A potential client asked me what are ‘the benefits of hiring a consultant vs. hiring an agency? I decided to create a list and send it to him. I got the assignment and so have decided to formalize my list and put it out there for others to use.
But first a short background. I have been freelancing for some time now and let me say it here and now. It has been easy. From coordinating with an entire team to do different tasks, its now just me. And it’s still easier.
Earlier the strategy team gave some direction (even if it was the wrong one and we had to salvage the whole darn exercise by re-visiting the data and the insights), the CDs churned out (good, bad, or sad) ideas and the SEO walas listed out the keywords and the copywriters inserted them in blogs and website pages. And the art people created an aesthetic and relevant design and the media team … you get the gist.
Now it’s just me. Instead of finding that limiting, I find it liberating.
Please don’t take what I say here as agency bashing. I am sure there are several advantages to hiring an agency in some situations. My listing is more to do with making comparisons.
Here’s my list of why hiring a consultant works better than hiring an Agency.
1. No more Jargon
Instead of using words like brand strategy, content creation, and user experience, I use simpler words like: Let’s talk convincingly to the people who need our product or service. Let’s find new ways to catch their attention. Let’s use facts to convince them
See its easier to talk and understand me as a consultant vs. hiring an entire agency who use jargon and confuse the hell out of you with bar charts and data that has no reliable source whatsoever. Research tells me that 85.4% of agencies use questionable sources of data. Now, Who can argue with that reasonable-sounding number?
Sometimes I do regress into my agency persona, but then I have coffee with a friend, go for a swim or yoga and work it out of my system. The urge to mouth inanities like “Great brands are great story-tellers” leaves me when I pick up a book to read or reach for my remote to watch the latest show on Netflix or Amazon Prime.
2. Consultants often charge less so you save money
As a consultant, I only get paid for the project or the time-frame that I am needed for. No medical, no paid leave, no PF and all that goes with hiring a person full-time. The project ends and you stop paying me. But of course, I am always hoping there is another exciting project up ahead and your past experience will convince you to hire me for that job too.
3. No investment in training
Normally hiring staff means several months of training before they are up to speed with the job. As an expert in the field, it takes just a few days to get on the job. Sure, you are outsourcing, so it will take time to get familiar with your organization’s processes. But getting the job done will happen from the get-go.
4. No more posturing and hustling
It’s just me. Not entire teams of highly-paid people who spend a big part of the day smoking on the stairs outside the office. There is no pressure to drum up business that keeps these teams of people occupied (even if it’s only for part of the day).
Conversations with potential clients become more real. Do you really need my expertise – or will a part-time media person do the job for you. I am not here to just say what you want to hear. No pressure, more honesty.
5. It’s easier to become part of your team
Only me means I am on your side of the court. The ‘us vs. them’ is completely removed from our work equation. That way it gets easier to work with the rest of your team as a member rather than as an outsider. The resulting collaboration is infinitely more rewarding for both.
Additionally, smaller businesses and start-ups, have more to gain from such a partnership. The business quite literally stays inside their office instead of getting lost in the hallowed halls of an Agency where everyone becomes privy to what’s going on in your office.
6. Smaller budgets and less process
Big teams need big-time coordination. Servicing meetings turn into a game of Chinese whisper between client and creative teams. To justify the expenses involved teams from different offices feel the need to create unnecessary documents and processes.
By now you must have figured it out. It’s just me. Processes will be simple, documents are kept to a bare minimum and if the work can be managed with a con-call, it will be.
7. The senior-most person (read consultant) remains on the job
Anyone who has ever attended an Agency pitch knows that the senior-most teams have put their heads together to come up with all the impressive pitch ideas. They also know that these ideas will not actually be implemented. Once the agency is signed on, junior teams will be put on the job.
With me, there is no one else who will be assigned the work. If another team member is needed – it will be someone senior and you won’t have to pay full-time rates since they will be working on an assignment basis.
8. Tailor-made teams
I have been in the business long enough to know experts in almost every advertising discipline. And the world is also moving towards collectives. So if you need a developer or a designer, or an SEO expert, you use their services for just that project. The next project means a new team of experts for that project only.
The debate on the benefits of hiring a consultant vs. hiring an agency is going to rage on. So do your research. Ask for case studies, ask the right questions and then go with the one who is more convincing.