Freelancer or Agency? You’re Only As Good As Your Presentation


A while back, some colleagues mentioned they were considering a rebrand of their business.

After enjoying steady growth for years, they felt ready to level up. And as such they were ready to commit considerable time and resource to their brand.

The caveat of this initial interest, was it had to be done by a big agency. No freelancers or independent creatives.

You see, they wanted the big agency experience. The glass walls, comfy chairs, coffee while you wait.

They wanted to be schmoozed and wowed, pandered and pitched.

What’s interesting is they wanted this, knowing they might get a comparable deliverable using a freelancer.

Diminishing Returns

In my experience (and this may differ from the next person), no matter the agency or in-house team, most creative projects come down to one or two people.

It might be a conceptual designer, creative director or marketing manager.

But after all the morning meetings and long lunches, they’re usually the folks doing the heavy lifting.

A well-weathered path awaits some of these creative vanguards… After years of work, either an agency or in-house, a change in circumstance may arise.

This could be internal (personal reasons) or external (employer reasons).

But they decide to become a freelancer.

A recent study demonstrated that 53 million Americans – 34 percent of the total workforce – now work freelance. With about 2 million freelance workers here in the UK.

But even with today’s ‘gig economy’, a freelancer’s perceived value might be diminished sans agency.

Most of them won’t command the same rates agencies do.

Some businesses would rather spend many times a freelancer’s day rate, to work with an agency instead. What gives?

Risky Business

A client buying design is not about design. It’s mostly about mitigating risk.

Businesses want to feel secure in what they’re spending, and presentation goes a long way in demonstrating value.

Agencies have premises, resources, staff, a credit history. These are all things that reduce risk in a buyers mind.

They are worth a premium, and they also raise the value of the deliverable.

Imagine going to an Apple store, and browsing through that beautifully minimalist interior.

You decide to purchase one of their tastefully displayed products. After paying at the counter, a sales assistant thrusts your new device into a supermarket shopping bag.

Suddenly your new device doesn’t feel as premium. Presentation matters – at every stage.

Perceived Value

Is this dynamic ‘right’? Should companies filter agencies and creatives by perceived value, as opposed to something close to actual value? Of course.

Part of a creatives job is presentation. For a potential buyer, a creative who can’t market themselves, may struggle to market someone else.

Ways for a freelancer to increase their value, and help assure a prospect include:

  • Web site
  • Case Studies
  • Testimonials
  • Partnerships and networks
  • Industry member associations

Agencies are businesses heavily invested in their own perceived value. They allow creatives to get on with being creatives, while they handle presentation.

A great agency is one where their brand promise is evident at every level.

On the other hand, those buying creative need to think about how they consider, and measure value.

Sometimes projects are largely PR exercises, where a brand needs to be seen in a particular light.

Other times there are real stakes at hand.

Organisations focused on deliverables and results, might do well to keep an open mind regarding smaller teams, as well as their larger, shinier counterparts.

To see how a small creative consultancy can impact your business, give us a call.

– Greg Bunbury



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