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In-house teams vs. creative agencies, the benefits of each approach

As someone who managed an in-house creative group and worked in creative agencies, I’d like to break down for you the differences of working with either an in-house team or a creative agency.

About in-house teams

Lives your culture

A significant advantage of having an in-house team is that they can internalize the company missions, values, and goals. The challenge here is that not all the companies follow a sexy mission like venturing to Mars. Some want to solve a practical day-to-day problem of many. In that case, finding creatives committed to your goal may become difficult.

Feels a sense of ownership towards your product

It’s pivotal to make sure that there are people in the organization who care about the future of the business as much as you do. Creative work is somehow similar to giving birth. Once one actualizes a concept, they feel overly responsible for it. The creative team’s sense of responsibility can play an invaluable role in ensuring the quality of the delivered experience.

Has an in-depth understanding of your business

Your creative team lives your product every day and plays an active role in shaping the organization. They can start working on a new project quicker than an external agency, at least at the start of an agency relationship.

Does not necessarily contribute to faster & cheaper production

It’s almost a myth to assume that having an in-house team allows you for faster production while saving costs. It can be true if you’re willing to budget a lot for hiring. In almost all other cases, it’s costlier and slower to rely on in-house teams if you’re looking for delivering a top quality experience.

A competent in-house team is not a team of one

If you want to get it right, you need a senior in-house team, and that’s expensive. Bear in mind, I’m not talking about a team of one. Too often I bump into founders and what I hear is that they’re looking for a ninja artist, a unicorn designer, or any other imaginative term. This is merely wishful thinking and fails to factor in the whole dimensions of reality. Fact: no one can do it all alone.

About creative agencies

Taps into a continuous stream of fresh perspective and inspiration

As employees settle into the culture and get comfortable with the stability that comes with the full-time commitment, their tendency shifts from constantly challenging assumptions and being innovative to conserving the legacy and taking fewer risks. Working with creative agencies can save you to become another Copy-Paste or Me-Too business.

Breakaway from internal company politics

It’s getting almost too normal for me to see that there’s a key manager in an organization which wields a heavy hand and doesn’t allow the creative team to play and try new ideas without fear. This can result in endless loops of meetings and sprints. Often, to remedy such blockage, bringing in a creative agency allows breaking away from this issue.

Helps you deliver fast, flawlessly

I’ve seen many companies fail or lose their way into a blackhole merely because they didn’t have the right know-how or because they weren’t fast enough — both reflect upon the fact that they didn’t work with the right people. When you work with competent people highly specialized in the type of challenge you’re facing, then you put yourself in a situation where you can turn a challenge into an opportunity for growth.

Final thoughts

If you’re growing, don’t spend time hiring creatives. Hiring is costly and time-consuming and there’s no guarantee that the new hire doesn’t leave tomorrow. This is especially relevant if you haven’t had time to work on the organization culture yet. Start hiring when you’re done stabilizing the growth pattern.

If you work with creative agencies, you don’t have to worry about letting people go because the business takes a sudden downturn for four months. You can quickly scale the engagement up or down with an agency. Also, by reducing the number of iterations to get the concept right, you save cost at the end — assuming you’re working with a competent agency.

When you reach stability, then try a blended approach. Have a robust in-house team and fuse it with a competent creative agency. Then, let the collaboration between the two creates solutions that put you way above the mediocrity of the Me-Too culture.

About Bonanza Design

At Bonanza, we’ve had a unique opportunity to form strong ties with our clients that they keep coming back for advice, projects and more. Currently, we’re working with a number of clients on an on-going basis and feeding them with design thinking, strategy and design inputs.