Freelance copywriter vs copywriting agency – which is best for your business?

Every business needs written content. Website copy, blog posts, onboarding materials, ebooks, pitch decks – the list goes on. In a startup or micro business, this copy is often written by the founder or another member of the team. But eventually the need for either quality or quantity – or both – means it’s time to hire in a freelance copywriter or copywriting agency.

The question is, which one is right for your business?

In this article, we’re going to look at the advantages and disadvantages of freelance copywriters and copywriting agencies. This won’t help you select an individual writer or agency – you can read more about that in this post on how to hire a copywriter. Instead, we’ll go through some of the factors you should be considering in order to decide what will suit you best.

Why use a freelance copywriter?

A good freelance copywriter is absolute gold. As well as our in-house writers and editors, we have a small but brilliant team of freelancers who are an integral part of the agency.

So we’re not here to suggest that copywriting agencies are in any way better than freelancers. In fact, there are many situations in which we would advise that you go down the freelance route.

Here are some factors that make freelancers appealing.

Cost

In many cases, a freelancer is likely to be less expensive than an agency simply because they don’t have the same overheads. They’re also unlikely to be earning over the VAT threshold, saving you a chunk of money if you yourself aren’t VAT registered.

Freelance rates vary widely depending on experience and even location (London prices tend to be higher than Bristol prices, for example). A junior might start out charging as little as £120 a day, whereas someone more specialist or experienced might charge four or five times that.

There is likely to be some crossover between the highest freelance rates and the rates charged by the smaller agencies though, so don’t be afraid to get a range of quotes. Just make sure you’re comparing like-for-like in terms of what’s being delivered.

Specialism

There are many types of copywriting – advertising, content, website copy, SEO, conversion. Each requires a slightly different skillset. While most copywriters will be able to turn their hand to more than one, many will eventually specialise and become experts in one or other.

Or they’ll dedicate themselves to a particular subject, industry or organisational type – tech or FMCG, SaaS or fashion, startup or nonprofit. By doing this, they’ll develop a base of information that means they’ll find it easy to get up to speed when it comes to understanding your business.

Flexibility

Where agencies will have their processes in place, a freelancer may well have more flexibility. For example, they might be happy to come and work in-house at your offices for a period of time. They are also unlikely to have minimum fee or retainer terms.

Retainer relationships make sense on a number of levels. First, there is a degree of work to be done upfront in getting to know the client and understanding their industry, establishing tone of voice, messaging and more. Also, in the case of content marketing, it takes time to see results.

But you might not want a long-term relationship. Perhaps you only need someone to do a small, one-off piece of work, or perhaps your budget is too uncertain to commit to a monthly outgoing. Or you might just be testing the water. In which case, a freelancer is a good bet.

Dedication

We’re not saying that agencies aren’t passionate about doing a good job – we certainly are! But when you’re self-employed, you need a degree of extra dedication that will help you stand out from the crowd and ensure you can invoice enough to survive at the end of the month.

If a freelancer doesn’t do a good job, there’s nowhere to hide. So they’re going to go that extra mile to ensure that they keep their clients happy. The good news is that if they don’t, it’s not that difficult to move on to the next one.

Just remember not to take advantage of that dedication. As easy as it is to ditch a freelancer, it’s equally easy for them to ditch you – unless you’ve put contracts in place as you would in an agency relationship.

If your business is growing and your copy requirements are likely to grow with it, then you need to be sure that your provision will be able to expand to meet that.

Why use a copywriting agency?

This is not where we do a big old sales pitch. As we’ve demonstrated above, there are many reasons why you might need a freelance copywriter. And if you find a good one, hold onto them!

But there will be times when getting an agency on board is going to suit your needs better.

Capacity

One key issue is capacity. An agency will not only have internal resources but access to a pool of tried and tested freelancers, plus processes in place for managing availability. As a result, you shouldn’t have to wait weeks before they can fit you in and you’ll never have to worry about what happens if your writer gets sick or wants to take a holiday.

Likewise, if your business is growing and your copy requirements are likely to grow with it, then you need to be sure that your provision will be able to expand to meet that. One person can only do so much work, whereas a team has infinite capacity.

