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How to Choose Between an Agency, Freelancer, or In-House Marketer

Last Updated July 21, 2021

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The startup you launched just a few short years ago is growing beyond your expectations. You find yourself feeling both exhilarated and overwhelmed at the same time. The fact that your business needs help with digital marketing is no longer in question, although one question does remain. Should you hire a growth marketing agency, a freelancer, or develop an in-house marketing team?

Choosing between an agency, freelancer, or in-house marketer

Understanding the benefits of each of these options is the first step towards making the right choice for your growing business.

Working with a freelance digital marketing consultant

A digital marketing consultant can be one person or a team of professionals dedicated to your organization’s marketing efforts. The job of the digital marketer is to assist small businesses with developing their brand voice and attract more paying customers.

Content creation and marketing are two of the biggest challenges startups and small businesses face. Specifically, they tend to struggle with the following:

  • Maintaining enough bandwidth to store campaign collateral
  • Lack of human capital and financial resources to get their message in front of millions of people
  • Time to research the ideal customer to understand their purchasing behavior and motivations

How can you know that your business is falling behind in its marketing efforts? Consider the last time you published a blog post, updated your website, or interacted with customers across all social media channels. You may be thinking that no one has time to do all that, and you would be right. Your staff has other duties to attend to but helping small businesses grow are why digital marketing consultants exist. Keep in mind that publishing content goes beyond the internet.

As a small business owner, your thoughts center around what the business needs to succeed. Someone needs to be on top of things, and you launched the business because you excel at what you do. Freelance marketing consultants teach you how to think like your customers to obtain the revenue results you want to see. Your customers want to know if your company can solve their problem or meet their need. A skilled digital marketer has the expertise to know how to position your brand as a solution to what customers seek.

SMB struggle with these things

Businesses looking to expand their marketing efforts typically hire a freelancer on a project basis. For example, you might want to bring someone in to overhaul your company’s website. The benefit of starting on a per-project basis is that you have no obligation to continue with freelancers whose work does not meet your standards.

Once you find someone you can rely on for excellent work quality, you can consider putting them on retainer to ensure their availability for future projects.

Freelance marketers can teach you

Be sure to check their qualifications and experience and only hire a true professional. Your business cannot afford the damage to its reputation that can result from substandard marketing practices.

Developing an in-house marketing team

If you have the resources to pay salary and benefits to several marketing employees, you may want to build or expand an in-house team. The first thing to consider when developing a team of onsite marketing professionals is the volume of workload you expect them to handle. You will know it is too much when you hear frequent complaints from team members about long hours or the quality of their work starts to suffer.

In-house marketing teams

Sometimes having an in-house marketing team while outsourcing some of the more time-consuming duties can be the best of both worlds. Striking the right balance before expanding your team is critical. You do not want to make the mistake of learning that your in-house team cannot handle the volume of work after you have already discontinued the services of freelance marketers or marketing agencies.

When interviewing people for your new marketing team, consider asking the question of whether they feel motivated by revenue goals and have the skills to target people in specific markets. Be sure to ask each candidate to give an example that demonstrates they know how revenue growth works and how to track it over time. You also want candidates experienced with monitoring email, ads, SEO, and social media accounts for your business.

Best of both worlds for marketing

While the entire marketing team should have a big-picture understanding of their purpose, you will likely find that hiring or training people for specialties such as SEO or market research to be the most efficient approach. You can also consider breaking the larger group down into smaller specialized groups with each group reporting to their own manager.

Should you hire a full-service digital marketing agency?

A digital marketing agency for startups offers many of the same services as an in-house team without the overhead of salaries, benefits, and paying for office space and equipment. Employees of digital marketing agencies are experts in their area of specialization.

Full-service digital marketing agency offers

Clients expect a high level of professional design from their digital market agency such as three-dimensional animation and motion graphics where appropriate, so agencies are often connected to the best resources. 

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Ditch your marketing to-do list! Get more done in less time with a full-service agency.


What about hiring a growth marketing agency for your business?

Growth marketing agencies go beyond traditional marketing

A growth marketing agency goes beyond the services offered by a traditional digital marketing agency by incorporating these core elements into client strategy:

  • Growth hacking
  • Marketing
  • Sales enablement
  • Technology

When considering a growth agency, the simplest plan to select the right one for your business is to compare service offerings to stand-alone technology, marketing, and sales firms. You will see the benefit of hiring a single growth marketing agency when you realize how challenging it would be to outsource marketing-related tasks to several different providers.

Growth marketing agencies are typically more willing to create growth objectives for each client that requires a more integrated approach rather than a straight marketing focus. If you have worked with digital marketing agencies in the past, you know that their primary focus is key performance metrics (KPI). Although knowing your KPIs is essential, traditional marketing companies tend to focus on obtaining them only from their area of expertise.

What growth marketing agencies can offer

Two important benefits that a growth marketing agency can offer that you may not find with the other options are maximum flexibility and the ability to scale your small business at a faster rate. Since growth agencies make decisions based on hard data, they do not become overly attached to a specific area of marketing such as eCommerce or lead generation. Here is just a partial list of services you can expect when you hire a growth marketing agency:

Is there a complete solution to your marketing needs?

Yes! EmberTribe is a growth marketing agency that creates marketing systems based on paid traffic with the goal of helping your business achieve sustainable growth. We do not offer set package pricing because we know that every client has unique marketing needs. Even before you officially become a client, our team takes the time to get to know your company’s mission and values. After all, we need to understand your brand before we can highlight all it has to offer to resolve customer pain points.

At EmberTribe, we base pricing on meeting the goals outlined in your growth plan. Our customized plan for your business moves it from traction to profit to scale at an unprecedented rate.

Are you ready to start a conversation about creating a specialized growth plan for your business? We hope so! Please reach out today for a free 30-minute consultation to learn more about partnering with our digital growth agency.

Ready to scale your profits sustainably?

TJ Jones -  CoFounder EmberTribe (1)

T.J. Jones

CoFounder EmberTribe

TJ will help you uncover some of the best growth opportunities for your brand in the First Call.


With over 10 years of experience and 80 million in ad spend under our belts, we know how to guide businesses from fizzle to sizzle.

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Grow Faster, Smarter with EmberTribe

If you are stuck on the half a million yearly revenue plateau, you need a growth agency that will get to know your business, audiences, and growth opportunities like the backs of their hands—and let you in on everything they learn. 

No secrets, no bull. Just making sparks fly together.

✅ Focused on revenue

Look elsewhere if you're looking for a new logo or brand identity via 200-page slide decks. Those marketing disciplines have their place, but they're not our focus. We've doubled down on growing sales and injecting our clients with cash flow.

✅ We move fast

The typical agency model moves slowly: endless meetings, thousands of email threads, lots of talk, but little action. EmberTribe is different. We know what it takes to grow fledgling brands into formidable empires: a hell of a lot of execution.

✅ Trusted by the best

We've been recognized by Facebook and Google as one of the top agencies in the world. We're a mentor to startups within Techstars, Y Combinator and regularly consult with programs at MIT and Harvard Business School. Now it's time to add you to our Tribe.

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