The death of the agency

By March 13, 2015 December 5th, 2018 No Comments
Design Agency Illustration

With the advances in technology, the way in which websites, apps and any kind of digital platform gets planned, designed and built has changed out of sight. If you go back 10 years, your only real option was to go to an agency – whether that be design, digital, creative, or any other fancy name for an agency offering.

… now you have a bigger playing field to source your supplier.

Agencies have large overheads and as a result they need to charge their customers substantial fees to cover costs. From a client’s perspective, this doesn’t work out so well as those overheads are very often not directly linked to your project.

Think about it in a different way…

How many of the following overheads DIRECTLY impact the quality of the work that gets done on your project?

  • The fancy office fit out (and astronomical rent)
  • Finance, HR and legal department
  • Client entertainment and the office Christmas party
  • New business and sales team
  • The dreaded team meetings
  • General management and admin staff
  • Account/project management
  • The agency pet dog

… and the list goes on.

What is far more important to you and the outcome of your project is the quality of the people brainstorming, designing and developing your product.

  • What is their name?
  • Who are they?
  • Are they any good?
  • How experienced are they?
  • Are they based in this country?
  • Can I speak to them?
  • Will they go the extra mile for me?
  • Do they care about my project?

Don’t get me wrong. I have worked with small, medium and very large agencies in London and here in Melbourne, both as a freelance designer and as a permanent creative director. I loved my time in the rat race and have met and worked with a large number of fantastically talented individuals. It was great fun and some of the best years of my life.

However, there is a catch. While it’s certainly not always the case, the honest truth is that the job will often get sold in via a top executive and then handed over to the junior designer or even outsourced overseas. My point is not whether the quality is good or bad, it’s that as a client you have no control over who is working on your brief.

At the end of the day, if I have a ‘hard-earned’ budget of $10k for a project, I would always want $9.5k going to the designer and developer executing my brief, with the remaining $500 going towards studio costs. I absolutely would not want a large percentage going to non-project related costs. Sadly this is what happens with the agency model – the bigger they get, the more inefficient they become and the quicker they eat up your cash.

So is the agency dead? No it isn’t and many agencies deliver fantastic work. If you have a big budget they can be the best bet. If you want security in numbers, they make sense. If you are spending someone else’s budget, they can also be the correct choice.

But the alternative is pretty appealing.

I don’t hire unnecessary resources and keep my overheads exceptionally low. The digital tools at our disposal are phenomenal and allow you to run a creative studio for less than a monthly supermarket shop. Your budget is then free to go towards what really matters – strategy, design, dev and marketing. These are the 4 areas that will make or break your digital business.
If you have a smaller budget (and it’s your own), you crave 1:1 client time and want to know exactly who is working on your brief and where your dollars are going, it’s well worth considering the non-agency route.

I work out of my studio in Melbourne and am free to go for a coffee or a beer anytime. I then have a team of ‘seriously good suppliers’ for everything that I can’t do.

Simon Greenland

Simon Greenland

I'm a freelance web designer living in Oxford. I worked in London for 8 years before spending 7 years in Melbourne, Australia. My experience includes a number of the largest agencies in the world and some bluechip global brands - Canon, HP, GAP, GE and Microsoft to name a few.