Scope

Earlier in this article we mentioned the benefit of using a specialist freelance copywriter who has developed a niche of some sort. On the flipside, you might have a range of different needs that can’t necessarily be met by one person.

With an agency, you’re effectively getting access to a range of specialists without the hassle of project managing numerous freelancers’ schedules and workloads. Instead, that job falls to your account manager.

Team

Speaking of which, that’s another reason to use a copywriting agency – the team you’ll be bringing in. Each member of the team will have expertise in handling different aspects of more complex or longer term copywriting projects.

An agency will provide a fully managed service, handling everything from brief creation through copy drafting, editing and proofing, as well as managing the writers and even liaising with other professionals like designers or developers. That’s a lot less for you to sort out at your end.

Quality

We’re not suggesting that agencies produce better work than freelancers. But the reality is that there are plenty of bad copywriters out there. Choosing an agency should give you at least a minimum standard of quality.

A not-so-great freelancer might be able to get by on good luck, but a substandard copywriting agency won’t last long. It’s just too competitive out there and running a business – with employees to pay, office space to rent, insurance, accountancy fees and a million other expenses besides – means there’s no room for slackers.

Is RH&Co right for your business?

Everything we’ve written so far has been designed to give you a broad brush and unbiased view of the copywriting market. Of course, not every freelance copywriter or copywriting agency is the same. So what about us?

Cost

We don’t work on a day rate, instead quoting on a project basis that takes into account such things as the scope of the project, the complexity of the subject matter and so on. As an indication, most of our website clients spend between £1,500+VAT and £4,500+VAT with us, while blogging clients usually pay from £750+VAT per month.

Specialism

Our specialism as an agency is in working with expert-led businesses to help them clarify and communicate their message and establish their expertise through content.

This includes:

  • A range of consultancy services around developing brand voice and messaging
  • Creation of copy for websites, pitch decks, corporate brochures etc
  • Ongoing content creation including blogging, white papers, ebooks etc.

We haven’t developed one particular industry niche. Our writing team pulls together experience across a wide range of both B2B and B2C industries, from sports to SaaS, fashion to finance. We are particularly experienced in working with complex subject matter to draw out the elements that readers will find engaging.

Flexibility

As a relatively small copywriting agency, we like to think of ourselves as being pretty agile in the way we work with our clients. However we aren’t able to provide writers to work in-house on your premises.

We do work on both a project and a retainer basis, with retainer SLAs being set for a minimum of six months to ensure that we can provide the most value. In reality, most of our clients stay with us for much longer!

Team & Capacity

With both in-house copywriting resources and a team of handpicked freelancers on our books, we always have capacity to work with new clients. We also have processes in place to cover sickness and holiday absence.

We can usually book in an onboarding or briefing session within a week of you making the decision to work with us. First draft blog copy is usually delivered within 7-10 working days from briefing and website copy within 3 weeks.

Every project, whether one-off or ongoing, has – at the very least – a dedicated project manager, a writer and a separate editor to ensure that the quality of the copy we produce meets RH&Co standards. You can find out more about the in-house team on our About page here.

Conclusion

Hopefully by now you’re feeling a lot more confident about whether or not you should be aiming to work with a freelance copywriter or a copywriting agency – and whether we might be a good fit. Let’s sum up the main points.

  • You should choose a freelance copywriter if:
  • You have a small, one-off project such as a single brochure
  • You have a limited budget for a bigger job such as a website
  • You need a real specialist in a particular industry
  • You want the writer to work in-house in your offices
  • You’re not ready to commit to a longer term relationship

You should choose a copywriting agency if:

  • You want to ensure sufficient ongoing capacity
  • You need to produce a range of types of copy
  • You need the support of an experienced team
  • You want be sure of a minimum standard of quality
  • You’re committed to using copy strategically on an ongoing basis

Whether or not you should work with us is something you won’t fully be able to decide until you’ve had a chat with us. After all you want to know that whoever you choose, you’re actually going to get on with them, right?

If you want to get to know us a bit better, drop us a line to arrange a call. In the meantime, feel free to have a look around the site, and why not connect with us on LinkedIn?

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