Article | 01 Aug 2018

How to win against big agencies

Posted in Freelancer, Industry news, Motivation & inspiration, Learning,

The best way to hold your own as a freelancer is to be really good at what you do. But that’s not all there is to it. Talent and reliability are what will keep you in work.

However, you also need to win gigs in the first place. And that isn’t always easy when you’re up against big agencies with the resources to seriously polish and prettify their pitches.

Going up against fully fledged agencies, particularly when you’re at the pitch stage, can be daunting to say the least. But don’t assume that you won’t come out victorious. There’s absolutely no reason why a good freelancer shouldn’t be as good (or better!) than an agency. The secret is knowing how to win clients over:

Play to your strengths

We know that hiring a dedicated freelancer is often a smarter choice than farming out to an agency, but not everyone is as clued up as us. So, when you’re pitching, don’t just big up your personal strengths, but also the general advantages of the freelance model. For example:

  • The personal touch. Knowing exactly who is going to be working on an account is a major bonus for clients and something that can’t be guaranteed with an agency. So make sure they know that you personally will be their dedicated PR resource.   
  • High quality, low cost. Agencies typically charge more than freelancers, due to far higher overheads. Yet the work they offer isn’t of higher quality. By going with the freelance option, clients can find someone with more experience and greater seniority for a significantly lower fee.
  • Versatility. Once an agency gets started on an account, it can be difficult to change the brief, and clients are likely to be tied into a long contract. Freelancers are much more versatile and adaptable, something that is vital for businesses with rapidly changing needs, who want truly bespoke work.

Offer collaboration

Brands can be wary of hiring freelancers because they’re seen as ‘lone wolves’, with no additional resource to call upon. Agencies, meanwhile, offer a reassuringly robust structure, with plenty of skills and expertise to deliver bigger or more complex projects, or respond in a crisis situation.  

Of course, it’s rarely the case that a freelancer is a total island. You wouldn’t be reading this website if we didn’t support each other. Many of us have a rock-solid network of different skills and experience whom we can call on for collaboration and support. So, make it as clear as possible during your pitches that you can pull together a bespoke team of experts if need be. The Work Crowd is always on hand to find the team you need at short notice.

Find the decision-makers

When you’re pitching to a company, make sure that you’ve spoken to everyone with decision-making heft. Sometimes, for example, venture capital partners may have a say in contract decisions, but you might not realise until it’s too late. So, draw on your best networking and schmoozing skills to spread your ideas and influence as far as you can. The more decision-makers you reach, the greater your odds of winning!

Push for ongoing relationships

So, this is a bit of a complicated one. One of the major advantages for clients when hiring freelancers is that we offer flexibility. But at the same time, we all know that regular, returning clients are our bread and butter. So, the ideal freelancer/client relationship is an ongoing but flexible one - a hybrid between an agreed ongoing relationship, combined with the flexibility to increase and decrease the exact level of resource as the client’s needs change. It requires some extra thought and planning, but it’s worth hashing out deals which work for everyone, if you’re going to hold your own against the big boys (and girls).

Inspire confidence

OK, this may seem like pretty obvious advice. But it’s really important that you go all-out if you know that you’re up against an agency. That means being proof positive of your skills, your professionalism, the quality of your work, your reliability and how great you are to work with. Polish your portfolio, provide references from clients – do everything you can to inspire confidence in your abilities!

Manage expectations

If you’re going head to head with an agency, it’s worth remembering that the agency is likely to have more time and design expertise on hand to make their pitch look pretty. You might think that will put you at an immediate disadvantage, but it can be overcome if you manage expectations from the get-go. Encourage your prospects to judge on individual skills and experience rather than bells and whistles.

Push for a discovery stage

Risk-averse businesses may be a bit twitchy about hiring freelancers. But if you get the chance to prove yourself to them, they won’t look back! One way to do this is by offering a ‘discovery stage’ - a kind of trial period, after which they’re not obliged to keep you on (although of course they will). This works for both parties; the client gets a no-strings method of reassuring themselves that you’re the right person for the job, and you get paid to prove your worth.  


Ready to give a go? Then check out the latest exciting projects on, and don’t be put off if you think it’s an ‘agency job’. And if you have any questions on pitching or building a freelance team, don’t hesitate to drop us a line at or give us a call on 0203 828 8440.