Should You Outsource Marketing to a Contractor or an Agency?

Should You Outsource Marketing to a Contractor or an Agency

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Marketing is a critical business function that can help your company increase brand awareness, reach more customers, and grow revenue. To see effective results, marketing has to be approached in the right way. 

Many companies that do not have the time, expertise or in-house resources to commit to marketing often outsource it to a third party. 

Once you’ve decided it’s time to outsource marketing for your company, you’ll need to determine which outsourcing partner is right for you. Choosing the right partner will ensure your marketing needs are adequately fulfilled and maximize your return on investment.

You have a few options in terms of outsourcing partners: you can work with a contractor, a specialized agency, or a boutique full-service agency. The option you choose should be based on your company’s unique needs.

Here’s what you’ll get and what you’ll be missing with each option with a $10,000 monthly investment:

Comparison chart of agency, contractor or CMO hire

Assess What You Need 

You may be looking for a partner to fulfill a short-term need right now, but what about the long term? Sure, you might just need a brochure created this month, but will you also need ongoing support with content creation, social media posting, and paid advertising? What do your next few months and years look like in terms of marketing? This insight can help inform your decision.

Other factors can also be considered here, including:

  • Your skill set in house: Does anyone on payroll have experience with marketing strategy, digital accessibility, design, SEO, copywriting, or advertising? 
  • Metrics and goals: What are you trying to accomplish and why? 
  • Budget: How much are you willing to spend on marketing each month? Is it enough to reach your goals?
  • Assets: Do you only need one type of asset like a series of blog posts or are you also looking for paid media ads, sales enablement content, and new web pages for your website?
  • Strategy: Does your team have the time and expertise to create a thorough and effective marketing strategy? 
  • Timeline: When do you need to see results? 
  • Management: Do you have the time to develop a strategy, detail the exact specifications you need, and review each deliverable? Or do you need someone you can trust to just “get it done”? 

Know Your Options

All outsourcing options have merits, but each is best in different situations and for different types of clients.


Typically, a contractor will have 1-3 skill sets that you’ll be able to depend on. They’ll work with multiple clients and may even have a full-time job. Because you’ll be relying on one person to deliver work, you could run into prioritization issues. 

If the contractor is taking on contract work as a side gig, it’s important to consider that they may not be experienced in client management, may struggle to meet deadlines, and might not be able to take on big projects. This can limit your ability to get work done when you need it. 

Expect to pay anywhere between $40 and $200 an hour for a contractor, depending on their skills and experience. 

Independent Contractor Compliance 

You should also know that, after a certain threshold, you’ll have to send the contractor a W-9 at the end of the year and record their earnings. Other related considerations include:

  • Determining whether the person should be classified as a 1099 worker and whether that’s allowed in your state or country. 
  • You’ll need to be vigilant about what behaviors may open your company up to liability for classification (e.g., supplying equipment or inviting them to your holiday party).
  • Contractors are responsible for carrying their own business insurance, and giving them access to your system provides an opportunity for a security breach.

Working with a contractor can be complex due to compliance requirements. If you want to go this route, it could be a good idea to work with an agency of record (AOR) that can deploy the worker and take on the compliance liability for you. 

When to Work with a Contractor

A contractor may be the right choice if you’re looking to outsource small, one-off marketing projects. If you only need to outsource a single skill, like having a brochure designed, a blog written, or a small fix on your website made, then a contractor may be right for you.

However, because the contractor won’t know your business if they’re only doing one-off, short-term projects, you’ll need to be prepared to give them all the details and context they need to perform the work effectively. For example, a copywriter will need a writer’s guide that outlines your voice, tone, words to avoid, keywords to implement, etc

Specialized Agency

Contractor not the right fit? No problem. Perhaps a specialized agency will be the way to go. A specialized agency will have about 1-5 skill sets. They might do strategy in one area, but they may not have the marketing expertise to voice how that will play a role in the overall marketing strategy. Specialized agencies are considered one-trick ponies — they specialize in one area of marketing, such as paid media, website development, or content creation. 

Typically, specialized agencies will service multiple clients and may pass on the delivery work to junior members of the team. This could lead to quality issues. 

Expect to pay anywhere from $100 to $200 an hour for this outsourcing option.

When to Outsource to a Specialized Agency

These agencies are best for large companies that know what they need but are looking to outsource for time and skill set reasons. They might want to outsource only their paid media because they don’t have those skills in house or only their social media management because it’s too time consuming of a task, for example.

Before you work with a specialized agency, you should have a marketing strategy and goals in place already. 

Boutique Full-Service Agency

Lastly, you can work with the gold-standard of marketing agencies — the boutique full-service agency. This agency will have all the marketing skill sets required to deliver on all the work you need. It will also commit to fewer clients to better meet your needs. 

Big on Strategy

A full-service agency is big on strategy and takes a global approach — that is, they look at the whole picture of leads, prospects, the sales cycle and customer marketing so that the strategy is comprehensive. These approaches are known to lead to more effective marketing and better results overall. 

When to Choose a Boutique Full-Service Agency

If you’re looking to work with only one agency for ALL your marketing needs, choose this option. It’s also an excellent choice if you need a lot done with limited in-house resources, and if you’re not quite sure exactly what you need and could use some help with strategy as well as delivery. 

Because this type of agency employs experts in all areas of marketing, they can do it all for you from website fixes and brand audits to design, SEO strategy, and content creation. 

Compare Apples to Apples

Because each option has different skill sets, price ranges, and advantages, it can be tough to compare them accurately. The best thing you can do is get some quotes and compare apples to apples: compare timelines, costs, customer references, skill sets, and how well they can manage long-term needs. 

For example, if you’re ready to invest $10K per month in marketing, you can either get one full-time Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) at a $120K salary to work in house or a part-time CMO plus a full marketing team working for you that can do it all from writing to web development to design and strategy with an agency. 

Where Does GreenLit Marketing Fall in All This?

Glad you asked! 

GLM is a boutique full-service agency with strong skill sets in all things digital marketing and in multiple industries. We’re a small but mighty team that is used to wearing multiple hats and can effortlessly switch from marketing operations to blog strategy to sales enablement battle cards with a flexible engagement or marketing-team-in-a-box monthly retainers. 

Our clients enjoy working with us because we’re able to look at the business as a whole, determine all the marketing efforts required to reach their goals, and how to prioritize based on the shifting needs of the business. We’re not a vendor, we’re a partner. 

Contact us for a free consultation or quote.

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