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Agency vs. freelance vs. in-house: Which is best for you?

30 Jan 23 | 09:30:44

Are you spending a lot of your budget on marketing agencies and wondering if there’s a better option?

Alternatively, you maybe want to put more of a focus on marketing and need to decide which is best for you: an agency, a freelancer, or creating an in-house team.

Although we’re a marketing agency, our goal is for you to make the correct choice for your organisation. To achieve that, we’re providing information on all the other options available to you, instead of just focusing on what we do.

To help you do this, we’ve listed out the following areas to compare the three:

  1. Hourly and annual costs
  2. Head count/capacity flexibility
  3. Training and onboarding
  4. Team specialisation
  5. Time/project control
  6. Software

  Agency comparison  

Hourly and annual costs



On an hourly basis, an agency will be the most expensive option as their rate needs to include the team members’ salaries as well as operational costs, like office space and non-billing support staff. As a minimum, this is normally 3 x the team members’ base salaries including taxes.


An agency is often cheaper than in-house on an annual basis, as you don’t use 100% of their time and you can switch team members, depending on your project’s needs, without having to recruit new full-time staff.



The hourly cost for a freelancer will be between an agency and in-house, as freelancers don’t have the operational costs of an agency.

They do need to charge more per hour though, when compared to an in-house team member, to cover times when they aren’t working. This hourly cost is normally between 1.5 – 2 times that of an in-house member.


Overall, the annual cost of a freelancer will most likely be the lowest of the 3 options. Their hourly rate is less than an agency and unless you use more than 50% of their available time, they won’t reach the cost of an in-house team member.



The hourly cost of an in-house team member is the cheapest of the 3 options by quite some way.


The annual cost of an in-house marketing team can be more expensive than an agency or freelance team, if % utilisation is low (i.e. you’re using less than 50% of their time for projects you would have used your agency of freelancer for). However, this will be the most cost-effective solution if you’re a larger organisation that utilises each team member fully.


If fully utilised, an in-house team is by far the most cost-effective solution.

Freelancers are a great option for companies with lower budgets, or if one or two specialist areas of support are required.

Finally, agencies have the highest hourly rate, but offer multiple skill sets under one roof which can lead to them being cheaper annually, especially if these multiple skills are required.

  • Lowest hourly rate – In-house team.
  • Lowest annual rate, if high utilisation – In-house team.
  • Lowest annual rate, if lower utilisation – Freelancer team.

Head Count / Capacity Flexibility


An agency will give the best head count flexibility as they can provide you with on demand access to a large in-house team when required, as well as a wide range of external contractors. Even better, when you don’t need them anymore, you can scale back down.


Freelancers will also provide excellent flexibility as you can use them when needed, although you will be limited to their speciality, whether that is graphic design, videography, copywriting, or something else.

Additionally, if you need to quickly expand capacity for a busy project, your freelancer will be limited by the number of hours in a day and the other clients they are currently working with.


An in-house team provides the lowest level of flexibility as all hires need to be planned into a cashflow forecast, which can often be a painfully slow process.


Agencies definitely provide the most head count and capacity flexibility. This is also true to a lesser extent for freelancers as they’re skill specific and time-limited, however, you could engage a team of freelancers for your various needs. In comparison, in-house teams need to be carefully planned, meaning they have the lowest level of flexibility in headcount and capacity.

Greatest head count and capacity flexibility – Agency team.

Training and onboarding


When you start to work with a new agency partner, you’ll need to spend time orientating them to your business, however, this should only be required once. If your agency team change due to internal promotions or other reasons, they’ll train new members to ensure you see as little transition as possible.


Freelancers are like a new agency in the sense you will need to train each freelancer you work with

If you decide to change freelancers, you’ll be responsible for training the next person, however, a good freelancer (as per agency) should take it upon themselves to learn as much as they can about your device or technology without demanding your time.


New in-house teams may require slightly more training than an agency or freelancer, as the latter two will already have a good understanding of the processes needed to complete your project.

However, once an in-house member is trained, they are with you for 100% of their time and will most likely achieve a greater understanding of your technology because they’re fully immersed.


