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Freelancer or agency: what should you call yourself?

Typically speaking, a freelancer is a single person offering a service. Some clients like this idea, whereas others prefer to work with an agency that can provide a lot of talented people through a single point of contact.

However, as a freelancer there are still ways to capture these potential clients – the ones who would prefer to work with an agency. It’s all about how you market yourself, so…

…would you be better off marketing yourself as an agency, rather than a freelancer?

What’s the difference between being a freelancer and an agency?

Most would say that a freelancer is one person, while an agency is formed of many people. However, what if a single freelancer has a valuable network of contacts to refer clients to? Surely if they can offer the services of a whole team of talented individuals then their value increases? Are they still ‘just’ a freelancer?

Often an agency is run by one person and their entire ‘staff’ page consists of photos of freelancers who do the actual work. The agency is basically then just a network of freelancers, managed by one key person. This begins to look very similar to the first scenario.

The lines can become blurred, but as your choice will affect everything from the rates you can charge to the clients you will appeal to, it’s wise to consider the advantages, disadvantages and perceptions of both freelancers and agencies before making a decision.

The benefits of being a freelancer

  • You may be perceived as more affordable

  • If you can’t be reached during business hours you’ll probably be forgiven – you’re just one person after all

  • You’re only expected to know about your core area and not about other related fields

The potential problems of being a freelancer

  • It can be difficult as an individual to charge more competitive rates

  • Anyone can quit work and call themselves a freelancer. A small minority have devalued the term for some

  • Large businesses with large budgets often prefer to work with an agency

The benefits of being an agency

  • You can typically charge higher rates as ‘team’ of experts, rather than just one person

  • There’s added kudos and a perception of talent – if you have grown your freelance job into a whole agency then you must be good, right?

  • Larger businesses often pay more attention to agencies than freelancers – some flat-out refuse to work with freelancers

  • They may need a variety of skilled work and wish to have one main point of contact

The potential issues of the agency route

  • It’s all well and good being able to charge more, but people must still be prepared to pay your rates – agencies have been known to price themselves out of the market

  • Potential clients may presume you are too expensive and fail to even contact you in the first place

  • Higher rates bring a lot of pressure to be available at all times. You’re a whole team of people after all. If your client has an urgent problem, someone will be expected to help

  • If you’re seen as a team, you’re expected to be knowledgeable in multiple areas and can face difficulties if a client discovers that you’re not

Important factors to consider

  • Look at your competition locally. What do they offer? What do they charge?

  • Consider who you really want to work with. Generally speaking, really big companies prefer agencies, whereas small businesses often prefer freelancers

  • Be honest. Don’t oversell yourself as being something you’re not, but…

  • Know your worth. Don’t undersell yourself! Some of the most talented, award-winning individuals are freelancers

  • Who do you know? If you want to market yourself as an agency, do you have enough contacts to call upon?

  • How big is your portfolio? If you have an incredible portfolio of your own work, do you want your personal success to be ‘hidden’ under the term agency?

I figured that if I was going to help other small businesses compete with the big guys through being different, then I would do the same. Don’t be bound by conventions. One of the benefits of working for yourself is that you can make your own decisions.

This article was written by Lauren Smith. Lauren is a freelance copywriter and marketing specialist who offers an agency-style service. Visit to see how she does it.

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