Agency vs. Consultant vs. In-House

I am going to show why its more efficient to work with a consultant (that actually knows what they are doing) over an agency or in-house employee. First let me say that I understand hiring a consultant doesn’t work for everyone and there are certain situations where a consultant wouldn’t be a fit. But, in my experience those instances don’t happen very often.

Agency Me In-House
Cost $150-$300/hour $50/hour $50/hour
Face to Face Meetings Yes Yes Yes
Experience Level 1-15 Years 15 Years 2-5 Years
Internal Politics Yes No Yes
Horse Power Yes Yes No
Technology Yes Yes No
Stay Up To Date Yes Yes No
Long Term Commitment Yes No Yes
Engagements Per Person 30 10 1
Breadth of Services Large Medium Small
Funneling Successes from other sites Yes Yes No
Coordinating Departments No Yes Yes
Turn Over High Low Medium


Below I explain the grid above.

Hiring in-house or myself would be the same per hour, but in-house only has 3-5 years experience.  Plus you don’t have to pay me 40 hours per week and also pay taxes and benefits. Most Online Marketers with more tenure than 5 years work for agencies or as consultants. The cost of an agency is very expensive, usually billing at a rate of $150-$300 per hour, even though the “talent” only receives a small portion of it. My rate is $50, which is very affordable. But when you pay me, I don’t pass the work to a junior associate with a year of experience and pocket the rest. I am the one that works on your account.
Face to Face Meetings
By far the in-house person takes this, but you need to decide what is most important and if you really need a real-time full time presence. Agencies are not the best at this simply because they have a lot of accounts on their own, and a lot of people touching your account. When I work with your team, I work with the entire team, very similar to how an in-house would.
Experience Level
Hiring me or a consultant takes the cake here. Agencies have a lot of high-level people in them, but most of them are used to manage processes and employees, not accounts. In-house staff will typically have 5 years or less experience. I have been in the online marketing space for 15 years, and with me, when you hire me, you get me, not a 2-year associate out of college.
Access to Links
Agencies typically will win here because of buying power. However, I have a lot of relationships for SEO links, and I can often move quicker than an agency can. An in-house will undoubtedly lose this battle.
Internal Politics
Unfortunately, all to often politics tend to take time away from agencies actually working on your account, (on their own side and your side) and typically spend more time doing this than actually working on your account. With In-house people, you need to deal with internal employee motivations, etc. With me, I tell you how it is.
Horse Power
Agencies have the largest horsepower for sure. In-house people will always be at the mercy of your own staff. I have substantial horsepower, and have a lot of access to a lot of people quickly if needed.
Agencies and I will both have access to a lot more technology than your typical in-house hire.
Stay Up to Date
I would say I would win this battle. Agencies are pretty good at this, but most of them are worried about legacy processes, and in-house simply don’t have the time to keep up on Search, Social and the ever-growing world of technology.
Long Term Commitment
Agencies typically require a 1-2 year engagement, and employees, (depending on your state laws) are — some times hard to fire. My term is 3 months at a time. Simply engagements as if it is going to work for both parties, then we keep going.
Engagements Per Person
Agencies have a lot of overhead that does not relate to your account that you have to pay for. This means that most of their account managers are managing 20-30 clients or more. I will typically have 5. An in-house wins here with only you!
Breadth of Services
Most in-house staff will have a particular strength, in Search, Social, Email, CRO, etc. Agencies have the largest breadth of services but typically costs a lot more money to access them all. I have a wide breadth of knowledge because I had to learn each of these sectors, first hand, for my own companies.
Funneling Successes from Other Sites
If the agency has good internal processes to share individual experiences with the entire team, then they would win this one. In-house people would have almost no insight. I am involved in a network of 5 other really high-level consultants and we share shifts and changes in the landscape.
Coordinating Departments
Agencies are not good at this as they are process-oriented and it is too hard to fit 100 clients processes in their own. In-house is probably the best here as they know most of the people in the company, but a consultant can deliver this well too.
Turn Over
Turn over is critical to the success of your account. Agencies have an abnormally high turn over it most instances due to the highly-competitive nature of their business. Employees will also leave at the first site of more money. Me? I am here to stay as long as you want me.