In Partnership with MarketerHire April 27, 2021

The Future of Work: How to Balance In-Housing and Outsourcing

Understanding how to build teams that make the Internet’s best creative work—including a few 2021 Webby Nominees.

Around the world, people have been working in ways they would not have imagined 13 months prior. Beyond the “comfy casual” work from home attire we’ve embraced, radical changes about how we collaborate are taking place. Creative collaboration will look different for every company post-pandemic, but one thing is universal: the future of work is more distributed and a lot more specialized than before. Part of creating a successful team for the digital era is knowing the best card to play now, to innovate for the future.

Do you stack an in-house creative team to get things done, or do you contract an agency or freelancer? Will you transition back into office collaboration or embrace a hybrid model? It’s hard to know, but companies that find the right balance set themselves up for long term success.

This is The Future of Work. Made in partnership with MarketerHire, it’s a multipart series exploring how the pandemic has changed the way brands, agencies, and individuals are working, and how you should be rethinking everything over the next 12-24 months. Below we explored how utilizing both in-house and external collaborators benefited two brands: Anheuser-Busch and Zendesk, and spoke with the two 2021 Webby Awards Nominees about how they’ve built the teams behind the Internet’s best creative work.

Streamline for Agility

For the past 13 months, the needs for businesses to adopt digital-first strategies and new content exploded. More audiences at home meant an immediate need to quickly meet people where they are, while speaking to what they were experiencing. 

That required companies everywhere to quickly pivot, and create experiences that resonated with at-home audiences. Decide which option helps you move faster. While onboarding a  contract copywriter or strategist works for some companies, others need a more permanent solution to become more agile. A June 2020 study by McKinsey and the Harvard Business School found that companies that launched an agile business model prior to the COVID-19 pandemic significantly outperformed companies that hadn’t.

This is certainly true for Anheuser-Busch, which in 2018 launched draftLine, its full-service, in-house creative agency, to streamline its marketing across the company’s 42 brands. draftLine uses a hybrid approach: functioning as the only agency for a few AB InBev brands, while supporting external agency partners on more established brands. Before they started draftLine, AB InBev lacked an agency that worked across their portfolio, resulting in very siloed marketing. By creating draftLine, the company’s in-house team is “able to unlock creative solutions, quickly disseminate information and share best practices across brands.”

The move has allowed draftLine to “transform the way [they] work, be agile and quickly replicate successes from one brand and apply it to the other,” said Spencer Gordon, AB InBev’s VP of Digital and Head of draftLine US.

Source: “Create The Club” by draftLine. 2021 Webby Nominee in Best Social Community Building and Engagement.

Decide If You Need General or Specialized Work

Prior to the pandemic, changing consumer tastes were already changing the creative work being made. COVID-19 just rapidly accelerated the need for hyper-personalized work. This type of work might be better suited for an in-house team that can create multiple iterations of a strategy based on data. “draftLine is the only agency on some of [our] new-to-world innovation brands, specifically helping position the smaller brands as we pilot, execute and scale,” said Gordon. 

To do this, the company gathers insights from around the country to convey to its marketing department. Even more, Gordon’s teams leverage local talent in LA, Austin, Miami, New York, and St. Louis to create work with local knowledge. 

Know When Your Creative Team’s “Got It” 

One of many things the pandemic made clear was the need for companies to create with more empathy. That can mean leveraging your internal brand and creative team to tell strong stories that are central to your company, like Zendesk. The customer service software company “has invested in its brand and creative execution since day one,” said Erin Pinkley, VP Brand Creative at Zendesk. Over time, the company has grown its team intuitively to fit this need.

Pair Internal Talent with External Collaborators 

As more brands produce their own creative experiences, giving an in-house creative team budget to hire contractors is great for tentpole projects. According to Sam Bathe, an Art Director at Zendesk, this strategy allows the team to discern when outside experience can elevate unique projects like ‘Stories About Helpful People,’ a 2021 Webby Nominee for best branded editorial experience.

“We’re very hands-on when it comes to sourcing and commissioning artists and agencies for special projects,” said Bathe. His team spends time honing a shortlist of partners making inventive work, and finding the right chemistry with partners.

Source: “Golden Age Karate.” Photos by Maddie McGarvey, Bridget Bennett and Da’Shaunae Marisa for Zendesk.


A hybrid model that uses both internal and external talent also works to build better relationships, which helps any company in the long run. Zendesk approaches this collaboration by trusting the guidance of specialists: “When you’re working with the right external collaborators, it’s important to give them the space to be creative and lead you on aspects where they’re the experts.”

Make the Final Choice

Whether you choose to restructure an internal team, partner with a digital agency, or leverage your in-house team to manage contractors, make sure it sets your team up for success. The best creative work is often made by utilizing two or more options—using a freelancer to help drive a project over the line, or giving budget to an in-house creative team to commission an artist’s work.

Find The Best Talent Resource to Outsource 

It’s hard to know which strategy to use to get a project over the line, and make it not only great, but award-worthy. Looking for a freelancer that can help your full-time team bring its vision to life? Our partner MarketerHire can help. It’s a talent platform that quickly matches organizations with vetted freelance marketers, and educates companies on how to best utilize them.

It’s easier and faster than other recruiting platforms. No job postings or interviews—you’ll be matched with a marketer who is perfectly suited for your project’s needs. 

Head to to try.