For most clients, whether you’re a B2B startup or a small business, picking your design partners is one of the most important decisions you’ll make for your brand.
The debate between working with a large design firm versus a small brand agency is one that you constantly hear about in the startup world. Both choices have their own set of unique advantages and disadvantages, and both can be beneficial to your brand in different ways.
To help you make the best decision for your brand or your next design project, we’ve compiled a list of the top 3 reasons to work with a smaller branding agency than one of the more prominent firms.
The Cost of Doing Business
The cost of doing business is one of the most discussed differences between large and small branding agencies. Good design costs money. Working with a prominent design agency is often more than most small businesses and startups can afford.
If we break it down to one of the most straightforward cost metrics—an agency’s hourly rate—a smaller branding agency may charge between $150 to $250 per hour. At the same time, a larger or more prominent agency will charge closer to $250 to $1000+ per hour.
Many clients don’t realize that those hourly rates are “compounding,”—meaning that each agency member that touches your project compounds their hours on top of the others. So you have a designer(s), their art director, the project manager in charge of your engagement, and any additional specialists—such as strategists, copywriters, and developers—each adding more and more hours to your monthly invoice.
However, when you work with a smaller agency, you have fewer people touching your project. This is what some of us call the “overhead problem.”
Smaller agencies charge a lot less than larger agencies and have a lot less overhead that they pass on to you, their client.
Being Fast & Flexible
Over the years, I don’t know how often clients come to me with a project, and they’re in a big rush to get it done concisely. When I worked at a more prominent agency—many years ago—they would have to turn down the work entirely or charge 2-3 times as much as they usually would.
This inflexibility was a significant pain point for most clients that I worked with back then, and I still hear about it with my current clients—the fact that most larger agencies can’t turn around work fast enough or couldn’t be flexible enough.
When it comes to smaller agencies, we are more accommodating and flexible in these areas. Don’t get me wrong, there’s always an increase in the amount we charge for rush work, but we’re able to take it on a lot more than our larger competitors.
Last year, while my agency was partially shut down, I had an old client come to me with an urgent ask. They needed help creating branding for an event they were putting on the following week. The more prominent agency they had previously been working with couldn’t deliver in time, so I was able to jump in and help.
However, I could do it in that instance when the more prominent agency flat-out refused. In this situation, a smaller agency or freelancer will be your best bet.
Smaller agencies—and freelancers—can be more flexible with their time and therefore jump in on last-minute projects that the more prominent agencies can’t or won’t.
Personalized to Fit Your Needs
One of the most overlooked issues with working with a more prominent agency comes from good old bureaucracy.
As we mentioned above, many people will touch your project at a more prominent agency—which adds multiple layers of people to get through to talk to the actual creative working on your project.
It’s rare to speak directly with the designer or creative working on your project. Instead, you have to play telephone between their superiors and managers.
At the same time, most clients are forced to work how the agency wants to, “Our process is a one-size fit all type of deal.” This can be constricting and annoying for most clients—which also goes back to flexibility.
With my agency, we have workflows and processes for the different services we offer clients, but we look at them in a fluid form. Each client is different. We work to tailor our services to the needs of each client—within reason.
Smaller agencies can personalize their services for their clients instead of fitting them into some one-size fits all model. Each client deserves to have their own personal experience with their design partners.
When choosing the right design partner for your brand, there are many things to consider—more than just what you see in this list. If you select a larger and more prominent agency, you will need big budgets and a lot of patience. Working with a smaller agency gives you a personalized experience for a fraction of the cost. It’s entirely up to you what you choose to do, and my only hope is that whichever route you choose, it leads to nothing but success.