How to Use Freelancers as a Low-Risk Way to Scale Your Agency

By Jason Swenk on August 14, 2019

Looking for a low-risk, high-result way to scale your agency? Want the flexibility to grow and scale at will? Freelancers are a great way to grab top talent in this gig economy. Using freelancers can help scale your agency faster and easier than bringing on permanent employees and the overhead that goes with them. But, the real key is knowing which roles to hand to freelancers and which roles you should not outsource. But, how about using freelancers as a core component of your workforce? I talk to an agency owner that uses both in-house employees and freelancers on almost every project. And it’s helped him grow at the speed-of-light.

  • How to win with freelancers
  • Which roles you should never outsource.
  • What not to do with agency freelancers.
  • 3 reasons smaller agencies win big.

Today, I talked with David Freund, Partner at Junto — a web design and content agency. David’s agency doesn’t just use freelancers on occasion… freelancers are a core component of his agency’s growth strategy, with over 25 on his team. Vetting freelancers and leaning on them to deliver cost-effective results helps Junto stay competitive in the commoditized market. And, David’s here to give us some tips on when and how to use freelancers the right way in order to grow your digital agency.

How to Win With Freelancers

Blending an in-house team with freelancers has a ton of benefits. Hiring a load of freelancers can help your agency go remote. And, it can definitely help you save on costs and onboarding headaches. But, the secret benefit is that it gives you insane flexibility to scale.

With a core team of employees in place, you can hire and let-go freelancers at will. As your growth has ebbs and flows, your hybrid team of employees and freelancers has the flexibility to ebb and flow, as well.

Need a new website designer? Hire a freelancer. Need fewer SEO specialists? Eliminate a few. With freelancers, you can grow and shrink at will. And, you don’t have to worry about all of the junk that goes into hiring and firing. This gives you a huge advantage over your competitors who are stuck with less flexibility.

Which Roles You Should Never Outsource

As agency owners, the thought of outsourcing talent can be terrifying. Finding and vetting freelancers can be overwhelming. And, some freelancers can be unreliable or unpredictable unless. If you’ve been burned before you might be scared to work with others in the future. But, here’s the secret — Dave says you have to outsource the right roles.

For starters, keep strategy and project/account managers in-house. Keeping these roles strictly for permanent employees gives you the quality control that is necessary to grow your business.

The last thing you want is to lose your agency’s standard or sacrifice its reputation. Having a key team of managers within your walls is the secret to keeping a high standard and reaping the benefits of the gig economy.

Your account managers act as a liaison between the agency and the client. You can structure your agency to have account managers work with the freelancers. That leaves you in charge of the big picture. But, you don’t have to manage ALL of these freelancers and in-house team members at the same time.

What Not To Do With Agency Freelancers

It can be tempting to hire some freelancers, send them work, and then you deliver the end product to the client. Basically, your agency is just playing the middleman and reaping the rewards. Sounds like a win-win, right? Nope! Your agency needs to hold the reigns. You must have the systems in place to facilitate freelancers success and deliver consistent results to your clients. If the end product is a representation of your agency’s work you have to have control over it from start to finish.

Your job is to provide your freelancers with the systems they need in order to succeed. And, you or someone within your agency needs to have the skillset to understand and oversee the work you’re outsourcing to a freelancer. So for example, if you don’t know anything about web design, don’t just hire freelancers and hand over a finished website to the client. At the very least, your account manager should have an understanding of web design and work hand-in-hand with the freelancer.

3 Reasons Smaller Agencies Win Big

Size doesn’t matter – no, really! 🙂 There’s never been a better time to be a small or mid-sized agency. You can be nimble and agile with your clients, and you can be far more flexible than the bigger agencies. If or when prospects question your agency’s size, use these benefits to spin the story in your favor:

  1. Small agencies can leverage freelancers. Using freelancers for skilled roles helps cut costs and compete for big projects. Sure, big agencies could hire freelancers but, they usually don’t. They have a huge in-house team. And, they’re going to lean on that team to get jobs done in order to justify salaries. But, that additional overhead puts them at a pricing disadvantage. Your agency can do the job cheaper and deliver better value. You have access to an entire global network of talented professionals because you’re not restricted to just a specific few employees.
  2. They’re still flexible. The best thing about being a small agency is that you can flip-the-script at-will. Want to start adding new services? Go for it by bringing on a freelancer with that skill set. Thinking about some new processes or strategies? Sure! You can try out all your ideas without disrupting a massive ecosystem
  3. Despite size, small agencies can compete in a changing world. Smaller means you’re not stuck. You have plenty of maneuverability to start adjusting to the new trends in marketing. There are plenty of new and interesting avenues to explore… chatbotsartificial intelligence and a bunch of other emerging technologies exist in sparse markets. And, you can start jumping into those markets immediately!

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