An agency will likely be able to get up to speed fastest as you will only need to train them once on your technology, and they will then train everyone within their team. As they already know the processes of how to implement campaigns this part of the learning curve is eliminated.

Although, once trained, an in-house team will likely be more immersed in your technology as 100% of their time is dedicated to it.

Least time spent on training – Agency team.

Team specialisation


Agencies have a high level of specialist knowledge which is compounded by the number of projects they complete. This means they normally have an excellent understanding of what works and what doesn’t work in an industry.

Not all agencies are the same though and may specialise in different areas of marketing, within different industries. It’s a good idea to ask your agency about their specialisation before you start working together.


Freelancers will also be very specialised, but they’re unlikely to have the breadth of knowledge that an agency does as they work individually.


In-house teams will have a high level of specialisation in the company’s products and technologies however, as they don’t complete the number of projects agency team members do, they will not have the same level of specialist knowledge in the areas the agency works in.


Due to the different types of specialisations in agencies, freelancers and in-house teams, there’s a great argument for using the best parts of each. In-house teams have the in-depth knowledge of the company and its products, whereas freelancers and agencies will have expertise in their area.

At Podymos, we often find combining the three leads to the best campaigns, as opposed to an agency being used for all parts of the project. It controls the budget, meaning more can be achieved.

Winner – Is a combination.

Time/Project control


When working with an agency, you’ll need to relinquish a certain amount of control of the project, which could be great when you’re busy with other activities.

A potential negative of working with an agency is that your project may not be completed as quickly as it would be in-house, or as you’d like, especially if they’re close to capacity.

In this situation, make sure you provide your agency with real deadlines, as they’ll do their best to move non-urgent deadlines to meet yours.


Working with a freelance team will be similar to an agency, although you’ll have more contact with each freelancer as there’s no account manager in the middle. This can be good as you’ll have more control over the project but it will also demand more of your time, and you’ll be responsible for managing project deadlines etc.


An in-house team are always on demand so offer the greatest level of project control.


An in-house team will always provide the greatest level of time available and project control, followed by a freelance team and then an agency. This may not always be a good thing depending on what needs to be achieved.

Winner – In-house

Software Capabilities


As your agency will run many projects in a similar area it will also often have costly software that helps to measure the efficacy of each campaign. This is a benefit of working with an agency, as they’ll be able to provide more metrics and capabilities without passing on the full cost of the software.


A freelancer will have limited access to the more costly software as they won’t complete the same volume of similar projects to make their purchase viable.


Similar to a freelance team, often an in-house team doesn’t focus enough on any one area to justify the cost of the software used by an agency.


If you’re looking to work with cutting-edge software, your agency will be able to provide these to you. The high cost of these are often prohibitive to freelancers and in-house teams which could affect the efficacy of a project over the long term because campaign optimisation is limited.

Winner – Agency


There is no clear answer which is best as it depends on your company’s marketing needs.

An in-house team when fully utilised will always be more cost effective. They’ll be available at the touch of a button and have 100% focus of your company’s technology, but they’ll have limited flexibility to quickly change capacity or capabilities due to the recruitment process.

Freelancers can provide a great ad hoc solution when additional resources are needed in one or two specialist areas, acting as an on-demand team member before you have enough work to bring that role in-house.

Agencies offer more of an integrated solution, providing a team of skills at your fingertips. This can be great if you need to outsource full projects, like a downstream campaign, or need support with specialist projects like videography, web development, animation.

We hope this article has provided useful information into what is right for you and your company.

About Podymos

Do you want to communicate more effectively with HCPs and patients? Do you want to be able to deliver a high-quality multichannel marketing strategy? Or maybe you’d like individual campaigns to integrate into your overall strategy? Either way, you’ve come to the right place.

Podymos is a dedicated Medical Device marketing agency. We are passionate about sharing relevant knowledge to expand our clients’ capabilities. If you would like to find out more about what we do, you can visit our services page, or get in contact with us.

And don’t forget to follow us on social media

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