If you don't have an in-house team, you can always outsource creative services to professionals who specialize in delivering high-quality, creative solutions. However, the idea of outsourcing often comes with concerns — quality control, communication gaps, and unclear expectations, to name a few. However, the outsourcing market is expected to reach $519 billion in 2023, with more than 68% of America's large businesses participating in this trend.
This article aims to eliminate those concerns by explaining how to outsource creative services effectively and providing compelling reasons for doing so.
Table of Contents
How To Outsource Creative Services in Seven Steps
- Identify Which Services to Outsource
- Set Clear Objectives and Expectations
- Research Potential Providers
- Establish Clear Lines of Communication
- Define Roles and Responsibilities
- Set Milestones and Deadlines
- Check Progress Regularly
Creative agencies can be invaluable partners in elevating your branding and marketing efforts. Explore these seven practical steps to successfully outsource creative services to these specialized firms:
1. Identify Which Services to Outsource
Before you start looking for agencies and enter contracts and negotiations, you must know exactly which services you need to outsource. Not all creative agencies offer the same range of services, and your needs may vary from graphic design and content creation to video production or even full-scale marketing campaigns. Boutique creative agencies usually specialize in one of these services, while full-service creative agencies provide them all.
Start by conducting an internal audit of your current capabilities and identify the gaps. Ask yourself questions like:
- Do we need high-quality graphic design?
- Does our content need better optimization?
- Do we need specialized video content that our in-house team can't produce?
By clearly identifying your needs, you can target creative agencies that specialize in those specific services, ensuring a more successful and efficient outsourcing process.
2. Set Clear Objectives and Expectations
Once you've identified which services to outsource, the next step is to set clear objectives and expectations. Clearly defined goals guide the creative agencies and provide you with specific key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the effectiveness of their work.
Consider the following when setting your objectives:
- What is the goal of the project? (Be as precise as possible and set SMART goals. For example, to increase brand awareness by 20% in the next six months.)
- What is the timeline for project completion?
- What specific KPIs will you monitor to track the project's success?
Create a project brief and document these objectives and expectations. This document will serve as a reference point for both parties and help avoid misunderstandings and disputes.
3. Research Potential Providers
After setting your objectives and expectations, the next critical step is to research potential creative agencies that can meet your needs. Finding the best creative agencies involves more than just a quick Google search; it requires a thorough evaluation, such as ours at Design Rush, to ensure you're partnering with an agency capable of delivering desired results.
Here are some key areas to focus on while researching potential providers:
Evaluate Portfolios and Past Work
Agency's portfolio demonstrates the quality and style of their work. Pay attention to projects similar to yours or within your industry — they can provide valuable insights into their expertise and suitability for your project.
Once you've shortlisted a few agencies based on their portfolios, arrange interviews to delve deeper into their capabilities, work ethics, and culture. Prepare a set of questions that can help you gauge their understanding of your objectives and their ability to meet them.
Send Requests for Proposals
After you've reviewed possible candidates and conducted preliminary interviews, send out Requests for Proposals (RFPs). An RFP is a formal document that outlines your project's scope, objectives, and specific requirements, inviting agencies to submit proposals for how they would approach and execute the project.
You’ll gather detailed information on each agency's capabilities and pricing, compare different approaches, and make an informed decision about your future creative partner.
4. Establish Clear Lines of Communication
Effective communication is a business imperative. In fact, a study shows that more informed employees are 77% more productive than their less informed counterparts. Clear communication is even more important when outsourcing creative services, as it ensures everyone is on the same page and helps avoid misunderstandings.
To establish good communication for your project:
- Designate points of contact: Assign specific individuals from yours and the agency's team who will be responsible for communication.
- Choose communication channels: Decide on the platforms or tools that will be used for communication, whether it's email, Slack, or project management software. Ensure everyone involved is familiar with the chosen tool, knows where to find project updates, and how to reach out for clarification.
- Schedule regular meetings: Once a week (or more or less frequently, as you need), discuss project updates, review progress, and address concerns.
5. Define Roles and Responsibilities
Knowing who does what is crucial for any project, especially when working with an external team. Clearly defining roles and responsibilities will eliminate confusion and ensure everyone knows their tasks. Here's how to go about it:
- Create a list that outlines who is responsible for what — you can share a Google Doc that everyone can access.
