Content marketing is at the core of advertising in the modern age. And over the past few years, it has become a buzzword, popular even among those with no marketing knowledge whatsoever.
The main reason for this popularity is that content marketing can help your business to grow massively. A secondary reason is that it seems very easy at first sight – after all, you just have to post a few articles on your blog to hit the target, right?
So many people rush into creating blogs and Youtube channels without first performing all the heavy lifting necessary to build a solid strategy.
If you don’t want to throw away your money, you have to handle your content marketing carefully and let some professionals work on it.
So here comes the big question:
“What does it mean to have an an agency, an in-house team or freelancers to do your content marketing?”
Each of these solutions has its pros and cons, and none of them will be a perfect fit for everybody.
Nonetheless, there are some important trends. If you take the time to analyze them, they might help you get a clear idea on what the best choice for your business is.
- Culture OR Efficiency?
- Wide knowledge base OR in-depth expertise?
- Strict control OR dynamic creativity?
- Deep brand awareness OR fast growth?
These are probably the most popular questions on the minds of business owners and marketers when they face the content team decision.
And let’s not forget about the financial side, of course. As you’ll see, hiring an in-house content marketing pros entails very different costs than outsourcing the work to agencies or freelancers. As you’ll discover soon, a content marketer salary is definitely not low.
How much money can you save and how much money can you gain?
At the end of the day, it all comes back to how much your business will get out of its investment in content marketing. Right?
If you want your content marketing to be robust, you need a team of experts with different areas of expertise.
The industry landscape is becoming ever more complex and the jack of all trades are disappearing in favor of experts with deep knowledge in very specific areas.
A strong, complete content team requires at least one of each of the following specialists:
- Content Strategist (salary of $70,000)
- Copywriter (salary of $55,000)
- Content Editor (salary of $42,990)
- Graphic Designer (salary of $51,360)
- Social Media/Community Manager (salary of $47,190)
- Content Marketing Manager (salary of $66,000)
(All the numbers represent the average salary for that position in the US).
If you do the math, that’s $266,540 per year and $22,211 per month to maintain your content marketing crew. On the other hand, the monthly retainer of a good content agency can range from $1K to $20K, depending the type of project and the amount of work necessary.
It’s not that difficult to stay below $20K, so the agency would save you at least $2K-$7K per month, which amounts to $24K-$84k per year. And this is only considering the salary. In-house experts would require office space, too, which means that you would also need to pay for:
- Office rent
- Office furniture
- Computers and other technical equipment
So, if you consider costs, the Agency vs In-House marketing battle is won by the first one. But what about hiring freelancers?
If you go on freelance platforms like Upwork, Freelancer or Fiverr, you can even find someone who will run run your entire content marketing for a few hundred dollars. But here’s the thing: they will create poor-quality work that won’t bring back a single penny in your pocket.
A freelancer that truly has the expertise to manage all of your content marketing and produce results will ask almost the same price as agencies.
The reason for this is rather simple: effective content is never a one-man show. It requires different kinds of expertise, and the amount of time it takes to do a good job almost always exceeds the capabilities of a single person.
Ergo, an expert content marketing consultant will rely on other freelancers to perform all the different tasks of your project.
The only tangible financial plus is that the freelance content manager won’t have to pay full-time salaries to the team or provide them with a fully equipped office in which to work, as most agencies do.
On the other hand, when hiring freelancers, you can end up paying as much for software as you saved on team salaries. As mentioned earlier, content marketing is a sophisticated process, and in order for everything to run smoothly, your marketers are going to need some expensive marketing software.
You need to find the best keywords for your blog posts, track what your competition is doing, determine how people are interacting with your content, and check which strategies are generating more leads for you… and don’t forget to link everything back to your ROI!
These are only some of the most important elements you need to monitor for your content campaigns. Unfortunately, to get a complete picture, you must rely on many different software platforms, all of which have their costs.
The prices range anywhere from $20 to several thousands of dollars per month. And when it comes to software, agencies enjoy much lower prices per client due to their larger scale and higher volumes of work.
So What’s the Less Costly Choice?
Hiring in-house pros remains the most expensive way to run your content marketing, while delegating the work to an agency and using freelancers entail significantly lower costs.
The freelance option might be slightly less costly than an agency, but if you want quality work, that difference is minimal.
In-House: 0; Freelancer: 1; Agency: 1
Sometimes you might need a task to be performed very quickly and on short notice. In such cases, an in-house crew would be the most convenient solution, since your employees are at your beck and call and you can simply ask them to prioritize one task over another.
On the other hand, if it’s just a one-off job, there’s no need to hire a full-time employee. So, why not outsource marketing tasks, if the workload isn’t enough to justify a hire?
Freelancers can be a bit cheaper than agencies, but there is an unhealthy trend among them of failing to meet deadlines and/or sporadically disappearing.
Thankfully, there are also many freelancers with a strong work ethic, however, if they are really good, 90% of the time they are already loaded with other clients’ work. Your only chance of convincing these in-demand freelancers to include you in their schedules is usually to overpay for the job.
The funniest thing, though, is that finding a freelancer who delivers quality work quickly can take you quite some time. And if you’re already running out of it, that’s not the best news.
What about the agencies, though? If the agency is already managing your content marketing, it won’t cause them any added trouble to prioritize the new task at hand.
An agency already has a wide pool of freelancers with the most diverse skill sets and areas of expertise you could think of. If somebody is busy, it’s not a big deal, since they will have many other competent specialists available. This makes agencies the best solution for last-minute emergencies, too.
On the urgency and availability side, the marketing agency vs in-house battle ends in a draw, but both are better than freelancers.
