Hi, my name is Mike. I own a marketing agency … and I use freelancers.
Phew! That felt good to say.
If you use freelancers to help deliver for your clients, it’s more than likely a pretty hush-hush affair. Why? Because agencies often assume that clients will view their reliance on freelance help as a sign of weakness or immaturity.
That was my fear in the early days of my agency -- back then we were small, and I had one freelance writer that I used to help manage client demand. Because I had such a personal relationship with my clients, I would always present the work as my own. Then eventually, after adding a few more employees, I would present my freelancer as our “B2B technology expert,” carefully avoiding the fact that she was not an in-house employee.
Finally, I came clean. A client asked me a specific question about our “expert writer,” and I truthfully answered that she was a freelancer. And you know what? The sky didn’t fall. The trust wasn’t broken.
Over the years, we’ve added many more freelancers and have become much more open about our use of them. And we’ve discovered something interesting. Not only do clients not mind that we use freelancers, many of them see it as an added benefit.
Here are the facts:
With 53 million people doing freelance work in the U.S., their use is becoming much more common.
In a freelancer study, 65% said freelancing is a more respected career path today than it was three years ago.
The fact is, freelancers have agencies beat in some areas: Their costs are usually lower. They tend to specialize in one industry or skill set. They are more open to accepting smaller jobs or to remaining flexible with their client’s workload. These are some of the reasons why many companies prefer to use freelancers over agencies.
The problem agencies have is they see the benefits of using freelancers as self-serving. Why would your clients care or appreciate that freelancers help you lower costs and increase scalability?
They might not, but there are plenty of benefits to using freelancers that do carry over to your clients. Instead of hiding your use of freelancers, present the added value it brings to win even more business. Here are a few points to bring up:
The Value of Freelancer-Agency Relationships
1) Experts Available
No agency can be an expert in every industry. However, your clients want to know you have the expertise available to produce knowledgeable work for them.
How many times have you been asked to produce examples of work for an industry that you haven’t quite worked in? You scrape together a few examples from similar industries and hope it is enough.
Instead, you could tap into your community of freelancers. Go directly to the experts in the prospect’s industry, and ask them for examples that are exactly what the company is looking for.
Your new value add: “Yes, we have several members of our freelance community that are experts in that area. If you need more specialization, we can reach out to our extended network and find the perfect person for you.”
One of the downsides of working with an agency is that the client needs to commit to a certain amount of work. If we’re putting employees and infrastructure in place to handle that client, we need to ensure that it’s worth our while.
According to Neil Patel, “Typically, you’ll need to be spending at least a few thousand before an agency will take you on as a client.”
Whether that’s true or not for your agency, that is the perception most companies have. Working with a marketing agency means locking in to a rigid and often expensive agreement.
With freelancers, you can break the perception. Because you don’t need to devote as many in-house resources to each client, you can afford to be more flexible with your agreements. This allows clients to scale the amount of work they need up and down -- the way every company’s marketing actually works.
Your new value add: “We’ll keep a writer available if you ever need anything. We can also immediately bring in more writers if your demand ever unexpectedly increases or you need things on a shorter time table.”
3) Easier to Find the Right Fit
The best marketers are able to adapt to each client’s specific voice and style. Yet, sometimes your writer, designer, or another employee just doesn’t click with the brand’s expectations.
Instead of telling them, “Sorry, he’s our telecom writer,” you can dip deeper into your pool of freelance talent to find a better expert for their needs.
Your new value add: “We understand you’ve been unhappy with this work, we’d like to bring in another expert who we feel will be a better fit for your work. With our network, we won’t stop until we can get the right fit for you.”
The reason some clients might be wary about your freelance partnerships is that they have run into some bad ones in the past. This is exactly why they have come to your agency. Every bad freelance relationship is a foot in the door for you. The client or prospect sees the value in using freelancers, they were just never able to do it successfully.
You can give them all of the value they expected and hoped for out of freelancers without the downside of limited availability, inconsistent work, a time-consuming selection process, and more management hassles than they can handle.
You work with freelancers because they inherently provide value to your business. Don’t hide this value from your clients! Display it confidently, and you’ll find yourself winning much more business because of it.
Your new value add: “Working with freelancers is difficult. We take that work off of your plate and ensure you only see work from the best freelancing talent.”
Originally published May 11, 2016 7:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017