Choosing someone to manage your PPC or paid social campaigns is a dauting prospect, especially when there are so many freelancers and agencies out there all claiming to be 'unique'.
So what should you really be looking for, and is a freelancer or an agency the best choice for you?
The biggest obstacle you'll come across when choosing how (and who) to manage your PPC campaigns is the choice. Just type 'PPC agency' into Google and you'll come across a mind-boggling 44,600,000 results.
Before we dive into the how and why of choosing an agency or freelancer, let's cover a couple of basics...
What is a PPC Agency?
An agency is a group of professionals all employed by the same business, offering their expertise to a portfolio of clients. Some agencies will be dedicated to providing only PPC services, while others will offer a range of marketing services such as SEO (search engine optimisation), website design, email marketing, etc.
Depending on your requirements you will have an individual or a small team from the agency assigned to you.
What is a PPC Freelancer?
A PPC freelancer works as a self-employed individual. Most often they will have worked in an agency or a big company in the past but have now decided to provide services on their own (this is the route I've taken). When you work with a freelancer you'll always work directly with that individual.
Is a PPC Agency or a PPC Freelance better?
During my decade in marketing I have worked in businesses that employed PPC agencies, I've spent the largest portion of my career to date working in a PPC agency, and now I am a PPC freelancer! So I like to think I'm well-placed to answer this question.
You need to think about the requirements of your business, what you're hoping to get from the relationship, and what resources you have available (including budget!).
So let's weigh up some of the pros and cons of PPC agencies and PPC freelancers based on each of these factors;
When you work with a PPC agency your team will likely be made up of a more senior 'account manager' and more junior staff who carry out the day-to-day work on your account. While this isn't a bad thing (a good agency will ensure the work of juniors is carried out to a set standard), it does mean the person you're talking to at the agency won't always be 'hands on' in your account and you're relying on the skill-level of junior staff.
Alternatively, a PPC freelancer is likely to have reached a senior level in a company or agency before deciding to go freelance. For example, I was Head of PPC at a large agency before starting my freelance career. This means you have someone with a high level of skill carrying out the day-to-day work, as well as being your 'account manager'.
Experience in Your Industry
A PPC agency will likely work with a wide range of industries and some will even specialise in a particular industry sectors. When an agency talks about their industry experience be sure to understand if the individuals with the relevant knowledge will be the ones assigned to your account.
As mentioned above, a PPC freelancer is likely to have worked in an agency previously so will also benefit from having worked in a wide range of sectors. You'll be able to ask your freelancer about their experience specifically.
In either case, it's important to ask about specific industry experience when making your choice as this will always be advantageous.
The ways of working with a freelancer versus an agency is arguably the biggest differentiation.
A PPC agency will be juggling a large portfolio of clients. This means your account team might change (it's not uncommon for a new team to be assigned to you every few months), and if you are a "small" client for the agency you'll be assigned a more junior team. The service can also feel less personal; your account manager may not always be available, team members come and go, and you'll need to fit into the agencies processes and schedule.
Conversely, a PPC freelancer can offer a more personalised service. For a start, you'll always be in contact with the same person. A freelancer will be more willing to fit their diary around you (freelancers have probably chosen freelance life to get away from the 9-5!) and they'll have a smaller portfolio of clients, meaning you won't feel like you're at the bottom of the priority list.
Perhaps the biggest consideration, especially for small buinesses and SMEs... how much is this going to cost?
A PPC agency has massive overheads (an office, extra support staff, tech, and business costs) and they need to pass those costs onto the client. Agencies typically operate on a cost-per-day rate which can stretch over £1,000/day for larger agencies. If your business requires the support an agency with a large team of people can offer then the price is justifiable. If not, then a freelancer may be a better option.
Conversely a PPC freelancer has much lower overheads (especially post-Covid with most freelancers now working from home rather than renting a shared office space), meaning they can offer much lower costs to their clients.
Another consideration here is contract length. Typically, agencies will ask fr a 12-month commitment from clients. Whereas freelancers can be more flexible. For example, I ask for a 3-month commitment, then a 1-month rolling contract afterward.
Both agencies and freelancers have their pros and cons. If you are looking exclusively for PPC management without additional services then the right PPC freelancer (with a high level of expertise and preferably some experience in your industry) will be an excellent choice.
Also, if you are starting PPC advertising for the first time and want to ensure you can get a good return on your investment, a freelancer with lower fees and a shorter contract commitment would be advantageous while you test the water. There is always the option to move onto an agency at a later date if you require more services and have a larger budget for management.
Having worked both in a PPC agency and now as a PPC freelancer I love having the freedom to work with clients in the way I choose. I can flex my schedule to accomodate calls or meetings outside of the 9-5, I get to know my clients 1-1 and form long-term relationships, and don't have to spend large parts of my week in internal meetings - meaning more time to spend on projects!