Should You Hire an Agency or a Freelancer to Create Your Next Website?
If you’ve ever Googled anything along the lines of “get a new website” or “how to refresh my website” or “web designer for financial advisors” then you know that you’ve got a lot of options when it’s time to update your firm’s digital storefront.
The search phrase “web designer for financial advisors” comes back with 152,000,000 results.
So yeah, you have a few options.
And inevitably, those options that you find often get clumped into one of two buckets.
You can either select a marketing agency to build your new website, or go with an individual entrepreneur (or freelancer, in the common tongue) instead. Often times, you may need to select more than one freelancer to cover all the aspects of your site redesign—such as selecting a writer and a web designer, independently.
So, how do you decide if it’s better for your firm to select an individual or a full team to help you update your web presence?
It’s not as hard as you might think.
In today’s article, we’ll dig into the main differences between working with an agency or hiring a freelancer, and how you can be confident in the choice you make.
Questions to Ask Yourself When Considering an Agency or a Freelancer
Before you even start to look for someone to help you with creating new content, start by taking a step back to make sure you have a good understanding of what it is your firm needs.
Don’t start with something as broad as “we need to update our marketing collateral and web presence” and then begin your search.
Consider it, refine it, then search for it.
First up, let’s get the smaller jobs out of the way.
Do you need a brochure updated, a blog or two a month written for you, or a new logo (but not a entire brand refresh with consideration for colors and more)?
In most cases, it’s going to be more time- and cost-efficient to go with a freelancer for those ad-hoc jobs that don’t require a long-term relationship.
Once you know what it is you need, you also need to consider what you want that piece of content to do for your firm and what kind of shelf life it’s going to have.
Does it need to help you acquire leads? If it does, then do you have the full funnel and automation steps built out to support nurturing those leads? A case study that you offer in exchange for an email may require much more insight and planning than simply writing the case study.
Or maybe, you simply need a brochure design updated and you intend to give it out to clients. There’s no real follow-up—it’s an educational piece designed to assist your in-person conversations with people already committed to you.
In both cases, there are completely different infrastructure questions to consider around the piece you need to create.
You need to choose a resource based on their ability to commit to working with you over the correct period of time, combined with their skill level and familiarity with the full scope of the process that will ensure that you get what you’re looking for out of your project.
But what about that pesky website that you haven’t updated in five years? The differences between hiring a freelancer or agency to create your website are more nuanced, but we can still break them down easily.
We’ll cover those differences in the next section.
The Major Differences Between Agencies and Freelancers
There are two major considerations you need to base your decision on when selecting between an agency and a freelancer, or group of freelancers, to build your next website.
The Monolith vs The Best of Breed
The phrase “best of breed” is one of my least favorite terms in all of business, but it’s used so frequently within financial services that I’m going with it here for the sake of familiarity.
Most often, this idea is used by the advisor technology companies who want you to focus on their integration capabilities.
The argument is that instead of choosing a bundled solution that may have a great reporting piece but an “okay” financial planning piece, you should instead choose your own systems for each piece of your tech stack so you’re choosing the best fit for yourself in each category.
The argument for freelancers or an agency is the same argument.
When you’re choosing a team of freelancers, you’re getting the best-of-breed approach. You can pick your favorite writer, your favorite designer, your favorite SEO or marketing automation specialist and have them work together to create a super-team that aligns with your expectations.
When choosing an agency, you are choosing the agency—not a team of your own design. Agencies often assemble some great talent, and I have nothing but respect for the agencies I’ve worked for and with in the past.
But the fact is that, especially for larger agencies, you may be assigned whoever has the workload available for your project when it kicks off.
And that might mean getting the rookie writer on the team instead of the industry veteran. Now, that rookie writer might be the second coming of Hunter S. Thompson...but you don’t know that because you’re typically vetting the owners or the agency as a whole, and not the individual team players who will come in to work on your project.
Also, the second coming of Hunter S. Thompson already happened, and it was Johnny Depp.
The advantage the agency model gives you is that you will receive a single point of contact. Usually, you’ll get a project manager who keeps all those team players on track and on time.
When you set up a roster of freelancers, you need to manage them or trust that they’ll communicate and work well together. (I work closely with a small roster of designers as one way to try to eliminate that kind of communication gap.)
The second key consideration is, of course, price.
Based on the agencies I’ve known throughout my time in financial services, I can say with a fair degree of confidence that you’ll pay more if you choose an agency than if you build your best-of-breed team of individuals.
But, this point comes with a couple major caveats.
The first and most important caveat is that if you can help it, you should never make your decision based on price.
It may be nice to spend less if you end up getting the same product in the end, but price is relative to value.
Be sure that you’re getting the best value for what you’re paying, not simply that you pay less.
Value may mean something different to different people, so define what you hope to get out of the engagement. Quick example: If you pay $5,000 for a website that you expect to help you bring $100,000 in new sales in the first year, then you’re getting some great value.
Your Decision Comes Down to One Thing
Price and a single-point solution or a group approach are two important distinctions you’ll come up against when evaluating agencies against freelancers.
You’ll likely also want to take other factors into consideration, like experience and years in the industry.
But even then, experience doesn’t always equate to the best performance. Take a look at the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes, a second-year quarterback, as proof of that. He’s better than most quarterbacks who have been playing in the NFL for ten years.
A writer or a designer can have the same story. Natural talent makes up for as much in creative fields as it does in sports.
All those considerations aside, your decision should come down to one thing—and it’s the thing that all good business is built on: Relationships.
Who do you have the best relationship with?
You can’t fake trust. Choose whoever you believe in more, connect with more easily, and who you believe will put in the same time and effort and passion into your project as you would.
If you make a decision with relationship first, you’ll have the confidence that you’re making the right one.
Need a graphic or web designer? Let me know and I’ll send you a list of recommendations that I know you’ll love.
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