How to Pitch Your Freelance Services Against a Marketing Agency

As a marketing freelancer, the biggest competition you’ll face will most likely be the world of marketing agencies. Companies, especially those with larger budgets, typically default to choosing between hiring a full-time employee to run their marketing efforts and outsourcing the work to an agency, usually without considering the idea of hiring a freelancer.

This is not terribly surprising, given that the digital marketing freelancer community is still up and coming. For a long time now, the market has been well-saturated with freelance copywriters and social media experts who will schedule your tweets and respond to your Facebook comments for you. But only now are we starting to see a rise of freelance conversion optimizers, SEO & paid advertising specialists, and email marketers.

"Only now are we starting to see a rise of freelance conversion optimizers, SEO & paid advertising specialists, and email marketers."

Because these specialties are still primarily thought of in terms of a full-time role (“If we need help with email marketing, we better hire someone to join the team!”), many companies who are not looking to make a full-time hire immediately resort to hiring an agency.

Now, let me be clear: not all agencies are bad. In fact, there are many very strong, capable agencies out there. But there are certain traits that most agencies have in common that make hiring a marketing freelancer like you a much better choice.

In order to set yourself up to win clients who are considering bringing on an agency, you need to be equipped with the right arguments to convince the client that hiring you is the right decision.

Have these bullet points tucked away in your arsenal for next time you find yourself up against an agency.

7 Reasons Your Clients Should Hire You Over An Agency

1. You’re far more cost-effective.

Needless to say, most agencies charge whopping fees for handling a company’s marketing efforts.

This isn’t to say that your services are going to be cheap. In fact, you should be pricing your services strategically to make the most out of every client engagement, and in all likelihood, you’re actually not charging enough.

"Even with your competitive rates, you’re still going to be more cost-effective than hiring an agency."

But even with your competitive rates, you’re still going to be more cost-effective than hiring an agency. Why? Because agencies have very high costs. They have to charge extremely high rates in order to afford the salaries of all their team members, their operating costs, etc. and still make a profit on the deal.

If the client hires you, they hire only you. You can still charge a premium for your services and have it be a better deal for the client.

2. Your client won’t have to pay any superfluous or hidden fees.

This goes hand-in-hand with point #1 and is yet another reason that you are more cost-effective than an agency.

Aside from late payment fees that you should have written into your contract to make sure you get paid on time, you don’t charge any hidden fees like many agencies do.

Agency fees be like...

Agency fees be like...

Mention to your prospective client that your contract terms are very straightforward, and that by agreeing on a fixed per-project rate or a monthly retainer, they know exactly how much they’ll be paying for your services, with no surprises in store.

3. Your client will only have to interface with one person.

One of the reasons that many companies are unhappy with their experience working with marketing agencies is that they often have to interface with numerous people at the agency.

“Bill will handle your payment processing, but please send your invoices to Dawn, and Andy is your account manager, but Sam, Emily, and Ross will be implementing the campaigns…”

Oftentimes, the client doesn’t actually know who’s handling any given task, and even if they do, they’re not necessarily in communication with that person.

On top of this, agencies will often outsource work that they can’t handle internally and white label it -- in other words, they’ll contract it out to (wow!) a freelancer, or someone with the specific skills the client is looking for, and this will not be communicated to the client, in order to make it appear as if the agency is handling everything themselves.

Again, in contrast -- if the client hires you, they hire only you. They know exactly who is doing the work, they can communicate directly with that person, and nothing gets lost in the shuffle by being passed around amongst a large team.

If your client is serious about their work being done well and with full transparency throughout the process, this should be a convincing argument for working with you over an agency.

4. Your client will receive their deliverables faster.

Now, you’d think that if an agency offers a whole team of people working on the client’s account, compared to you as a single individual, that the client’s marketing efforts would be implemented much faster by the agency. More hands, less time -- right?

Wrong. I can almost guarantee that, as a freelancer, you can offer a much faster turnaround time to your client than an agency could.

"As a freelancer, you can offer a much faster turnaround time to your client than an agency could."

Why? Most agencies have a ton of red tape, and a lot of processes in place.

Let’s say you hire an agency to build out an email marketing series to use for lead nurturing. The process might look something like this:

  • Before doing any implementation, create full 30-page long discovery document. This will include massive amounts of detail on the client’s goals, personas, and nearly everything else you can think of.

