The Pros and Cons of Agency Work

Is agency work good or bad?

Freelance writers are divided on the topic. Some argue that having direct clients is better than taking on agency work. Others say the opposite.

In actuality, both statements can be true. It depends on your situation and goals.

To help you decide whether agency work is something that you should pursue (or avoid), let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons.

Pros of Agency Work

Agency work can come with real advantages:

Pro #1: Steady stream of income

Agency work can provide a steady stream of income if you develop good relationships with a firm or two.

This is especially true if some of the agency’s clients don’t have in-house writers.

Rather than turn to (and train) a different writer for each separate piece of content for a client, agencies prefer to work with the same writer each time.

If you’re that writer, this can add some predictability to your income.

Pro #2: Variety of work

Some agencies specialize in the types of industries they serve. But many work with a broad range of clients in a broad range of industries.

In those cases, agency work can give you exposure to many different industries and content types. If you like being a generalist more than a specialist, this arrangement can be appealing.

This situation is also helpful if you’re new to writing and don’t know what you want to focus on. The work you get from an agency can help you figure out what kind of work you like — and don’t like — to do.

Pro #3: Skill development

Building on the previous point, this variety of work can give you the opportunity to develop new skills and hone existing ones.

And if you’re lucky, you’ll work under the supervision of a seasoned marketer who will give you the feedback you need to grow and get better.

Pro #4: Samples

In some cases, agencies can also be a good way to build a great set of samples.

Not every agency will give you this permission. But often, it’s something you can negotiate.

You might have to agree to make the samples anonymous. Or you may be given permission to share samples privately with prospective clients — but not post them on your website.

Cons of Agency Work

Unfortunately, agency work can also come with drawbacks:

Con #1: Low(er) pay

Not all agencies pay well. In fact, some pay relatively little!

To some extent, lower pay from agencies is understandable. After all, the agency has to land the client, manage the project, and handle the administration. It will want to cover those costs and make a profit.

But because of this middle layer, you may make less than if you were working with the client directly.

The amount of pay will also vary with the agency, client, project and type of content.

Generally, the more “commoditized” the content, the lower the pay. In particular, blog posts have become very commoditized. Agencies are feeling the pain and charging their clients less for blog posts — which means less money in your pocket.

Still, blog posts and commoditized content can be a way to get your foot in the door.

How you position yourself can also impact how much you get paid.

Don’t position yourself as a “helper” for overflow work. That’s where rates will be lowest.

Instead, go after agencies that serve clients in your target market and position yourself as an expert in that market. Offer to bring expertise, insights and industry (or topic) perspectives they don’t already have in house.

Con #2: Tight deadlines

Agencies are notorious for setting tight deadlines for outsourced writers. By the time the agency slots everything into their schedule, the time left for writing the content may be short.

Most agencies will dictate these timelines to you with little room for negotiation.

You can either take or leave it, which can make for stressful days as you scramble to get the work done.

Con #3: High expectations

Generally, agencies have a reputation for having high (some would say unreasonable) expectations.

This isn’t always the case. It will depend on the agency and your contact there.

Some agencies will have your back if they get pushback from clients on your work. Others will be more inclined to throw you under the bus if the client isn’t happy.

Unfortunately, you don’t know what the relationship will like until you start working together.

Delivering great work is also more challenging because you often aren’t allowed to talk to clients directly. Your questions will have to go through the agency, which can make it hard to get the feedback and information you need.

And this can lead to frustration and misunderstandings.

Is Agency Work Right for You?

Agency work isn’t a good fit for everyone.

And it may be a better fit for you at some points in your career than others.

Some writers start out doing agency work and then take on less and less as they land more direct clients.

But other writers are happy to continue working with agencies indefinitely.

So there’s no wrong or right answer.

But it’s important to know what you’re getting into before you start — and how to be strategic when you’re in it.


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