Content marketing: In-house vs freelancers vs agency

October 14, 2016Content marketing

The stats don’t lie. Content marketing works.
his year’s Curata findings show that 74 per cent of companies are using content marketing to increase their lead quality and quantity. In addition, 76 per cent are increasing their content marketing spend.

You know this and you’ve probably got your content strategy firm in hand. Now comes the stumbling block – where’s all this content going to come from? What are the pros and cons of in-house vs freelancers vs agency?

Essentially, you have two options: grow your content marketing competencies in-house, or, outsource. If you go the latter, you then have to choose again: freelancers or agency?

It’s a tricky one and the answer is: ‘It depends’. Let’s take a look at the pros, cons and practicalities of each.

Keeping content in-house

First, let’s start in-house. What does this mean? Basically, you do everything internally – from ideation and writing to distribution and managing content workflows. Depending on your company – size, structure, resources – it may be realistic or near impossible.

The pros

  • You’re in control from start to finish. There’s no chasing of external freelancers or account managers. You can do as you please when you please, as you deem fit.
  • You have insider expertise. You know your business and customers better than anyone so when it comes to creating content, you’re the authority.
  • You’re more invested, probably putting in more effort than an outsider.

The cons

  • You’ll need more staff unless you already have a content marketing team in the office.
  • It’s not scalable overnight. Your in-house resource is what it is. If your requirement for content suddenly explodes or shrinks, you either won’t have enough people or you’ll be paying for staff you don’t need. Scaling your in-house content marketing efforts is time-consuming and requires a lot of effort to recruit, train and upskill a new employee.

Hiring right

If you go with the in-house option and need to hire, you’ll want to get it right. So what should you be looking for in a content marketing specialist? They need to be:

  • Passionate about writing and content.
  • Strategic in their approach.
  • An overachieving multitasker.
  • Good at extracting information from others.

Questions to ask at interview: How do you decide what content to produce? How do you measure campaign effectiveness? What marketing blogs do you read? What’s your proofreading process? How does Google rank content?

Key takeaway: When keeping content marketing in-house, you’ll be in control but you’ll need to hire well and work efficiently.

Enlisting freelancers

Commissioning freelancers can be an effective way to deliver on your content marketing strategy, particularly for those on a more limited budget. They can work in different ways.

The first option is to hire freelance writers, designers or whoever you require and manage everything else yourself.

The second is to hire a content marketer (either freelance or internal) who finds, vets and manages a pool of creative freelancers for you and distributes and promotes the content.

The pros

  • It’s scalable. You only pay for the resource you need when you need it. So if your content requirement increases, you simply hire more freelancers and vice versa.
  • It can be cost-effective. Since freelancers usually work from home, they have low overheads and this means they can offer lower rates.
  • You can skill-pick. Select freelancers per project for their specific proficiencies. For example, you may have one writer who’s good at interviews and another at short, punchy eDM copy.

The cons

  • It can be hard to manage. This is due to geographic disparity and building a relationship can be harder if you’re not working face-to-face.
  • You might struggle to find quality writers. It’s hard to source quality freelancers, and you need to keep them committed and available.


Hiring right

Freelance sites such as Fiverr and Upwork might be tempting with their low prices but the quality can be inconsistent. This can cost you in the long term.

Try advertising on industry-related sites such as ProBlogger or ask other content marketers for recommendations. Before you start using a freelancer:

  • Speak with previous clients and get work samples.
  • Discuss fees, working processes and expectations up-front.
  • Provide them with adequate, well-thought-out briefs.
  • Stay in regular contact.

Key takeaway: Freelancers are a cheaper, more flexible option, but securing good ones isn’t easy.

Going the content agency route

Choosing to outsource your content marketing to an agency is a great option for businesses without the time, resources, inclination or expertise to keep it in-house.

With an agency, everything from strategy to creation and implementation can be taken out of your hands and undertaken by experts. They’re your one-stop content marketing shop.

The pros

  • They’re efficient and scalable. Due to their size, structure and talent pool, agencies have the resources and processes in place to produce lots of varied content on a regular basis.
  • They’re tooled up. The right technology and systems – such as integrated reporting, advanced analytics tools and SEO software – give you an advantage.
  • They offer a fresh perspective. Away from the corporate mindset, an agency can offer new insights and ideas as well as opening your eyes to hidden opportunities.

The cons

  • It can be expensive. With agencies costing anywhere between $4000 and $8000 per month, it may not be feasible for smaller businesses.
  • They can be too removed. They don’t fully grasp your industry or your customers. They’re juggling multiple projects so your project might not get the attention to quality it deserves.


Hiring right

If you decide to go down the agency route, you can iron out the negatives by hiring well.

So where do you begin? If you Google ‘content marketing agencies’, you’ll get around 8,010,000 results. This is pretty overwhelming, but it’s easy to narrow down when you know how.

First, if they’re on the front page of the results, take note. They’re obviously doing something right.

Other key things to look out for:

  • Do they have social proof such as website testimonials?
  • Do they have a strong portfolio of clients?
  • Are they thought leaders with a column or big social media following?
  • Have they won any industry awards?

Once you’ve shortlisted your favourites, you should then meet face-to-face to find out if they’re a good fit.
Here are six essential questions to ask:

  1. Are you familiar with our industry?
  2. Do you do proprietary industry research?
  3. How have you successfully helped clients with similar challenges to us?
  4. What metrics do you use to measure success?
  5. Can you explain your content workflow process?
  6. Who will be handling each stage? Can I speak to past clients?

Need more advice on how to take your content marketing to the next level? Here are 10 questions you should ask your next content marketing partner.

Key takeaway: Agencies are experts and can do it all for you, but can be expensive.


Getting started

Ultimately, the decision to keep your content marketing in-house or outsource it depends on your existing business resources and your specific content-marketing requirements.

After making up your mind, it’s important to do a test run so you can assess the quality of output you’re getting and monitor whether or not it’s engaging and entertaining your customers. In some instances, a hybrid of all three might be the best way to go.


Quick summary

  • In-house? Freelancers? Agency? It depends on your resources and requirements.
  • Whichever content marketing solution you choose, hiring well is a priority.
  • Make sure you give your decision a fair trial – if it’s not working, try something else.



Still not sure which option is best for you? Ask one of our content strategists at King Content.