  • Have team meeting (perhaps several) to discuss strategy for email marketing series.

  • Compile meeting takeaways into 5-page strategy document to be shared with client.

  • Send to client.

  • Wait for feedback.

  • Implement changes.

  • Assign various responsibilities to various team members.

  • Write email copy.

  • Get email copy approved by 2-3 other team members.

  • Implement changes.

  • Get email copy approved by client.

  • Wait for feedback.

  • Implement changes.

  • Repeat.

  • Have phone call with client to explain in detail all decisions made regarding project.

You get the idea.

They do it this way because they have multiple people on each project and because they have many processes in place.

How would it work differently with you?

  • Discuss goals, personas, and strategy with client. Client trusts you.

  • You create email series.

  • Client offers feedback.

  • You implement.

I’m not saying there will be fewer rounds of feedback with the client if you handle the project than if an agency does (you might have a client that’s very picky -- ehem -- detail-oriented). But because it’s just you, there won’t be any red tape or needless processes that will waste time, and your client will get what they need much faster.

5. You’re more flexible with changing priorities.

Some agencies can handle a shift in priorities well. Many do not.

At any given point, your client’s needs, goals, or situation may change. They may have less budget than anticipated, or they may want to test a new marketing channel, or they may need to prove or present something to potential investors on short notice.

If you price strategically with a monthly retainer, your client has you on board for whatever needs to be done. This is why, if you can’t define a fixed project scope, you should always price monthly or weekly. It allows for flexibility.

I explain this to prospective clients whenever I pitch a monthly retainer, and it always satisfies them. The client wants you to have flexibility to meet their changing needs. Why? Because they can’t see them coming any more than you can, and they don’t want to be locked into contracts and payments for one thing when suddenly they need something else.

Go ahead and ask your prospective client: “Do you trust that the agency you’re considering will be able to meet your changing needs immediately? Or do you think it might take them some extra time and money to change gears for you?”

Their answer won’t be a surprise.

6. Your client will have full visibility and access to the work you do for them.

I just spoke with a prospective client, who up until now has hired an agency to run their AdWords campaigns. This agency has their own platform through which to manage these campaigns. This platform requires a login, which was given to the client. However, the platform’s interface is extremely muddled and difficult to navigate, and for a client with little knowledge about what to look for in order to find meaningful data, it is nearly useless.

So of course, the client never logged in, and the agency didn’t communicate results to the client, which means the client never knew how their campaigns were performing.

Not to mention, this specific agency has a policy of not handing over any of the campaigns they’ve built on the client’s behalf to the client upon completion of the contract.

Sorry, what?

The client isn’t seeing anything that’s happening, and doesn’t even get to keep the campaigns that they paid for?

Not all agencies are like this. But some are. Does your client know exactly what they’re getting when they sign with an agency?

7. You don’t make things unnecessarily complex, just for show.

Lastly, agencies have a major reputation to uphold. After all, you’re paying top dollar for them, so what you’re getting better look like it took a lot of work!

As a marketing freelancer specializing in paid advertising, I’ve seen endless AdWords accounts set up by agencies with nearly hundreds of campaigns, containing dozens of ad sets, containing hundreds and hundreds of keywords each.

And you know what, some clients like this. But most clients only like this because they believe that the more complex something is, the more effective it is, and this is simply not true.

"But most clients only like this because they believe that the more complex something is, the more effective it is, and this is simply not true."

I make it clear to my clients from the start that my goal is to cut out the 97% of work (keywords, in this particular instance) that doesn’t deliver any results, and focus on setting them up for success in the most direct possible way.

I explain that my goal is also to make it easy for my clients to take over the accounts themselves at some point, for me to be able to train them to manage it effectively on their own. For them to be able to look at their own campaigns and understand what results they’re getting.

It turns out, this is what actually matters to clients.

Explain it to them. The clients that will be a good fit for you are the ones who will be enthusiastically nodding in agreement, saying they don’t want any bullshit, just results.

In one of my favorite client testimonials I’ve received, my client described me as “different -- not bombastic, but confident, knowledgeable and thoughtful in her approach.”

“Bombastic” -- meaning “high-sounding; high-flown; inflated; pretentious” -- I thought, how sad that this is what most companies experience when they work with agencies.

Now, see how much you have to offer your clients? Once you convey these ideas to them, they’ll be asking how soon they can sign a contract, and both you and the client will benefit from the deal.