When you’re putting together your content marketing team, the question invariably comes up – should you hire internal team members, or outsource the whole thing? And if you outsource, should you hire an agency, or hire freelancers?

Truth: There is no one right answer. Every organization is different, and different people’s different workstyles also impact what will work best for you – because even though some companies think people are interchangeable, they really aren’t.

Before you can determine which direction you should go, you need to know what your goals are, and you need to know your target audience. Establishing these two foundational pieces of your strategy informs the type of content you should create and how you should deliver it. Once you know that, it’s much easier to determine what types of talent you need on your content marketing team.

And then it comes down to internal versus external resources. Here are the pros and cons of each.

The case for hiring an internal content marketing team

The upside of hiring for your internal team is that they work for you, full time. This seems to be the allure a lot of companies are attracted to when it comes to hiring content marketers. If you have a talented team working 40 hours a week on your behalf, it seems less likely that something will slip through the cracks; you’re simply going to get more time spent on your behalf when you hire internal people.

Additionally, there is tremendous merit to having someone walking the halls, seeking out story ideas. Through the years, we have found that the best stories often emerge during unscheduled side conversations – the water cooler effect. The idea of having smart, attentive content creators keeping an ear out for stories every minute of every day is very powerful.

Lastly, internal folks are going to be more familiar with your brand and brand voice; after all, they’re living it every day.

Potential pitfalls: You need to know how to hire writers. Sounds simple, but writers can be a different breed. And if you’re accustomed to hiring more traditional marketing staff, figuring out what makes a good writer can be difficult; their skill set does not really align with what you’re very likely accustomed to hiring for.

An additional pitfall is that, at some point, internal team members can get in lockstep with corporate culture. While this is a good thing on many levels, it can diminish creativity. To make this work, you need to hire what Wharton professor Adam Grant calls “Originals.”

The case for hiring an outside agency and/or freelancers

On the other hand, hiring an external team can be a good way to dip your toe into content marketing without making too large of a commitment. Rather than having to pay salary and benefits and hoping the internal team works out.

A content marketing agency is usually (but not always!) more attuned to emerging best practices. This is important in a fast-changing space like content marketing.

Another advantage in hiring an agency is that you aren’t getting just one person – you’re getting a team that brings different experiences, viewpoints and skill sets to the table. This should give them a broader view and thereby increase your chances of success. Of course, it doesn’t always work this way because not every agency is as collaborative as they should be, but the concept is sound.

Possible pitfalls with agencies: The biggest complaint we hear from marketers is that their agency just isn’t good at writing (I like to believe this isn’t the case with Scribewise; while we certainly have had instances where we didn’t deliver what the client wanted, it’s fair to say our writing is very much appreciated by the bulk of our clients). Often, companies will hire content marketing agencies based upon the plan they’re presented without seeing the actual work product they’ll be getting. Here’s our advice: Have them write a sample piece or two. Even offer to pay them for the work. Rather than some beautiful article they’ve written for someone else as a showpiece, you’re more likely to see what you’ll be getting on a regular basis.

Another potential pitfall is pricing – agencies can get expensive. We advise to avoid agencies that bill by the hour or by the word; after all, those are the wrong incentives for a good writer. However, when you pick the right agency, you should be getting the brainpower of several people at the cost of one or two FTEs, which should end up giving you a higher level of production at the same or lower cost.

Which brings us to freelancers. Freelancers might just be the best way to get started. After all, if things go sideways, you just stop using the person. Often, freelancers are a cost effective way to get content created and start to build momentum.

Additionally, there is a lot of freelance talent out there. It’s no secret media companies are struggling, and that has left a lot of outstanding writers on the sidelines. That, along with the rise of the gig economy, means that you can find some phenomenal writers t help you create content.

However, we see one significant pitfall when it comes to freelancers. As I’ve written in the past, freelancers complete assignments… but that’s all they do. If you hire a freelancer to create a whitepaper for you, guess what you’re getting back? A whitepaper. Which might be fine. It might even be awesome. But that freelancer is never going to suggest a better way; she’s not going to say “instead of a whitepaper, this should be a video series on Facebook Live” – because she’s going to be hired and get paid for delivering a whitepaper. Often, that’s fine – after all, you as CMO are setting the strategy, and you wanted it executed. However, sometimes you need a thought partner, someone who will push you to make the content better for the audience, and that person is rarely a freelancer.

Remember, you usually get what you ask for – and sometimes that’s simply not enough.

Also, a word of caution – do not, do not, DO NOT use a cheap, SEO-driven writing service. If you’re paying $7 for an article, guess what? It’s going to suck. It’s going to do more harm than good. AVOID.

So, which is best – internal or external? There is no right answer. It depends on your specific situation. In most situations, the best answer is likely a mix – an internal team with access to outside resources, just as many companies handle other marketing functions.

Now it’s up to you to figure out what works best for your organization.