When it comes to marketing activity a decision needs to be made.

You know you need it – whether it is a new website, blogging, SEO, content marketing or whatever. The writing is on the wall and the oracle has spoken clearly. It’s no longer a matter of if you are going to do it but how you are going to do it.

Will you go it alone and do it inhouse? Will you manage a freelancer? Or, will you let an agency hold your hand and direct proceedings?

It’s always tempting to go for the heroic solo effort but you shouldn’t let the sporadic success story fool you. Whilst Sylvester Superstar may have built his business single-handedly from an idea to Facebook to native ads to multimillion mega bucks, let’s not forget that he’s one in a million. And the odds are a million to one.

You are going to need some help. Sometimes: “maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon…”

It’s just a matter of deciding when and who you are going to call. Here’s a simple way to help you decide whether to develop a marketing initiative inhouse, with a freelancer or with an agency.

Know your assets from your elbow

There are three main assets you may or may not have that should inform your decision. Make sure that for each marketing activity you undertake you clearly understand just how these stack up.

  • Skills and talent
  • Time and resources
  • Budget

Let’s break them down.

Skills and talent

We all have skills. Yet the most important skill for a business is understanding exactly what its skills are.

If your business has no tech talent don’t try to take on tech challenges. That’s not to say you should avoid them, simply that you should call in the talent from elsewhere.

If you’ve got it, flaunt it. You will, no doubt, be outsourcing other areas of your business but if you have the skills use them. The only proviso here is time and resources. If you have the skills but you are going to be stretching your inhouse resources with another new project or initiative you should still consider outsourcing.

Similarly if you haven’t got it, but you want it, and it’s going to be of ongoing use to your business, then you can focus on developing the talent. Just don’t take your eye off the other balls you are juggling when you do so.

Even if you haven’t got the skills it still makes sense to find someone inhouse who at least understands it enough to manage it. Get someone you trust to follow relevant influencers on Twitter and LinkedIn or consign yourself to being influenced by your chosen supplier alone.

Time and Resources

As I mentioned, if you have the skills but don’t have the time you are going to need buy time – and I don’t mean kick your heels waiting but invest in someone who does.

If you don’t have the skills you can gain them but what will fall by the wayside in doing so? The thing about time is when it’s gone it’s gone.

  • Is web development really the best investment of your limited time?
  • Do you really want to keep up with the twists and turns of SEO?
  • More importantly, what could you be doing instead?

However you decide to get it done you are going to need some time. It’s a question of how much.

  • Do you just want top-level strategy involvement?
  • Do you have the time to sign-off on every aspect and evaluate the appropriateness or effectiveness of each element?
  • Exactly how involved and hands-on do you want or need to be?


Deciding on what budget you have will help you decide a route forward. But be careful: cost must be measured not by direct spend alone.

What does it cost to learn a new area of marketing, to make rookie errors with your investment and to pull your talent and resources away from other parts of your business? Sometimes the true costs are more about wasted spend than direct spend.

Similarly if you are eventually looking to develop inhouse skills in this area would you not be better off learning on the job, as it were, by outsourcing initial projects and getting a feel for things?

Putting your assets on the line

How can you put these three assets on the line to deliver the best for your bottom line? How do you decide just what to outsource and whether a freelancer or an agency is best for you?

Here are some thoughts.


Let’s face it if you have the capacity and the talent why not keep it inhouse? Similarly if this activity is going to be a central part of your focus why not invest in new inhouse talent?

A simple word of caution: don’t try to do everything at once. Focus on one area of marketing at a time and become a big fish in selected ponds. If you need other activity consider outsourcing until your main focus has bedded in.

A second word of caution: there is a tendency for inhouse activities to become inward looking. You do the things you like, or the things you are good at, rather than the things that your customers like or that make the best returns. A freelance consultant can review your focus and activity from time to time to help keep things on track.


Let’s get this straight: freelancers are far from just a stopover between inhouse and hiring a full-blown agency. Whether you opt for them or not depends upon the project and the eternal interplay of time, talent and budget.

It doesn’t matter how big or small your business is, freelancing may offer the perfect fit. Yes, freelancers can be more affordable than agencies because you can bring them on board for one-off projects. Yet you are going to need to have the time and talent to manage, evaluate and commission these.

A word of caution: freelancers can be used effectively when you have the talent but not the time. They work best to briefs rather than loose wish-lists.


Agencies can offer excellent ways to cut your teeth if you are looking at developing an area of expertise. An agency will typically make every strategic decision, whether technical, design or feature related, based on your business goals.

They are ideal where time and talent are lacking but budget is not a question.

A word of caution: whilst agencies can combine inhouse training with their work it is important you emphasise this as a goal from the outset.

A second word of caution: if you truly want to be hands-on with your outsourced projects using freelancers combined with developing talent inhouse is ultimately more effective.

So what’s right for you?

The simple fact is that the decision to go it alone, call in a freelancer or hire an agency varies from activity to activity and project to project. In the end each decision you make boils down to just three things: time, talent and budget.

These are the critical assets to assess.

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