Outsourcing Your Social Media: Freelancer or Agency?

by | Oct 8, 2019

When it comes to business owners using social media, there are two choices. You do it in-house or you outsource it. If it’s the latter, you then decide whether to choose a freelancer or an agency.

Either could work, depending on your time, knowledge and budget. If money’s tight, you’ll want to keep it in-house, whether that’s you or staff. As long as you know how to use social media professionally and there’s nothing more pressing that you or your employee/s should be focusing on. Same goes for any regular task.

But it’s hard, isn’t it, as a business owner? We don’t like letting go of anything! I appreciate that. And trusting someone with your social media is a tough decision. It is a window to your company’s culture and values. So conduct your due diligence. Does the supplier you have in mind come recommended? Is their social media work purely office-based or will you benefit from round-the-clock support? Do they want to tie you into long-term contracts?

I could go on….

For the purpose of this blog, let’s say you do want to outsource your social media. A freelancer (or sole trader) could be just the ticket. There are some great ones around. Or would a team suit you better?

Here’s what I’ve learnt over the years because I’ve been in both camps. I used to manage social media accounts all on my lonesome, now I’ve got a team.

The Numbers Game

Each of Codebreak’s social media clients deals with one person. It keeps things simple and convenient. A dedicated Account Manager. Like what you’d get with a freelancer.

But, for us, there’s always a minimum of three of the team involved. They all know the account in question. So if the Account Manager is selfish enough to have a sick day or – God forbid – go on holiday, our client is still covered. That’s what I struggled with as the business grew in the early days. There was no let-up.

Lying by the pool, I was on my phone. Romantic dinner with my wife, I was on my phone. In bed with the man-flu, I was on my phone.

But that was the decision I made – to provide 24/7 social media support to clients. Not posting only, but full management. So if you’re veering towards the freelance option and want round-the-clock cover, you need to make sure they understand that. Someone has to do the 24/7 management; no two ways about it. The average consumer won’t hang about any more. If they send a Facebook Message at 8pm on a Friday, they won’t wait till Monday morning for an answer, and that is money lost.

Consistency is Key

With a freelancer, you’ll get consistency. Again, it’s one person. With an agency, you should demand the same – your own Account Manager. Enjoy the backup of a team but only deal with one person in the main.

Now this is key with an agency – if your Account Manager jets off to Ibiza for a week, whoever takes over should be doing things the same way. The transition should be seamless. Same tone, same level of enquiry handling, same comms. One of our guys went on holiday and her clients were none the wiser. It was business as normal.

This is why it’s important to train a team the same way. Here, everyone learns how to manage social media the Codebreak way. There are no enfants terribles doing their own thing. There is structure.

We even have a social media manual that we keep up-to-date. “This is how we do social media”. Content sources, what not to do, how to mirror people when engaging, copywriting hacks, research on everything from the use of emojis to the best times to post… you name it. The manual is a collaborative affair and another way of ensuring we keep up to speed for our clients.

Content is king, consistency is queen.

Learning’s Earning

No matter what route you go down, your social media supplier has to be keen and willing to learn. What worked on Facebook six months ago maybe less effective now.

Every week, the whole Codebreak team sits down and chews the fat. What’s working well, what needs improving and what news have we heard or seen from social media land. We bounce ideas off each other.

Not that you need other people to learn but the buzz we get off each other’s successes and how that can then be replicated for other clients… well, it’s productive stuff and doesn’t cost the client extra. For us, it works. I struggled to learn on my own sometimes; I wanted to ask questions and share. So I networked more, which may or may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

A good freelancer and a good agency will both be setting time aside to learn. Ask them what they’re doing to continually learn. What books do they read, what podcasts do they listen to?

Money, Money, Money

Yes, a social media agency is going to cost you more than a social media freelancer. If you’re happy to put all your eggs in one basket and save some dosh, outsource to a freelancer. But if you want agency-level service, find a freelancer who’s happy to manage things off-the-clock and knows how to handle people online. And agree what happens if they are unable to work.

If you’re looking for ‘content only’ and you’re OK to manage the engagements 24/7 yourself, it’s not an issue. Your outsourced service can be provided on a 9-5 basis. But be mindful of emergencies. Negative reviews, malicious attacks, etc. Ask what would happen should that kind of situation arise.

If stuff like that would worry you, you may need to dig deeper in your pockets for agency support.

Across the dozens and dozens of accounts we’ve managed over the years, between us we have dealt with pretty much every social media situation (touch wood). One client received a death threat (from a keyboard warrior, but scary nonetheless of course); his Account Manager hadn’t dealt with that kind of situation before but two other people in our team had and it was sorted.

Some agencies may want to knock sole traders and freelancers. And vice versa of course. At the end of the day, there’s room for everyone.

Most importantly, you should enjoy the same level of service from both. Are they learning? Are they bouncing ideas off colleagues or other experts in their network? Have they made it clear what you’ll get and what you won’t get?

So, really, it ain’t about freelancer vs agency. It’s about people.

Until next time.

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