If you’re a medium- or large-sized business, working with an agency may seem like the safest, most professional route. And that makes sense to me – most of my clients have come from people who already knew me as they worked with me in the past. It can make a lot of sense to work with a digital agency unless you know, or someone you trust knows, of a great digital consultant.
That being said, many of the best professionals in the industry eventually break way from companies and agencies to work for themselves – and to enjoy the freedom and flexibility (and challenge) of consultant work. There’s a lot to be said for someone who’s been in business on their own for five years or more.
Ultimately, whether you work with an agency or a digital marketing consultant such as myself depends on what kind of work you’re looking to have done, at what volume, and what level of expertise you’re hoping to bring to your project.
The Pros And Cons Of Working With A Digital Agency
Agencies have a lot of strengths, and honestly? They could be the right choice for you.
A good agency is likely to have all of the following:
- A wide variety of talent, able to complete a wider range of tasks than a single consultant can
- Access to a large number of expensive paid tools
- The long-earned trust of their brand to stand by
If you need a large volume of work completed in a short amount of time, or you need an all-in-one solution, an agency is a great choice for you – and I won’t be able to offer you that kind of service.
Depending on the agency, the work can be fantastic, extremely high performing, and at a level that’s not attainable any other way. Your agency may also employ industry-leading experts who share their knowledge and experience with the rest of their company.
On the other hand, agencies are also companies – and like us all, they’re there to make a profit. A common agency model is to find the most scalable, cost-effective ways to get the work done. This can lead to some of the following disadvantages:
- Client work is often sourced to the lowest-paid employee who can do it. This may mean that you’re not getting the best possible version of completed work delivered to you.
- Typically, you’re not often able to speak directly with the employee who actually gets the work done unless you request it specifically.
- Agency employees may not be free to tell you if the work you’re requesting is really needed or is best for your brand.
That last one especially. When I spent time working at agency and agency-like settings, I was frustrated by the “Leave no money on the table” mentality there. I had clients where I just wanted to say “You don’t need that,” or I could see that we were a bad match for the client and not helping them, but I wasn’t free to let them know. There was also a tremendous pressure to retain clients and upsell on our business with them.
Why Work With Me?
In my personal experience, the work done by an agency is just as likely (or even less likely) to be successful as the work of a good consultant. Here’s a few possible reasons why:
Efficiency: While hiring a team of 25 people to work on your website might seem like a boon, it’s important to remember that all of those people need to be paid. It may not show as a line item, but there are managers, meetings, a payroll department, and more in the works, whereas I’m taking care of just myself – and my office is at home. There’s simply fewer expenses for me to factor into my prices, and I’m usually much less expensive than hiring an agency for equivalent work.
Expertise: As a digital marketer who started in the industry in 2006, I have more years of experience in the industry than most consultants you’ll find. I do all my own work, so you can count on a professional with a deep background in the industry to be doing your work for you – as well as all the communication and collaboration.
Budgetary Flexibility: Agencies tend towards big budgets and work towards contracts of six months or longer. Within reason, I tend to be available for smaller budgets than an agency might accept, and we can sign on for one-off projects where a full-service contract is not what you’re in the market to find.
Reputation: My entire business hinges on my good name in the industry – and my good standing with my clients is what keeps me in business and gains me referrals. My LinkedIn page and case studies all include many testimonials and recommendations that my clients have left me over the years, showing a long history of satisfaction, mutual respect, and appreciation of me and the work I provide.
Integrity: Working as a one-person company gives me the freedom to operate with the integrity I wish I’d had when I worked with an agency. I do not accept projects if I don’t think I’m a good fit for the client, or when I don’t think they’re likely to make money on their investment with me. I will tell you the pros and cons of each project I work on, even if it means you may decide not to do the project. If I’m able to do the work but know someone who would be a better fit, I’ll let you know that too.
In fairness, there are disadvantages of working with me as well:
- If something happens to me, I’m on my own, and there is no replacement to back me up. Work may be delayed by things outside of my control.
- If you need work done that’s outside of my skillset – such as website design and development or PPC advertising – you may need to bring on a different company or consultant to get that part of your project underway. I know a large network of reliable professionals, and I’m glad to connect you, but an agency will likely have them directly on hand.
- Before working with me, make sure your philosophy on SEO aligns with mine. There are some aspects of SEO that I don’t believe are effective, like link building, that much of the industry at large is happy to offer. (I do provide guest-blogging and influencer marketing.) An agency may be happy to offer you those things instead.
If you’re unsure of which direction is best for you and would like to chat, please feel free to contact me. I’ll gladly do my best to have a frank discussion with you about the best options for your situation.