Freelance consultants vs. marketing agencies: Which should you choose and why?

A few weeks ago, a prospective client reached out to me.

They were getting started building their online presence, and they weren’t sure how to get results.

They needed help with PPC (along with complementary landing pages), posts on social media, a blog strategy, a ground up technical SEO strategy, and outreach to help build links on relevant sites.

When I first saw how much support the client needed, I was excited, but then I realized I might not be the right person for the job. I’m a content marketing consultant and freelance writer. What did this client need? Help from an agency.

Sure, I could help the client with a lot of their needs, but many things they wanted– such as help with technical SEO– isn’t my expertise.

There’s a lot of overlap between freelance content marketing consultants and traditional digital marketing agencies. Both can build strategies, complement existing ones, and give you more person-power. But which is right for your brand?

What a freelance content marketing consultant (usually) does

Freelance content marketing consultants are nimble– they can work on a variety of projects, and you can get up and running with them in a short amount of time. Freelance content marketing consultants can help you build a content strategy, do a content audit, write and publish content, interview your audience to create a branded style guide, and do one-off editorial projects.

Freelance content marketing consultants vary widely– some are simply writers, while others are experienced marketers who can help you build your sales funnel, increase conversions on your site, and build out customer lifecycle emails.


  • Less expensive
  • More personalized, less one-size-fits-all
  • More flexible
  • Easy to hire for one-off projects


  • Don’t have as many resources
  • May not have access to pro performance tools
  • Often only has expertise in one or two areas

What a digital marketing agency (usually) does

Digital marketing agencies offer comprehensive solutions. Most offer social media, content marketing, SEO, ad management, and a variety of other services. Some agencies let you pick and choose what you use them for, while others may want you to buy in to their whole solution.

Often these agencies are process and results-oriented– they have seen success in the past using certain tactics and are likely to want to use them on you. Some agencies are highly specialized in a certain industry, while others are more general.


  • Lots of available resources in terms of people and tools
  • Able to provide a variety of services
  • Can meet deadlines faster


  • More expensive
  • More likely to have lengthy, binding contracts

Finding the perfect complement

Many brands work with digital marketing agencies and freelance content marketing consultants at the same time. A lot comes down to personal preference. Would you prefer to work one-on-one with a knowledgeable consultant, or do you need an agency that can offer a comprehensive marketing solution? Perhaps you can effectively work with both. The choice is up to you.

Here are a few questions to narrow it down:

  • What do I need to outsource? (If you need to outsource EVERYTHING marketing-related, an agency may be better choice)
  • What’s my budget? (If you have a limited budget, a freelance content marketing consultant may be better choice)
  • What are my short-term and long-term needs? (If you think your needs can be handled by one individual for the next few months, than a freelance content marketing consultant may be a better choice)

Which agency to choose?

Sometimes I refer clients to agencies, and occasionally agencies hire me to help them with content creation. If you’re looking for an agency, I’m happy to give my recommendations.


Just because I recommend an agency does not mean it is the right agency for you. You need to look around and talk to a few different agencies to see if they can help you out. I recommend poking around this resource to start: Moz’s Recommended List of SEO/Web Marketing Consultants, Firms & Agencies