Should I Hire a Contractor or Keep Creative In-house?
The world’s most respected brands such as Nike, Coca-Cola, and Patagonia understand that in order to think swiftly, operate objectively, and maintain a sharp competitive advantage, they must employ the strengths of contracted consultants in the fields of branding, design, social media strategy, public relations, and creative direction. These external firms operate like an extension of the client’s in-house marketing and product teams, but they function with an outside-looking-in vantage point, meaning the amount of value they can contribute to the organization is unprecedented. At Superbase, we emphasize our ability to bring unconventional ideas to our clients.
“In a global business climate that’s perpetually ambiguous – and that puts a premium on companies’ ability to test ideas and change course on a dime – knowing how best to engage this lower-risk, flexible, and faster talent model can be a competitive advantage.”
– Jody Greenstone Miller and Matt Miller, Harvard Business Review
According to a recent study published by CNN Money, nearly a thousand businesses were surveyed and 78% of them reported that hiring contractors gives them an advantage over competitors and cuts costs significantly. [Source: CNN, Jose Pagliery, 2013]. Similarly, The Economist cited 90% of businesses interviewed believe outsourcing has been crucial to their growth. [Source: The Outsourcing Revolution, Michael F. Corbett, 2004]. Businesses of the future see the value in collaborating with external professionals for creative needs. This is a competitive advantage that allows a fresh and synergistic perspective, reduces overhead, and provides the agility needed for businesses to compete in today’s fast-paced environment.
Businesses of the future see the value in collaborating with external professionals for creative needs. This is a competitive advantage that allows a fresh and synergistic perspective, reduces overhead, and provides the agility needed for businesses to compete in today’s fast-paced environment.
We’re In This Together
In today’s economy, sharp creative teams are perhaps more important than ever before. Yet creative staff members such as designers, brand managers, and creative directors have one of the highest turnover rates of any career. Why? Because despite the organization’s best intentions to value their creative input, these employees are usually consigned to nonessential tasks that bury them in a never-ending barrage of production work. So in an attempt to find an employer that will appreciate their work (assuming their work is worth appreciating), the company is left high and dry, looking for yet another graphic designer or marketing director that will hopefully stick around longer than the last one. The average training period for an in-house employee is approximately 60-90 days at which point their quality of work or confidence has still not reached peak potential. During this onboarding period, employers are paying an additional 18-26% or higher to cover payroll taxes, unemployment, workers’ comp insurance, and medical benefits on top of the employee’s base wage. [Source: CNN Money]
Unlike the risk of hiring an in-house graphic designer that is statistically probable to leave the organization shortly after finally getting familiar with their job and the culture of the company, employing consultants with a proven track record can create a treasured client/agency relationship. Due to the on-display nature of the type of work agencies are expected to do, accountability is clear, expectations are defined, and the agency is particularly invested in the success of the project. In other words, we are in this together.
Cost (Hey, My Buddy Can Do That Cheaper)
Although the upfront cost of hiring an agency like Superbase appears to be more costly than contracting a friend or hiring an in-house employee, is it really? Of course it is probably going to be more expensive than hiring your girlfriend’s brother-in-law to handle your creative needs. But if you made it this far in the article, it’s probably safe to say you know what a disaster that can be. Especially in competitive industries or a challenging economy, innovation and identity are of the utmost importance to the success of your brand, so don’t merely look for the lowest bidder in such a critical area of your business.
“Companies are trying to become more fluid, more nimble, to address the challenges they face. Things like the prevalence of lean management, the drive to cap costs, accelerating pace of change… make these [consultancy] solutions more compelling.”
– Brad Beveridge, The Globe and Mail
No agency wants to have a bad reputation. Most agencies receive their work from client referrals and word-of-mouth marketing. Their reputation is being put on the line with every project they do, and if they deliver poor quality or offer a negative experience, it damages the brand that the agency has built for themselves. Enough said.
Go Ahead, Judge Us
Agencies are easier to prequalify: Does the agency have an established reputation? Who has the agency worked with in the past? Are there any brands in their client portfolio that you respect and consider successful? Review their portfolio with an open mind but critical perspective and you’ll be able to examine their previous client projects and consider the quality of their work.
What About Proximity?
Of course there are always some possible cons to working with a consultancy. These aren’t disadvantages as much as they are a matter of poor fit. For example, if having someone in-house each and every day is important to you, hiring a firm may be a bad fit- but keep in mind, in the 21st century proximity is not as important as some people think. After all, you are probably sending emails or instant messages to team members in the office right next door to you. With an infinite number of online tools for chatting, developing, previewing, and file sharing, it can often be more productive to employ a remote think tank like Superbase.
We’re Entrepreneurs, Too
One of the most distinguishable advantages of hiring a firm like Superbase is the specialized experience of working on multiple projects from a variety of industries. This gives the agency a well-rounded perspective for generating new ideas and the knowledge of how to make your ideas a reality. Superbase is an independent business that is driven to do our very best work, so we aim for success in our company the way that all entrepreneurs should. And just like you, we don’t clock out at the end of the day. We are constantly problem-solving, researching, contemplating, thinking, and strategizing for our clients.
“To achieve flexibility, firms have chosen to contract and utilize the services of professionals in the contingent labor market… These professionals possess advanced knowledge and skills that are either impossible or extremely costly for firms to duplicate and preserve.”
– Dr. Ahmad Karim, Journal of Global Business Management (Christensen; 1991; Hill and Matusik, 1998)
Superbase operates like a supercharged member of your team, collaborating with in-house staff or your existing external agencies to develop and execute non-linear ideas that require the high levels of passion needed to truly stand out from your competitors. Innovative, passionate companies come to us for help in designing a more contemporary brand and a more memorable marketing strategy so they can focus on other critical areas of their business.