In-House vs. Freelance Writers: How Agencies Can Avoid the Content Creation Treadmill
The debate of in-house vs. freelance writers has raged on since the dawn of inbound and content marketing.
Instead, the come to you to solve the problem. Because they’ve heard that content is king, and they need to step up their game.
Except content might not be king anymore—at least not the way it used to be.
Great content is now the baseline. Your agency also has to deliver the SEO, PPC, social media, and advertising services that will make that content thrive.
Hiring specialists in each of these categories while maintaining profit margins isn’t easy. Of all the services, content creation might be easiest aspect to outsource—but does it make sense to do so?
Resolving the in-house vs. freelance writer debate is critical to maximizing agency profits.
The Basic In-House vs. Freelance Writers Debate
Content creation services may not be the highest margin aspect of your business.
However, finding the most effective and efficient approach to developing content for your clients will help maximize the value of all your other services.
So, which is better? In-house writers or freelancers?
As always, there’s pros and cons to each side.
The Freelance Writer Approach
Going with freelance writers for your content services comes with all the benefits you might expect from outsourcing.
In-house writers require a time-intensive recruiting process. Then, you’re somewhat committed to the salary and benefits you’ve agreed to.
The result? An inflexible model that doesn’t easily scale to meet content demands.
Taking the freelancer approach fixes this common digital marketing agency problem. By hiring freelancers to fulfill content creation services, you get:
- On-demand writing that fit better in a project-based agency
- Access to a wider range of subject matter experts
- More flexibility to manage costs and profit margins
- Potentially faster turnaround times if you have a content community in place
Hiring freelance writers isn’t always easy, though.
Over the years, we’ve spoken with agency leaders who struggled to make the freelancer model work. They have trouble finding high-quality, reliable writers. And when they do find them, pricing can become an issue as agencies try to maintain profit margins.
These are problems that we strive to eliminate with our freelancer marketplace. But if you just don’t want to go down the freelancer route, in-house writers have their advantages.
The In-House Writer Approach
Hiring new salaried employees to handle your content creation services might feel natural.
You want to show your prospects and clients that your agency excels at all things marketing. You put expert specialists in place to cover all of your different services and prove to customers that your agency drives real results.
This is why some digital marketing agencies go so far as to present freelance writers as in-house employees when talking to customers.
In many cases, it’s a matter of optics. Clients come to you to outsource their marketing and might not expect you to create a second step of separation.
But keeping content creation in-house isn’t just for show. There are real benefits to having a dedicated writer on your team, including consistency and availability.
Using in-house writers for content services gives you more control over the process than with freelance writers.
Because the writer is salaried, you can give them assignments that aren’t tied directly to client assignments. Have them spend time learning a client’s style guide. Get them more involved in the content strategy.
While you can send resources to freelance writers, taking a more hands-on approach to training an in-house writer can result in more consistency over time.
Effectively sourcing, vetting, and hiring an in-house writer isn’t easy. But when you get it right, you can significantly reduce availability issues for content creation services.
Your in-house writers are always available to discuss new projects—whether that means reprioritizing work or finding time to fit a new client in.
In a fast-moving agency that might have spikes in content demands, availability is invaluable.
Your Deciding Factor? The Content Creation Treadmill
It’s easy to look at the in-house vs. freelance writer debate as a matter of preference.
You look at the pros and cons and can choose a path that works best for your specific needs. But there’s one critical factor that is often overlooked when making the decision—the content creation treadmill that so many agencies get stuck on.
Think about your client turnover rate. Anyone outside of the agency business might be shocked to hear that client turnover rates could average as much as 50% annually.
In the days when retainer-based relationships were the norm, client turnover rates were lower. But as one consultancy notes:
“If you’re at a project-based agency, client turnover could reasonably be closer to 30-50% annually, assuming you have a strong sales pipeline to replace the revenue and you tend to get repeat business from past project clients.”
This isn’t a worst-case scenario. Digital marketing agencies face a significant uphill battle when it comes to client retention—it’s just the norm.
Especially in the early days when you’re still trying to build that sales pipeline, this kind of churn places serious pressure on your hiring processes.
This is where the content creation treadmill comes into play.
The Never-Ending Content Creation Treadmill
Way back when nDash was a content services agency, we had a challenge.
We had a blended approach to content creation, using both in-house writers and freelancers. But our primary goal was to take the in-house writer approach.
The problem was that we had a small team working with a handful of clients. Our writers were tapped out on existing work, so there was a time when new clients meant hiring new writers.
This was the content creation treadmill. As agencies get new clients, they need capacity to deliver more services—without sacrificing that personalized, white-glove approach that each one deserves.
Hiring new writers isn’t always easy but scaling up is doable. However, you’re constantly in hiring mode as you try to make sure you have the capacity for new clients. And you have to do that while solidifying the bottom line.
Then the challenges ramp up when clients churn. Unless you have a pipeline packed with new clients waiting in the wings, paying all of those in-house writers could become a problem (especially if you went with senior creators who come with higher costs).
The inflexibility of an in-house writer model places a strain on your profit margins. Despite the benefits that in-house writers bring, agencies can’t afford to go all-in on that model.
Supporting your internal content team with freelance writers will give you the flexibility to maintain profit margins while ensuring you’re always able to take care of your customers.
Content Community Model: Ending the In-House vs. Freelance Writers Debate
It’s time agencies eliminated the in-house writer vs. freelancer debate altogether.
There’s no reason to get stuck on that content creation treadmill anymore. If you want to help your clients build the foundation of content that will fuel PPC, social media marketing, email marketing, and digital advertising strategies, you’ll need a mix of both kinds of writers.
Want to start building out your modern writing team?
Create a free account and check out our network of freelancers. The on-demand model will give you the perfect combination of quality writers and scalable services. And if you need some help? Let us know and we’ll match you with some writers we know will work for your clients.