Running a business comes with many unique challenges. Business owners and managers need to develop a business strategy, generate sales, supervise team members, and the list goes on and on. So, when a business needs to refresh their brand, build a new website, or has some marketing need outside of what their current team can handle, owners and managers customarily ask themselves “Do I hire a freelancer or an agency?” There are scores of articles published online that help business owners choose between the two. In this article, we suggest that neither may be the best answer for your business. But, let’s begin by comparing traditional freelancers and agencies.

The skinny on freelancers

Freelancers are often an attractive option for businesses who can’t hire full time staff but have creative or marketing needs. They are usually more affordable than agencies, and if you can find that “unicorn” freelancer who can handle a host of jobs that require different skill sets, businesses think they have hit the jackpot. Except they haven’t. These “unicorn” freelancers who write ad copy, design logos, edit videos and code websites, or utilize other combinations of very different skill sets on a day to day basis, are called generalists. Generalists are torn in too many different directions to focus, stay informed of best practices and fine-tune a craft in any one area of expertise. The other danger with hiring a freelancer, whether they are a generalist or a specialist, is that business owners and managers often have to “kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince.” In other words, they will often have to work with freelancer after freelancer who are unreliable, not as skilled as they marketed themselves and lack any sense of accountability before they find one who actually does work out.

The traditional agency

Traditional agencies are much more accountable, consistent, and reliable. However, as you likely have already guessed, they are also very expensive. After all, they must cover the cost of their well-appointed lobbies, scores of employee salaries, and fully stocked kitchens. They cover these costs by adding layers of padding into the price of their projects, as they should in order to keep the lights on. In addition, agencies have so many built-in processes it can slow down their production schedule, causing delays for their clients. Another problem is many of the smaller agencies also only specialize in one area and are limited by what their core team can do for you. “We don’t do that” is a common phrase with traditional agencies. This leaves their clients to interview and source other agencies for yet another particular area of expertise.

Why not seek an alternative approach?

Creative collectives, networked models, virtual creative agencies — however you label them — have become a popular business model over the past few years and have grown steadily during the pandemic that crippled most of the world in 2020. They built their business model on the premise of networking with experts and hiring them on a consultant basis to work on projects that require a wide range of specializations. Another feature of these businesses is there is no centralized brick and mortar office. Everything is done remotely. Many of these businesses don’t think of themselves as an agency simply because they don’t fit in the traditional mold. Which is how we think of ourselves at Creative Chain.

Creative Chain identifies as a non-agency that operates without walls and without the confines of in-house resources or expertise. We have already done the work of vetting out scores of talented individuals and we have worked side-by-side with these talents on a variety of projects before you have even reached out to us. Thus, we can quickly and expertly assemble a team that’s right for your project while we guide the work with an emphasis on reliable results. Because each team member is specialized at Creative Chain, and teams are hand assembled for your specific need, team members therefore may not have established a rapport with each other or developed a cross-functional process. If this type of work dynamic is important to you, then a traditional agency might be a better fit for your project.

The main advantage of businesses like Creative Chain is they fill a very large gap between freelancers and agencies. Better stated, they normally can offer the affordability of working with a freelancer but offer the accountability of working with an agency. And, because businesses like Creative Chain only hire experienced specialists who focus on one area of expertise, you can be assured you are getting expert consultation throughout the duration of your project.