Differences: Freelance vs Consulting Agency
Go directly to Point 1:
You are considering outsourcing for a project. Freelance or Consulting Agencies is better for you? Consider these 3 before making a decision:
You may or might not have an in-house team, outsourcing brain-talents is an option to increase productivity. Thus, it saves time and energy, you can take on different challenges. But how to weigh for the best optimal decision? Consider these insights that not many people will tell you.
“No one will make a great business who wants to do it all himself” – Andrew Carnegie, the richest man in the world in 1902.
There are more than one way to Mars! They both get the job done, but which work style fits you better?
The agencies way:
Consulting agencies usually work in an organized workflow. For example, in a website design & development project, they tend not to skip the first steps such as user research (understanding target customers within the target market), trends analysis, or user testing (test prototypes on selected end-users in a designated environment).
However, they are usually neglected by freelancers because it takes time and doesn’t show obvious or imminent results.
But time tells, a digital project can take from at least 3 months to 1 year or many years (depends on project scale), while market trends change very fast, even on a daily basis. It is easy to be out-of-date for such a big budget being invested if there were no market research and trend analysis being done in advance.
For digital product development such as website or application, maintaining the site’s health (with clean code) is an important but usually neglected issue because the after-work is usually treated with less priority. If you choose to work with freelancers, it is important that you ask for clear documentation for code update or debugging. This way if other developers that take on the project, they will thank you a whole bunch!
The freelance way:
Freelancers can surprise you with how fast they are. They can work while you sleeping (if you have freelancers working from different time zones, or even the same time-zone). That is just how freelancers do. Time flexibility is their competitive edge. However, you need a bit more effort to micro-manage the tasks you want to get done. There are no project managers you can contact that can give you all the information you need.
They say “if you want to go far, you go alone, if you want to go far, you go together”. They are fast partially also because they don’t have a team decision-making process. It is a one-man work. If you had a team to “go together” already, then freelance is a good choice.
Freelancers are human too, therefore, sometimes they get sick or have unexpected emergencies which hinder the job. While for agencies, it is almost ensured that the job gets done regardless because they have a team to cover for each other. It is just a risk you have to take.
Transparent reports and legal issues
Professional consulting agencies keep good reports, ranging from coding documentation to work progress tracking as well as legal contracts with transparent financial status.
I understand the need for clear work-progress reports within organizations, especially in medium or large companies. You might be the trusted personnel to be given the projects by the board, and on theory, you have full power over the decision-making process. However, the real case is you usually get caught up in situations when you are questioned about taste-made details, such as “should it be red there instead of pink”, “pink is too fun”. Consulting agencies can help you get the weight off your shoulders at this because of the “taste” that makes their brand out of. It is rare that a professional agency would perform a task without reasons and meaning behind it.
These reports are less of a priority for a freelancer. They simply don’t need to. The reporting task is more likely belongs to you.
Agencies vs Freelancers are legal entities vs natural person. Agencies will prepare the administration work, from contracts, invoices to tax and legal terms, etc. You can avoid headaches legal after-purchase dissonance.
On the other hand, freelancers are individual with different personal and professional legal responsibility. However, there are still ways to legalize the work of a freelancer. Consider if you are willing to spend time on this or have a financial department to support you.
Drive force & results
Okay here is a secret you need to know about agencies. Just finishing the job doesn’t put them into good sleep at night, every self-worth agency embraces a unique vibe that they thrive to build and brand to keep. Dedicated agencies will treat each client as if it is their only client, and each project as if it is the last project they can do. Indeed, competition between consulting agencies is getting harsher, thus great work is a competitive edge or survival basket, whatever you call it. To be blunt, it is an integral part of their Branding process too.
However, a head-up is sometimes you need to be a bit more patient working with agencies, the innovative new is harder to accept than conventional. At first, you may not understand why they go extra-mile for a concept that doesn’t seem to make sense to you. Be patient, they have reasons for what they do, the new are not easily accepted, to any high-spirit agency. Having to cook an idea that anyone can just copy/paste is a waste of their clients’ budget and their time too.
They might a bit ‘stubborn’ and ‘weird’ in their doing, be calm, wait and see, ROI (return on investment) is yours to enjoy. If you prefer the more “got-it-under-control” style of management, hiring a freelancer or build an in-house team may suits you better.
On the other hand, freelancers can be dedicated, work-pride people indeed. However they normally have too much to assignments or projects to juggle with at one time, even if they are very talented people, it is hard for them to use ‘their system 2’ or their rational mind all the time.
However, putting my feet in the shoes of a freelancer, the title itself does much to hinder their power in the project. From experience of a freelancer friend of mine, he admitted feeling that he is given less trust and ground to state his opinions. He felt like a “worker” who does his job well by “just doing, not asking”. Therefore, if you are to choose a freelancer to work for you, varied from multiple skillsets, it may help really taking into account what they got to say. You might be surprised.
Depending on expertise, each agencies is a collection of passionate and specialized humans. They usually have a full-service in-house team or strong connections with different niches in the industry. In other words, you can have one contact for almost-all services, such your website design & development project can be enhanced by a professional touch with a creative video content production. Agency people are usually edgy with a taste. They either work well or don’t work together. Therefore, you can be sure that your digital product won’t be an awkward mix of everything.
Overall, no one is absolutely better than the other. They might not be all there are but for sure are valuable insights about the difference between freelancer and consulting agencies. I hope that you can find it useful for your decisions in the upcoming projects. Success!