A lot of digital marketing agencies start out small, often with a couple of directors and something akin to an admin person or junior marketing executive for support.
Content is generally outsourced at first, but then the question comes:
Should you continue to work with a freelance copywriter or should you get someone in-house?
What offers better value? Which kind of writer will get you the best results?
As a freelance copywriter who works with a lot of agency clients, I want to outline some of the pros and cons of a freelance copywriter vs in-house copywriter, so you can make the decision that’s right for your business – and your clients.
Pros of an in-house copywriter
When I talk about in-house copywriters in this context, I mean somebody who’s on the staff – a salaried employee who works full or part-time for your agency.
They’re there when you need them
One of the most obvious benefits of an in-house copywriter is that they’re there whenever you need them.
Got a couple of paragraphs need writing? In-house copywriter can drop what they’re doing and get on it. Bit of website content needs reworking? In-house copywriter can amend the text in situ and upload it in five.
They get to know your business, and clients, inside-out
There’s a lot to be said for the kind of knowledge you pick up just by physically being somewhere. You catch conversations in passing, you find out what your colleagues are dealing with, you get to know familiar names, faces and terminology.
Your in-house copywriter will learn a lot by osmosis, which will help to make them a useful part of your team and may well improve the quality of the work they produce for you and your clients.
You don’t have to share them
Your salaried, in-house copywriter is yours. They’re going to be there for you during working hours and, if you ask them to do something, they’re free to do it.
Unlike freelance copywriters, in-house copywriters don’t have to juggle multiple clients. You won’t need to book time with them, so you can plan your projects more simply.
They’re your employee
When you employ an in-house copywriter, both parties are protected by a contract. You fulfil your obligations towards them and, in return, they have responsibilities towards you and your clients.
This may include giving you notice before they leave, undertaking a variety of duties as determined by you, adhering to company rules, and so on.
You can make copywriting one of their multiple responsibilities
A lot of agencies have junior members of staff working as ‘content marketing executives’ or ‘digital marketing executives’, whose roles include more than just copywriting.
In-house copywriters (by any other name) are often tasked with things like:
- Social media
- Client liaison
- Marketing administration
- Web content management
Which your average freelance copywriter won’t usually do for you.
They can be cheaper if you need large quantities of simple content
One of my agency clients, who came to me via a client referral, hired me to do some SEO blog copywriting for one of their clients. We agreed a flat fee for these fixed-length blogs, and everything was rosy.
The client was happy with my work, and so were their clients. So, they put me on a few more accounts. The number of blogs increased, and so too did the number by which my flat fee was multiplied.
The same thing happened again. I ended up writing a large number of relatively straightforward blogs for this client every week. That’s the only content they needed from me.
Problem was, it was costing them around £20,000 a year.
In that case, the in-house writer definitely won the freelance copywriter vs in-house copywriter battle. The blogs weren’t complicated, but there were a lot of them, so taking on an employee was the only sensible choice.
Pros of a freelance copywriter
Hiring a freelance copywriter – someone who works remotely – has its plus points too, which is why so many agencies outsource their content.
You only pay for what you need
While you do have to pay for every piece of work your freelance copywriter produces – even the fiddly little bits – that’s all you have to pay for.
Because a freelancer is a supplier, not an employee, you save on:
- Sick pay
- Parental leave
All of which means that, when it comes to freelance copywriter vs in-house copywriter, your freelancer will usually leave you with more money in the budget.
You can get a senior freelance copywriter for less than you’d pay a junior in-house copywriter
It’s another money benefit – and let’s face it, you can never have enough of those. For the same price you’d pay for a junior in-house copywriter, you can probably afford a fair bit of time with a senior freelance copywriter.
For example: A quick look for copywriter jobs on reed.co.uk tells me that in-house copywriter salaries are ranging from about £15,000 to £25,000.
So let’s average that out to £20,000 for the sake of argument. That’s around the kind of price you’d expect to pay for a graduate writer, maybe with a year of experience.
For that same price, you could get between 40-60 full days with a senior copywriter with 10+ years of experience.
That’s a lot of work.
You don’t need to hire – or pay – a writer until you’ve got work
Getting an in-house copywriter takes time.
Do you hire someone before you’ve got projects to work on and risk paying them to sit there twiddling their thumbs? Or, do you wait until you’ve got work pouring in, then try and find, interview and hire someone double-quick?
Hiring a freelance copywriter is much quicker, and an especially good option for agencies with tight budgets.
There’s no need to hire a freelance writer until:
- You know you’ve got the gig
- You know how much you’ll be paid
- You know how much you’ll have to spend
Big fat project with a client you need to impress? Spend a little more. Little project with a client who’s not bothered about content? Pick someone cheaper.
You can hire different writers for different projects
Freelance copywriters aren’t generally jealous types, so there’s no reason you have to hire the same writer for every project.
One of the biggest benefits to freelance copywriters vs in-house copywriters is that you can pick the right freelance copywriter for every project you take on. That might be the same writer, it might not: point is, you get to pick.
In-house copywriters get to know your business inside out but they face a real challenge if they have to write for every one of your clients.
Overworked writers produce stale work, which gets poor results.
Freelance copywriter vs in-house copywriter: who wins?
Well, neither, really. Both kinds of writers have their pros and cons, so it’s a question of choosing the solution that suits your agency – and clients – best.
Your in-house copywriter is there when you need them, can take on a variety of tasks (including little fiddly ones), and you can drop extra work on their desk without having to work out if you can afford it first. The salary you pay them includes everything, and they’re a member of your team.
Your freelance copywriter is an outside resource, so you only pay them when you need them – whether that’s a few hours or a few weeks. You have no obligations towards them beyond the terms of your agreement, so no need to worry about HR issues or paying benefits.
And while your freelance writer isn’t a fixed member of your team, you can afford to hire a more senior writer for your money if you go down the freelance route, so it may be worth your while if high quality content is your priority.
Freelance copywriter vs in-house copywriter: what do you think?
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