Freelancer vs Video Agency – What’s the Difference?

If you’re looking for someone to create video content for your business, you’ve most likely grappled with the “freelancer vs video agency” question: should you hire a formal video agency or a single-person freelancer who promises to do the same work?

Freelancer: defined

A video freelancer, sometimes known as a “one-man band” (the gender-specific language reflects the unfortunate, but changing reality), is someone who personally does all the work. This can include planning and pre-production, scriptwriting, operating the camera, setting up lights, recording sound, conducting interviews, transcribing, editing, color correcting, audio mixing, captioning, animating, and more.

freelancer vs video agency
Photo credit: Ed Uthman, Flickr CC BY 2.0

It’s a lot, I know. A typical video freelancer is a filmmaking enthusiast and genuinely enjoys at least one of those disciplines. In fact, they’re probably particularly good at exactly one of those disciplines; and okay at the rest.

Video agency: defined

A video agency, also known as a “video production company”, is a business dedicated to creating video content. Agencies typically distribute the various production tasks to people who specialize in that area. These specialists may be internal employees or external subcontractors. The agency’s role is to coordinate this team and take final responsibility for the finished product.

video agency
A multi-person crew allows each member to focus on their speciality.

A typical video agency was founded by a freelancer with a speciality in one area who wanted to create superior work by leveraging their strengths and delegating their weaknesses. Before I started Concurrent Productions, I was a professional video editor, so I began by acting as the editor for Concurrent’s projects while hiring other professionals to do the things I wasn’t so good at, like operating a camera.

Freelancer advantages

Working with a freelancer, you’ll likely enjoy the following perks:

1. Lower cost

A freelancer will usually (but not always) give you a lower quote. There are several reasons for this:

  • They have low or no business overhead
  • They may be newer to the field and don’t have much experience
  • They don’t place a dollar value on their own time
  • They are not typically able to deliver a result as polished as an agency serving an equivalent market would
  • They may not have the ability to speak the business language of their clients

2. More likely to be available for very small projects

Freelancers sell their time rather than business results. Therefore, if you need a single component of a project, such as editing video that has already been shot, or adding music to an animation, a freelancer can be a good option.

If you have someone managing video projects in-house, they may prefer to engage with freelancers when they need to outsource odd production tasks.

Video agency advantages

Working with an agency or production company will likely reap the following benefits:

1. Higher-quality work

Because agencies use teams of artists and technicians who specialize in specific tasks, the quality of their work is typically better at the same market tier.

2. Shared vision

The main difference between agencies and freelancers is that agencies have to build a business vision, and that means understanding their customer and their customers’ problems. There’s a big distinction between getting a gig (freelancer) and getting a client (agency). A client must be understood on a business level, and an agency must adopt the client’s problem as its own.

Agencies typically have someone in house whose job it is to collaborate with you to solve your problem. A freelancer may do this, but it’s much less likely since their attention is pulled in so many directions.

3. Less direction needed

An agency will have business processes in place that ensure a smooth experience. For example, at Concurrent Productions, we leverage project management software with detailed procedures for onboarding, production, and delivery. Making sure everyone involved in the project knows where to go and what to do is a matter of routine.

An agency will guide you through the process, while a freelancer may need more direction from you.

4. More flexibility

Since agencies don’t depend on a single person to do everything, they are able to be more flexible with timelines. If a freelancer is booked on the dates you’re available to film, they are completely unavailable to you, unless you can steal them from their other client with higher bid. Conversely, you could end up being the one canceled on if the freelancer gets a better offer (speaking from experience here).

Agencies have rosters of in-house or outsourced artists and technicians so they are able to handle multiple projects simultaneously.

The bottom line: freelancer vs video agency

While hiring a freelancer can be advantageous when you are managing the project yourself and are able to give specific instructions, you will more than likely benefit from working with an agency.

An agency will take a deeper interest in your root problem, hold the reins throughout the process, and deliver a higher-quality result.