Embarking on a new creative relationship can be daunting, especially if you’ve never done it before. Below are a few ideas and tips that will help you to determine what size of creative service provider might work best for your business. Future posts will discuss what to look for once this decision has been made.
Before you even begin looking for an agency, it is important that you have the following questions answered:
- What do I need help with?
- When do I need it completed?
- How much budget do I have to get this done? (Very Important to know up front!)
- What is my objective in undertaking this creative project?
- How will I measure the effectiveness of what is created for me?
Comparing Apples to Oranges
Once you know more about what you need and what you have to work with, it’s time to find the appropriate service provider. No two agencies in this industry are alike (or so we claim), but you can still safely divide them into three categories:
1) The Individual Freelancer
2) The Small/Boutique Agency (Under 20 employees)
3) The Large Agency (Larger than 20 employees)
As you can imagine there are benefits and detriments to each option. I’ve listed a few below:
The Individual Freelancer
Pros – Fast turn-around, low cost, specific area of expertise, good fit for a small startup with limited capital to invest.
Cons – Limited availability during business hours, customer service can sometimes be less than desirable, experience level is typically less than 3 years, and inability to work on multiple projects simultaneously.
The Small/Boutique Agency
Pros – Fast turn-around, midrange cost, multiple areas of expertise, experience level is typically greater than 5 years, full-time staff, credit line of Net 15/30 terms (sometimes but not always includes, a dedicated account manager and online project management).
Cons – Slightly higher costs than a freelancer, more structured process that can take slightly longer than a freelancer, not all skills offered are in-house, not always the best fit for a small startup with minimal capital to invest.
The Large Agency
Pros – Multiple areas of expertise, experience level is typically greater than 10 years, large full-time staff, credit line of Net 30 terms, a dedicated account manager, multiple directors and staff members dedicated to account, project management and collaboration, all skills offered are typically in-house.
Cons – Slow turn-around, inability to meet tight deadlines, much higher costs, not a good fit for most small to medium-sized businesses.
Final things to consider about choosing an agency
While these differences may seem fairly obvious, it can become confusing when comparing something like a logo design project. This type of project can yield wildly different fees to complete depending on the provider you choose. For example a logo project could cost as little as $250 with a freelancer or as much as $25 million with a large agency! The experience brought to the table, timeframe for completion, research into the industry and target audience, as well as number of design comps & revisions and total number of staff members dedicated to the project will affect the outcome and the costs greatly.
This is not to say that all freelance projects are inferior and all large agency projects are perfect. There are always unique situations in every provider size. Just be prepared to know what you want the outcome of the relationship with your creative service provider to be, and find a provider that you feel most comfortable with. They must display a level of understanding for who you are and what you are trying to accomplish regardless of how big or small they are. If you don’t feel comfortable with what you’re hearing from your prospective agency, move along. There are plenty of agencies that will listen to your needs and work with you as a partner to help you succeed in your goals… much like Envision Creative Group does, (shameless plug for ourselves)!
Identify what your needs are, what your budget is and then look at the various provider options in your area. Also consider their background, availability, and track record for success. Chances are, if they have a solid portfolio of work showing how they’ve been able to make a difference for their past clients, then it’s very likely they’ll have the skills necessary to do the same for you.
What criteria have you used to decide on the agency you use? What was the biggest selling point that won you over?