you use because you can really vary your experience.

Tami: Absolutely. And the quality varies from one freelancer to another also. So it can be a very difficult slog to go through many, many freelancers and vet them for a particular expertise.

Joe: It’s almost like a job on its own, Tami.

Tami: Yeah, it really is. So then, what would be the benefit of using an agency versus a freelancer? How can an agency help me reach my goals? 

Joe: Well, if you use the right agency that thinks about your goals, an agency can help you reach your goals. A lot of agencies are almost like glorified freelancers, where they will just do one tactic for you. So for example, you’ll go to the SEO agency, and they just do SEO, and they’ll be like, oh, SEO is the key. SEO is not the key to everything, SEO could be a key to something. But it’s just what that agency does. For them, it’s the key. Ultimately, the agency has to really think about your business and what’s in the best interest of both your short-term goals and your long-term goals. And if the agency is not just an expert at marketing, but the people in the agency are strategic enough to really think about your business goals, that’s probably the agency that you want to get to help you. And also an agency that can do things that will actually help you to your goal. So for example, in some cases, you might need to focus on paid search. So you might want to have an agency that has expertise in that, in some cases, you might need to set up assets and a marketing funnel. So there are agencies that can really help you with assets in a marketing funnel. So really thinking about what are your goals in your business? What do you really need? Do you have a written marketing strategy, and then from there, you can find an agency that would really help you with your goal, but not every agency is going to help you with your business goals. It might help you with a tactic or with a campaign, it depends on how you define your goals and what you’re trying to accomplish. Ultimately, work with an agency that really understands your business. That’s my recommendation.

Tami: Right. Okay. So when do you know if you should hire a freelancer versus hire this agency that you just described?

Joe: It depends on your own bandwidth, and your own willingness and time to go starting to vet freelancers, like we said earlier, freelancers are people that you have to go through a lot of them in order to get the right ones and some agencies they have a person in charge of finding freelancers on a regular basis. And yes, we leverage freelancers too. We have a bunch of full-time marketing professionals and we have freelancers as well in our agency. And it’s hard to find really good freelancers, it’s really, really hard to find good freelancers. It all depends on how much work you have. And if you happen to have found a freelancer. So if you find a really good freelancer that does copywriting that you really, really like, then use that freelancer, but that shouldn’t stop you from hiring an agency that will help you be able to holistically grow your business. And it also depends on your budget. So if you don’t have a budget for an agency, you’re gonna go after a freelancer to help you. If you have a budget for an agency, it might make sense if you happen to have a really good Freelancer to use that Freelancer in conjunction with the agency that you have, depending on if the agency is too egotistic or not, and is willing to work alongside that freelancer. But I hire freelancers all the time, and I’ve hired agencies both for my agency and for clients. And there are times where it kind of also works. It also depends on where you are in your business. If you’re doing  $120,000 in revenue, you’re probably not ready for an agency. Unless you have a lot of funding and you’re willing to have a burn rate. If your business is doing a few million dollars in revenue, or 10s of million in revenue, you probably have enough bandwidth to hire full-time staff and freelancers and an agency. So it depends on if you found the right freelancers, if you have the bandwidth to find the right freelancers, and if you have the right agency to work with you.

Tami: Okay, so that’s in terms of hiring freelancers, hiring agencies, all of that is external. But I am wondering, can I do this in-house? What type of staff does my company require to have internally, in order to have a functioning marketing department and what kind of work should be handled internally?

Joe: For companies that are doing over a million dollars a year in sales, I would tell them it’s probably a good idea to have a hybrid of both having some people in-house and some outsource to an agency. And if you haven’t found really good freelancers, as well, it’s never good to put all your eggs in one basket. And frankly, there are certain things that you can give an agency to do for you. For example, if you don’t have a marketing director, internally, you might not have time to join every meeting with your agency. I can’t tell you how many times CEOs that fired a marketing director start ignoring their agency. So if you don’t have the mental and emotional capacity to review items that need to be approved, or to properly communicate priorities that have been made internally, but not communicated to your freelancers, and agencies, then you’re gonna end up missing out and you’re gonna end up wasting your retainer with the agency. So often companies realize that it’s very hard to outsource content creation because they want to control the exact voice of the content being written or photography or graphic design in some cases. So that’s the stuff that you might want to hire internally for. But companies that are, it depends on your specific needs. But the type of staff that you require to have internally is probably going to be leaders— the leaders that are going to make sure that your marketing is being done properly, internally and externally. And that is usually the role of a marketing manager or marketing director or a VP of sales and marketing. And that person is kind of like the owner. If you put the onus on the CEO, if you’re doing a few million in revenue, it’s gonna be very hard to be able to have traction in that department. Sometimes the person is the COO, and they’re wearing the marketing hat. I’ve seen that many times. Sometimes it’s the person that’s the finance person, and they’re wearing the marketing hat as well. So you can have people wear the marketing hat, but the marketing hat needs to be worn by somebody internally. And if you don’t have the resources for anyone to do it properly, that probably makes sense to hire that person. And there are other roles that you should hire internally depending on if your business relies on that role. So for example, if your business relies on photography, you want to hire a photographer in-house, because your business relies on that. So you need to have control. And even if it costs you a little bit more to have somebody in-house, it might make sense to hire that person.

Tami: Amazing. Thank you so much, Joe, that was amazing information. I hope those of you listening got as much out of this as I did. In next week’s episode, we will be talking about how to develop a marketing budget for your business. Be sure to subscribe so you can catch that episode. So your action item is wherever you’re listening right now hit that subscribe button, so you can catch the next episode. Follow Joe on Instagram, @JoeApfelbaum on all the platforms on LinkedIn. Joe LinkedIn.com, you can literally go to J-O-E linkedin.com, and it will redirect to his LinkedIn profile. And you could follow Ajax Union on Instagram @AjaxUnion. 

If you have questions email us at amazing@AjaxUnion.com. Our music is by Michael Suarez. This podcast was produced by Sarah and Shannon and edited by Sammy Matiletu. Thank you so much. See you next time.

Joe Apfelbaum: LinkedIn

Tami Schlichter: LinkedIn

Ajax Union: LinkedIn