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Building a Resilient Digital Agency: The Role of Freelance Experts

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Ginny Nicholls

Why is agency resilience important?

In an ever-changing market, agencies need to be prepared to adapt quickly and confidently. The constant flux of economic and business challenges has tested some of the largest and well-established agencies in the digital space. From rising costs to increased competition, market resilience is more important than ever.

What challenges are digital agencies facing?

💰 – Economic Uncertainty – The volatility of the UK economy is never far away from the minds of business owners. The financial crisis opened our eyes to how quickly things can take a downturn and thousands of businesses have already succumbed to the weight of market unpredictability. Digital agencies that have survived have learned to adapt by using skeletal employed staff and freelance resource that they can pick up as and when they need to.

– Lengthy Recruitment – The post-pandemic workforce has evolved, with employees expecting greater flexibility and work-life balance. As a result, the pool of full-time 9 to 5 agency workers has diminished, and talent acquisition has become more challenging for businesses that are not able to meet workforce expectations. When digital agencies struggle to recruit the right people and recruitment takes longer, businesses can miss out on opportunities to earn more revenue.

😬 – Rogue Freelancers – When critical work needs to be delivered, it’s tempting to use the first freelancer who says they can help. But wading through the independent freelancer pool can be a minefield that has burnt businesses in the past. Everything from poor quality work to ineffective briefing from internal teams can put this critical work at risk from the onset. Finding the right freelancer for the job can be as difficult as recruiting if you don’t know where to look or who to trust.

⬆️ – Increased Competition – Digital agencies have exploded in recent years as previous agency workers set up shop alone or move to more boutique models. As such, lower cost agency services and highly specialised offerings have flooded the market, increasing the competition in an already competitive space. To stand out from the crowd, digital agencies must offer a broader range of specialised services than ever before. This requires a highly specialised team which is expensive to recruit for. As agencies go global, there’s the additional challenge of being able to execute international campaigns with local expertise. But who has the budget for a language and market specialist for every country you work in? Very few.

🤷‍♀️ – Unpredictable Client Work – It’s no surprise that the financial crisis has also impacted client budgets and the way they engage with digital agencies. With reduced budgets, many clients prefer to work on a project-by-project basis rather than ongoing retainers. This leads to unpredictable workflow and managing internal capacity or recruitment becomes incredibly difficult. When a project comes in, businesses need to act quickly, getting the right team in place to deliver high quality work on time, and on budget.

🤓 – Demands for Specialist Skills – As brands and clients seek real value from their reduced budgets, the demand for specialist skills is greater than ever. They may demand that your outreach specialist has significant experience in a particular market or within a certain publisher niche. But if your previous client portfolio has not given them that experience, you risk losing the work to another agency. Large agencies who can afford to recruit and build specialist teams have moved away from jack-of-all-trade-roles. Resilience is forged when agencies can access highly specialised skills as and when they need them.

These are just a handful of the challenges digital agencies are currently navigating. If businesses can become resilient to these challenges, they can position themselves for long-term success. 

Boost your business resilience with freelancers

So how can digital agencies foster resilience to not just survive, but thrive? Digital agencies are no strangers to using freelancers as part of their resource. But recently the balance of inhouse to freelance use has shifted. Digital agencies of all sizes have found that outsourcing to trusted freelancers can help them mitigate risks and seize opportunities for growth.

We partner with agencies daily, and the most common reasons for using a dedicated freelance pool are:

⬇️ – To reduce risk – Resilience and risk mitigation go hand in hand. If digital agencies recruit in reaction to every client request, they risk haemorrhaging revenue on staff with excess capacity when projects come to an end. Pre-financial crisis we may have been in a better position to take these calculated risks, but in uncertain times it pays to be cautious. Tapping into freelance resource reduces the risk of paying for recruiting unnecessarily, making them more resilient to unpredictable client work, often on a project-by-project basis.

📈 – To increase flexibility and scalability – Having a freelance pool to call on when you most need it provides greater flexibility to tackle unexpected challenges like economic conditions and loss in revenue. Instead of making employees redundant or continuing to pay employees when they are not at full capacity, agencies can simply pick up freelance resource as and when required. Similarly, if market demand increases or decreases, businesses can scale their freelance activity up or down quickly, in line with project requirements.

