To preface this article : Sometimes, a freelancer might not be the best option. In the cases where an online shop with thousands of products need individual detailed pages, the work is simply too much for one person to manage. The same goes with detailed web applications and websites that feature hundreds of unique pages of information, the workload itself is too large for one individual to take on and there are some great agencies out there to work with on large projects.
I'm often asked this question as part of introductory calls for projects, and after a decade in the sector I feel like I can expand much more on this question than a simple sound byte.
Working directly with the website developer
When working with an agency, your direct point of contact is usually the project manager. This can be problematic as messages often have to pass through two points of contact before reaching the party tasked with doing the work.
Who you hire is who you get
Even if an agency has an impressive portfolio of projects, there is no guarantee that your project budget will justify them putting their top developers on the project. Often tasks are delegated to interns or outsourced to countries where labour is cheaper. With a freelancer you get an expercienced practitioner working on every aspect of your project without compromising to make margins. Sometimes other freelancers may outsource their work or leads, but I perform 100% of the work myself, and will only bring someone else in with your permission if expertise outside of my own scope is required.
Vertical project comprehension
The advantage of having one person working on every aspect of your project is that it makes communication and comprehension easier. An in-depth knowledge of the client's page structure, SEO keywords and copy makes for more cohesive results.
The savings of not having to accommodate for brick-and-mortar offices, administrative staff positions, sales workers, and in some cases, VAT gets passed on to you.
More investment in the final product
If the worker assigned to your project is an intern or an outsourced agent, their overall investment in the client's vision is decreased. It isn't even a requirement in these cases that the agents have contact with the client in order to understand their individual goals. If the client is dissatisfied with their work, then the blame goes onto the agency and not the individual. Freelance contractors have their own reputation at stake with every website project, while simultaneously having the prestige of adding a pleased client to their personal portfolio.
Managing long term support and content production arrangements can be troublesome with agencies, especially if they insist on tying the client down to a monthly plan or forcing them to use their own hosting provider. I fulfil optional support on an hourly basis so that you only need to get in touch as and when required.
It is also important to mention that I encourage clients to use their own servers, giving them complete control over their website and full instructions on how to operate it if they decide to work with another contractor or manage the website themselves. I would never want to put my client in a situation where the work they paid for was out of their control and hidden behind release fees.