Employees or Freelancers? What’s better for your creative business?

Employee vs freelancer

Has hiring freelancers seemed like the best option for scaling your business? Racking up fees and starting to wonder if it’d be more cost effective to employ people in-house?

So many creative business owners go through this conundrum.

Many started out using freelancers to deliver their projects. It made sense; bringing in freelancers gives you the flexibility to scale up and down quickly when you need to. Many of you will have a history of freelancing yourself - you know the ropes and what’s needed to make a freelance relationship work.

But, what you also know (all too well) is that freelance work comes at a price.

If you’re building your business on freelancers, you’re going to paying a premium compared to the cost of an employee.

You might also find the freelance approach less reliable as you grow. The freelancers you commission might not be available when you need them (or long term) or might turn down work if they find a more lucrative offer elsewhere.

Whenever I take on a client that’s freelancer-heavy, I ask these two questions…

  1. Are you using freelancers to increase your capacity to take on extra work?


  1. Are you using freelancers to provide specific skills you don’t have in house?

One is lucrative, one is not.

Let’s look at option 1.

If you’re bringing on lots of freelancers to increase your capacity to take on extra work, you’re better off hiring employees. Especially if you know you have more than enough work to fill their time.

You could even consider an apprentice. You can find some great talent this way and it can be really fulfilling – just make sure you’re willing to commit to genuinely supporting their development and not just treating them as cheap labour.

Read this blog to look at all the things you’ll want to consider before bringing on an employee: Thinking about taking on an employee? Read this advice from an accountant first. We look at whether you have the work and the finances for an employee , cover the taxes and allowances, and how to set yourself up for employee success. It’s a helpful one!

So what about option 2?

Bringing on a freelancer to plug a temporary skills gap can prove to be a productive and profitable decision.

Let’s say you’re a videography company and you need a stills photographer for a one-off project. The freelancer you’re bringing on board isn’t increasing your capacity in the business, but instead providing a specialist skill to a particular project. It’s a one off cost you can factor into your budget to fulfil a creative project for a client (and hopefully make a profit!).

However, if you find you’re regularly recruiting the same freelance skill, maybe it’s time to consider bringing that role in house.

Rounding up some pros and cons

Having an in-house employee:


  • Consistency and commitment: Employees are typically more committed to your business and can be a more consistent culture fit.
  • A controlled salary: Freelancers often charge higher hourly rates than the equivalent hourly rate of a full-time employee.
  • Training and development: You can mould your employee into a fantastic member of your team (who can take work off you) by training them in your desired systems and skills.


  • Costs: Employing staff involves various costs such as salaries, benefits, taxes, and potentially office space depending on your setup.
  • Additional considerations: HR, equipment, subscriptions, insurance.
  • Flexibility: Employees may not offer the same level of flexibility as freelancers in terms of working hours and project-based arrangements.

Working with a freelancer:


  • **Expertise: **Freelancers often bring specialised skills and expertise to the table, allowing you to access a diverse talent pool.
  • Flexibility: Freelancers can provide flexibility in terms of project-based work, allowing you to scale up or down as needed.
  • Reduced admin burden: Managing freelancers may involve less admin work compared to handling employees.


  • **Rates: **Outsourcing to multiple freelancers at a premium rate really adds up and isn’t sustainable if you’re looking to scale.
  • Limited commitment: Freelancers may have less commitment to your long-term business goals and may not always be available when needed.
  • Culture challenges: Working with a pool of different freelancers might mean more brand alignment and culture challenges compared to having an in-house team.
  • Dependency on individuals: Relying on individual freelancers may pose risks if they become unavailable or decide to discontinue their services.

It’s less about employee Vs freelancer and more about utilising both wisely (at the right time).

Hiring employees can be a long-term investment in building a skilled and loyal workforce. If you’re financially ready to hire and have the work to fill an employee's time, it’s the better option for scaling up.

That doesn’t mean you can’t utilise the strength of a highly skilled freelancer on an ad-hoc basis. It’s still a smart move under the right circumstances.

Both options have their advantages and disadvantages depending on where you’re at in your business journey, and the decision should align with your specific business needs, goals, and budget.

If you’re not sure which option is more financially viable for your next step, it might be because you’re not 100% confident in your finances. If that’s the case, drop us a line. It might help to get a second pair of eyes on your numbers first.