If you’re a freelance writer, chances are you’ve seen job postings or heard about freelance writing for an agency as opposed to going it on your own. Digital marketing agencies usually look for remote copywriters to produce web content and blog posts for their clients. This practice is good for the agency, as it’s usually much cheaper to hire freelancers than to have an in-house writing team. But is it good for the writers as well?
Before you apply to an agency’s writing position, there are some pros and cons to consider. Here’s what you need to know.
The Drawbacks of Agency Work
Your agency experience will largely depend on whether the company itself is trustworthy and reliable as well as how they’ve built their business model. There are some unscrupulous agencies out there that will try to take advantage of their freelance writers, especially if those writers are relatively new in their careers. Here are some things to beware of when considering agency work.
Pay from an agency is often much lower than you can negotiate on your own.
Agencies are looking out for their bottom line. They make more of a profit when they pay you less.
While you do get to set your freelance writing rate when writing for an agency, it's rare that you'll get what you ask for. This is especially true when you're starting out (unsurprisingly) as the agency editors will want to “test out” your writing skills and dependability. And even when you do get assigned pieces that come in at your asking rate, the agency is still going to take a cut of your earnings. Agencies like ClearVoice take a 25% commission on your earnings.
Moreover, agencies may have a limit to how high you can set your rate. As you gain more experience, you'll likely outgrow your agency.
Worst of all, some agencies pay close to minimum wage which obviously isn’t enough for most people to live on. Until you’re very experienced, it’s hard to make a lot of money at an agency.
Working for a freelance writing agency can be time-competitive.
I recently started writing for ClearVoice to see what writing for a big agency is like. Once I was finally accepted into their “talent pool” of writers, my first few assignments were sent not just to me, but to a group of other writers. It was a first-claimed, first-won situation – whichever writer claimed the assignment first got it.
That seems fair, but here's the kicker: That first assignment got snatched up in less than a minute. I was online when the email alert came through, checked my account to see what the assignment was immediately, and it was already gone. I've since been offered assignments that aren't floating in a writer shark tank, but that first experience was a shock to me.
You have little or no say in the work itself.
Marketing agencies take on a variety of clients in different industries, even ones you’re not interested in. When you set up your profile, you have the ability to note what industries you're most interested in or comfortable writing for, but that doesn't mean you'll always be matched with the kind of assignments you want.
I recently wrote a piece about 90s fashion trends coming back into style… And frankly, that's not a niche I'm interested in! I wouldn't have chosen it for myself.
With what I call the “lone wolf” freelance option, you’re not working with a middle-man agency but finding gigs on your own. You have more opportunities to seek out niches you want to write about and pitch to those kinds of clients.
Freelance writing agencies can be incredibly fast-paced.
Agencies often must turn content around on a tight deadline. This is even more alarming when you have literal seconds to be the first to accept an assignment. You may barely have enough time to really review what you've been offered before you accept it.
To top it all off, you may only have a day or two to produce the work they need, which doesn’t allow for a lot of editing time. To succeed at an agency, you need a keen eye for detail and must be able to produce high-quality work on a limited schedule.
Benefits of Writing for Agencies
On the flip side, there are plenty of agencies out there that would be great to work for. Plenty of writers choose that path. Ethical agencies can be a great way for writers to bring in a regular paycheck. Here are a few of the unique benefits of writing for an agency:
The work is consistent.
Freelancing can be unpredictable. If you're going it on your own, you’ll spend a significant chunk of time pitching new clients and/or applying to job posts to guarantee a reliable stream of income.
Agency work tends to be much more stable, though. You generally set the number of articles you can commit to finishing each week or hours you can expect to work. You also have the option (in many cases) to turn assignments down if they interfere with your schedule or if you're not comfortable writing about a certain topic.
You’ll always get paid on time.
It's not necessarily always like this, but freelancers often face late payments or need to chase down clients when their invoices go unpaid. Honestly, clients forget sometimes and it's not intentional! But it happens and it's always a little annoying. You might even hear some horror stories of freelancers fighting to get clients to pay their overdue invoices.
However, agencies are much more likely to pay on a set schedule much like an office job would. They pay writers either at a specific time each month or once an assignment is completed and sent off to the client. Each agency is different, but you never have to worry about chasing down your hard-earned money.
Agencies handle client communication.
When you work for an agency, you rarely have to interact with a client one-on-one. Instead, you have a relationship with an agency representative who can help answer questions if you have them. This cuts down on time responding to emails and allows you more time to actually write.
It’s a great way to gain experience.
For those just starting out in the world of freelance writing, working for an agency gives you a great inside view of what the work is like.
You have the chance to produce a lot of content, often across multiple platforms, and build a diverse portfolio of work. You can use that throughout your career as you move on to pitching clients later on.
If you're not sure which niches interest you, writing for an agency opens the doors to dozens of very different industries. This helps you learn more about what you like and ultimately learn more about those niches. Later down the line, you can raise your rate based on your expertise in a specific area.
Is Freelance Writing for an Agency Right for You?
Whether agency work is right for you depends on what you’re currently looking for in your career. If you’re a newer freelancer, agency work can allow you to produce a large volume of work for a future portfolio while providing steady work and a consistent pay schedule.
However, freelance writing is a competitive field; many agencies know they can get away with paying you much less than you could negotiate on your own. If you’re more well-established as a writer and have plenty of experience to help you land clients, you can make significantly more without tying yourself to an agency.
Still, the consistent work and regular pay from agency work is attractive even to writers who are further along in their careers. Unsurprisingly, there are exceptions to all of the cons listed above. If the reliability of agency work appeals to you, it’s worth looking around to see if you can find one that will allow you to work the way you want.
There are pros and cons to client work and agency work alike. Ultimately, the path you take depends on what you want to get out of your writing career. No matter which you choose, you can eventually turn a significant profit by freelance writing from wherever in the world you are.
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