- Talk through the roles and responsibilities with your team and the creative agency. Make sure everyone agrees and understands their tasks.
- Include roles and responsibilities in the project brief or contract. That way, they’ll be official, and everyone will have a document to refer back to.
6. Set Milestones and Deadlines
Setting milestones and deadlines ensures your project stays on course and meets its objectives. Without them, it's easy for tasks to be prolonged, causing delays and increased costs. Here's how to effectively set milestones and deadlines:
Break Down the Project
Start by breaking up the overall project into smaller, more manageable tasks. Each of these smaller parts becomes a milestone, a significant point that marks progress in the project. You can more easily measure the agency's effectiveness, how well things are going, and where improvements might need to be made by starting small and monitoring results.
Assign Realistic Deadlines
There should be a deadline for each milestone. When determining them, consider the difficulty of each work, the resources, and any interrelated factors that can impact timing. Deadlines you agree to meet should be reasonable yet firm.
Communicate Milestones and Deadlines
Once the milestones and deadlines are set, communicate them to everyone involved in the project. Using project management tools or a shared calendar to visualize the timeline makes it easier for everyone to see what needs to be done and by when.
Monitor and Adjust Progress
Regularly check in on the progress of each milestone. If any are missed or delayed, it's crucial to understand why. Was the deadline unrealistic? Were there unforeseen challenges? Use this information to adjust plans and deadlines and ensure the project stays on track.
7. Check Progress Regularly
Consistent monitoring of your project's progress is the foundation of successful outsourcing. While setting milestones and deadlines provides a roadmap, regular checks ensure that you're actually following it; it's an ongoing process that can impact the outcome of your project.
One of the most effective ways to monitor progress is to schedule regular updates. These could be weekly meetings where your team and the creative agency come together to discuss the project's status. During these meetings, you should:
- Review completed tasks and upcoming milestones
- Discuss any challenges
- Make decisions on any issues
Project management tools, like Asana or Trello, offer real-time tracking of tasks, deadlines, and milestones. They also provide a visual representation of the project's progress, which makes it easier for everyone to understand where things stand.
KPIs relevant to your project are valuable for checking your progress, as they provide insights into quality of work, timeliness, or budget adherence. By regularly reviewing set KPIs, you can gauge whether the project is on track to meet its goals. If certain KPIs aren’t meeting expectations, it's an indication that adjustments may be needed.
Lastly, when you outsource creative services, be prepared to adapt and change your plans based on the insights gained from meetings and KPI reviews if strategies you agreed upon with your service provider are not bringing the expected results or new challenges arise.
Why Outsource Creative Services?
Outsourcing creative services comes with many benefits that can significantly impact your business in a positive way. While the initial thought may be to keep all creative work in-house, the advantages of outsourcing often outweigh the perceived control of doing everything yourself.
Here are compelling reasons to outsource creative services:
- Focus on core activities: Your in-house team can concentrate on core business activities and improve overall productivity and efficiency.
- Cost-effectiveness: Outsourcing eliminates the need for an in-house team, saves on training costs, and provides access to a more cost-effective workforce without compromising quality.
- Access to a wide talent pool: You can hire professionals from global creative agencies, tailoring the team to your specific needs and budget.
- Scalability: You can quickly scale your creative needs up or down without the complications of hiring or dismissing in-house staff and benefit from quicker project turnaround times.
- Flexibility: Your project can quickly adapt to market changes by bringing in experts for specific projects as you need them.
How To Outsource Creative Services: Final Thoughts
Now you know how to outsource creative services and avoid common concerns related to external task delegation. Keep in mind that a key to successful outsourcing lies in meticulous planning and effective communication. By following the seven steps we suggested in this guide, you can create a firm partnership with a creative agency that complements your business goals.
Outsource Creative Services FAQs
1. What is creative outsourcing?
Creative outsourcing refers to delegating creative tasks and projects to external agencies or freelancers rather than handling them in-house. These tasks can range from graphic design, content creation, and video production to more specialized services like animation or interactive design. The primary goal of creative outsourcing is to leverage professional expertise, save time, reduce costs, and achieve higher-quality results.
2. Why outsource creative services?
Outsourcing creative services allows you to access specialized skills and make your projects more flexible, all while saving money and freeing up your team to focus on what they do best. Plus, it brings fresh ideas to your marketing, boosting your brand and helping you reach more clients.