In-House: 1; Freelancers: 0; Agency: 1;
Deep Expertise in Every Area of Digital Marketing
When you hire freelancers or an agency, you can have a team with many different talents, while for the same price, your in-house specialists will likely be forced to cover even those areas in which they are not so strong.
Knowledge of Many Different Industries
Another factor to take into account is that most freelancers and agencies have worked on different projects across different industries. They are therefore familiar with many different patterns and strategies, which makes it easier for them to find the right approach for your project.
Detachment from Obsolete Skills
If you hire a freelancer or an agency, you’re not stuck with an employee that has very a specific skill set.
When dramatic changes occur in the digital realm, and some skills become obsolete for your marketing strategy, you can simply discontinue working with that freelancer or stop paying for that specific service from the agency.
The same can’t be said about an in-house worker; you would certainly incur other costs by firing a full-time employee.
In-House: 0; Freelancers: 1; Agency: 1;
If your business is growing and you have the potential to earn a bigger chunk of the market, scaling your marketing efforts is much easier with the help of an agency.
An in-house crew may not have enough employees to manage much more extensive operations, but a good agency already has systems in place to do so.
Usually, they have large teams to support big campaigns, and if they ever find themselves in need of help, they have a vast pool of freelancers with whom they work on a regular basis.
Hiring freelancers directly for the specific tasks you need to outsource can be an alternative option for fast scaleout. But only if you have a strong in-house team that can manage freelancers smoothly.
Staying on Top of Trends
Another advantage of agencies is that they are always on top of the trends in digital marketing. Those who work in an agency live and breathe digital marketing all day long.
Between keyword research, content strategies, and article writing, a content marketing team usually geeks out about the new “hack” to grow faster on this or that platform, or the latest trend in blogging.
An in-house crew is unlikely to create such an atmosphere at your company since other employees won’t be terribly interested in marketing innovations. But for agency staff, coffee breaks mean nerdy conversations about marketing most of the time.
As for freelancers, everybody is different, and it’s hard to say who’s always on top of trends and who’s not. Of course, some freelancers stay up-to-date with everything within their specific area of expertise, and the best ones are part of communities and private groups where they exchange and gain knowledge on a regular basis. But I’m talking about the crème de la crème here, the best of the best.
Nonetheless, the fast-paced agency environment helps employees discover and adopt new hacks and tricks before anybody else.
In-House: 0; Freelancers: 0; Agency: 1;
Comfort/Ease of Mind
I’ve talked about the costs and the efficiency of different options, but what about your convenience? Which option will cause you less headaches and let you be comfortably confident about your content marketing? Let’s dive into that.
Managing the Team (Save Stress)
Managing a team and pushing it to perform well is hard, and it’s definitely not for everybody. Check out a bit of data if you don’t believe me:
It doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to run smoothly an in-house crew, but it can be very difficult. And if you’ve ever managed anyone, you should already know that.
So, you should ask yourself:
- Is communication effective in my company? (Did you ask your employees?)
- Are my managers comfortable communicating with different employees on a consistent basis?
- Are they good at giving directions? (Again, did you ask your employees?)
Basically make it clear to yourself wheather you have the capability to manage effectively another whole team in your company. If you’re not so sure, maybe it would be better to go for agencies or freelancers.
A content marketing agency manages its team on its own, and you would only speak with a manager who will periodically report the things done and the results achieved.
Concerning freelancers, the best option is always to hire a consultant who will build a content strategy for you and manage other freelancers himself for any task he doesn’t have the time to do on his own. Basically someone who follows a “mini-agency” model, outsourcing writers some articles and maybe other tasks too.
Periodic Reports on What Has Been Done and the Results Achieved
If you want to be truly at ease with your content marketing, you have to know what exactly is going on.
Paying experts to manage your content presence on the web is not enough; you have to make sure that everything is going in the right direction. The most reasonable way to do so is through weekly and monthly reports.
If you want to get that from your in-house crew, it’s as simple as arranging a meeting. If you’re working with an agency, you should ask them to send you reports with what they’ve done, the results achieved, and how the campaigns are going so far. The same should be done for freelancers if you choose that outsourcing option.
Typically, agencies will offer you periodic reporting right away, while this is not so popular among freelancers.
In fairness, good and timely reporting is simply a quality of good professionals. It’s just that it is often harder to find the conscientious freelancers who take the initiative to produce reports on their work.
You Pay Only for the Time and Project at Hand
Hiring in-house pros forces you to spend the same amount of money on their salaries every month, even if you don’t have a steady workflow. And firing your employees because you can’t afford them anymore is much harder than dropping an agency team or a freelancer. That’s a big win for the outsourcing options.
In-House: 0; Freelancers: 0; Agency: 1
There isn’t one recipe for everybody, but I can draw some general conclusions here.
In-house teams are basically much more expensive and harder to manage. But, if you excel at managing your staff and building a great company culture, in-house could give you better results in the long run.
Freelancers, on the other hand, allow you to be flexible and pay them only for the projects and tasks you need. But finding reliable and properly qualified ones can be difficult. Furthermore, if your projects are too much for one person, you will have to manage several freelancers on your own or find somebody that can do that successfully.
Finally, agencies give you the same flexibility as the freelancer option (since you can pay on a per-project basis), but allow you also to scale up quickly when you have the chance. Also, the fast-paced environment of an agency strongly influences their employees’ skills in a positive way and lets them stay up-to-date on every new trend in content marketing.
Take some time before choosing the best option for you. Maybe read this article again, weigh the pros and cons of each option, and determine where your priorities currently lie.
I hope this article has shed a little light on the subject and helps you make a better choice. If you have any questions or considerations, feel free to post them in the comments or get in touch with us. We’ll be happy to chat about it! ☺