💰 – To keep costs low – Not only is outsourcing to freelancers a more efficient way to manage resource, but it can prove more cost-effective too. Digital agencies pay only for the hours required for a particular project rather than paying for additional overheads, keeping costs to a minimum. Hiring full-time employees means paying for benefits, holidays, office space, and training. Using trusted freelance resource ensures companies can foster growth effectively, only investing in permanent staff when it becomes economically viable to do so.

– To adapt quickly – When a new client lands with complex requirements, adapting quickly is key to establishing a good relationship right off the bat. If you want to retain a client long term, they need to know that you are prepared to deliver what they asked for without making mistakes. Finding a freelancer you haven’t worked with before can be risky, as it’s difficult to know if they will be able to complete the work to the standard you expect, especially if the skillset is not within your remit. Outsourcing to a trusted freelancer resource like Interim Digital means experts in their field can help source the perfect person for the job and guarantee the quality of their work is very good.

🤓 – To leverage specialist skills – One-off projects can be unpredictable and cause agencies to hire people they don’t necessarily need long term.If a one-off project requires a skillset you don’t have inhouse, why risk turning the opportunity down or losing the pitch when you could utilise freelancers with specialist skills immediately. With many digital agencies going global, they are starting to service clients all over the world and require market specialists. Using a trusted freelance provider, there’s no waiting around or hiring process, ensuring the right freelancer or market expert is available on demand. With access to a global talent pool, freelancer agencies can help businesses weather the unpredictability of client demands and take on a wider range of projects, thus increasing their revenue potential.

💪 – To guarantee quality – Working with new freelancers can be difficult at the best of times. They don’t know your processes and they have their own ways of working. Deliverables can be inconsistent depending on who has briefed them internally, and if you’re seeking freelancer support you may not have the skills to brief them correctly in the first place. A freelance provider like Interim Digital can help guarantee the quality of work is going to be to standard. Not only do we work closely with you to ensure we know the best specialists to call on, but we have a tried and tested briefing and quality assurance process, so you can leave the heavy lifting to us, and rest assured your clients will be happy.

Maximise your resilience with trusted freelance providers

Whether you are looking to adapt to the changing market landscape or mitigate the risks associated with traditional employment models, trusted freelancers can be a game changer for digital agencies of all shapes and sizes. From promoting scalability and plugging gaps in resource to minimising costs and client disruptions, you can build a resilient business that can weather the toughest challenges without the risk of investing in recruiting and onboarding full-time employees. Don’t be afraid to challenge the traditional agency model. For low-risk growth; the future is in freelance.

Ginny Nicholls, Founder – Interim Digital

Ginny is the founder of Interim Digital, a curated community of senior-level, former-agency digital marketing freelancers. Since starting the community in August 2021, Interim Digital has just shy of 100 freelancers across SEO, PPC, Content Strategy and Writing, Social Media, Data and Analytics and multilingual digital marketing, offering ad hoc support to brands and agencies such as IMA x Home, Summit Media, ITG and

  • 📈 Adapting to Market Changes: Utilize freelance experts to swiftly adapt to economic fluctuations and business challenges for enhanced resilience.
  • 🔍 Overcoming Recruitment Hurdles: Address the scarcity of traditional 9-5 talent by tapping into a diverse pool of freelancers for greater flexibility and work-life balance.
  • ⚖️ Risk Reduction: Leverage freelancers to mitigate risks associated with permanent staffing and unpredictable client projects, ensuring business continuity.
  • 💡 Specialized Skill Access: Engage freelancers to fill skill gaps on a project basis, enabling agencies to meet specific client demands and enhance service offerings.
  • 💰 Cost Efficiency: Outsource to freelancers to minimize overheads and only pay for work as needed, making the agency more financially agile.
  • 🌍 Global Reach: Expand your agency’s capabilities with freelancers possessing local market knowledge and language skills, facilitating global project execution.