Agency, freelancer or fractional CMO?

Agency, freelancer or fractional CMO?

Agency, freelancer or fractional CMO?

Nov 15, 2022

Generated on MidJourney

Generated on MidJourney

Generated on MidJourney

Who should I hire?

You know you need help to grow, elevate and scale your brand but where do you start? Let's assume you haven't ever worked with an agency, freelancer or fractional CMO. We'll start with listing pros and cons of each.

Hiring an agency

If you're looking for help to execute on large scale marketing campaigns, brand identities or robust content creation, an agency can be a good solution. Agencies typically are built to support these types of activities and have a formula to create this type of work. Here's some pros and cons of hiring an agency:

Pros of hiring an agency:

  • Talent: Agencies often have a range of specialists to execute common creative and advertising projects.

  • Outside perspective: It can be helpful to gain fresh insights into your business and customers.

  • Cost-effective: Compared to building out an entire in-house team, sometimes agencies can be less costly (not always!).

  • Time-saving: Outsourcing certain marketing projects can help free up your team to focus on other things.

Cons of hiring an agency:

  • Expensive: Most agencies are built on a billable hourly model and their goal is to bill more, not less. Some agencies charge a % of ad spend which can make scaling costly.

  • Brand: Though agencies usually try to learn your business, they are often not as invested as you or your team. Most agency employees are juggling multiple brands and may not have deep insight into any of them.

  • Inefficient: Agencies can sometimes move slow, partially because of their capacity (juggling client work) but also simply because more people are involved. They are also incentivized to spend more time vs less because of their billable hourly model.

  • Talent: You may not have your account handled by the rockstar you met in the beginning. Agencies also have a very high turnover rate (~30% annually) due to burnout and poor compensation. This turnover can mean lost knowledge, continuity and degradation of the quality of work.

You might notice that the pros of hiring an agency are similar to the cons. Every agency and relationship is different – some brands experience the pros and even with the same agency, later experience the cons. Sometimes an agency can be useful for a specific project or stage in your brand's evolution.

Hiring a freelancer

Freelancers can be a great option for brands that have creative teams or prefer to work with smaller teams. Freelancers often work with brands looking for specialized skills or ones that have overflow work they need help with. Here are some pros and cons of hiring a freelancer:

Pros of hiring a freelancer:

  • Cost-effective: Hiring a freelancer is often less expensive than hiring a full-time person.

  • Flexibility: Unlike a full-time employee, freelancers can work only when you need them.

  • Outside perspective: Like an agency, freelancers typically have varied experience across brands and industries, that can bring a fresh perspective to your business.

  • Speed: Freelancers often can work faster than agencies due to less process, fewer meetings and usually fewer people involved.

Cons of hiring a freelancer:

  • Less strategic: While this is not always true, many freelancers focus on tactical deliverables and may be less likely or able to contribute to your brand's greater strategic vision.

  • Communication: This varies but sometimes freelancers may not be as responsive as you'd like. They may not have the same sense of urgency that you do.

  • Lack of commitment: Freelancers often have multiple clients which means they may not be able to always prioritize your project.

  • Brand: Unless you work with them for a period of time, freelancers may not understand your brand as deeply as your full-time employees.

Hiring a fractional CMO

If your brand lacks a CMO, hiring a fractional CMO can be a great way to inject senior marketing expertise. Generally CMOs spend their time on high level strategy, not on creating tactical deliverables. This article, "Why you should hire a fractional CMO" provides more information on what the role does. Here are some pros and cons:

Pros of hiring a fractional CMO:

  • Strategic: A fractional CMO should provide high level strategic insights that impact your business.

  • Coaching: Fractional CMOs often provide leadership and mentorship to teams, helping them excel.

  • Impact: A fractional CMO should make a bigger impact than freelancer or most agencies.

  • Partnership: Fractional CMOs usually work directly with CEOs and other members of the C-Suite.

Cons of hiring a fractional CMO:

  • Expensive: Fractional CMOs tend to charge a higher rate than most freelancers and agencies.

  • Commitment: CEOs need to commit time and trust to enable fractional CMOs to make an impact.

  • Talent: If you hire the wrong fractional CMO, it can be damaging to your team and brand.


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