Partnering with Design Agencies.

As design firms, and even freelancers, working directly with clients to help them solve business problems with creative insight is the end goal. We sometimes judge our business success off having these types of relationships. Partnering with a larger agency or firm to assist with their clients is another great way to increase your business’s revenue & portfolio of work. It’s important that when considering to partner your business with a larger agency that you see and treat them as another client, and not as an employer. Today’s post discusses four focus points when engaging your business with another agency.


  1. Learn Your Role on the Team
    Understand how your business will fit into the agencies’ established teams. Most likely you’ll come into a situation where they have been working with the client for a while. Both you and the agency will learn best practices for working with each other, and working with the client. This becomes a big part of the opening conversation of being contracted. Understand the role they need to fill. A few questions to consider:
  • Will there be a need for presenting to clients?
  • Are you required for any in-house meetings at any time?
  • Will there any be managing any part of their existing team?
  • Will you be assisting on more of a production level to help with a large amount of final deliverables?
  • Will there be any need to travel?
  • Is there a defined scope of what deliverables will be needed during the engagement?

Answering these sorts of questions will allow for you to plan your time around working with the agencies’ team, as well as defining the level of effort needed from your business and how that may impact your other clients. You more than likely may have other projects & timelines running parallel so time management will be key. From an agency’s perspective, their client is their top priority, not your other clients, as it should be. Your top priority is all of your clients’ needs. As a business, it is important to have these relationships balanced so that you don’t miss deadlines or deliver non-quality work. During the contract discussions, make it a top priority to understand exactly what is expected of you in the particular role, and make sure that you have the availability to take on the opportunity to its full capacity.

2. Be Sure You Have the Availability
If you’ve never worked full-time for an agency, it’s important to know what the day to day can be like. There can be endless meetings that pull you away from Slack and email for hours at a time. As your business may be structured around off-business hours and minimal meetings, it’s important to be loose around an agencies’ communication. As you begin defining the relationship of working with an agency, make sure to have turn-around time expectations and if they have daily checkins. These will become the milestones in your daily calendar for keeping on track with their schedule. At the beginning of each week I suggest connecting with the project manager to let them know any scheduling conflicts of the week (other client calls, travel, etc). Be up front and transparent with your availability. It’s important to remember that even as they plan checkpoints with you through the day, they also are working towards a schedule of checkpoints with the client.

3. Be Okay with Getting Paid Later
There are generally payment terms you have with your clients from the time that you invoice to the time they make their payment. When working with agencies, you’ll begin invoicing based on their accounting departments’ terms. This could be Net-30, Net-60 or in some cases longer periods of time. This an important area to fully understand and agree to if you are considering working with an agency. Its important to have enough revenue built up to allow for the delayed time of payment. The silver lining is that you’ll most likely be getting payments received well after the project has completed. Just like dealing with clients, make sure to have the terms of payment declared at the contract phase from their end, and develop your invoicing terms to work alongside their terms. And most importantly, never be afraid to get the invoicing process completely defined for you before signing any documents.

4. Stay True to Your Process
Lastly, and most importantly, you have built a business not necessarily on the type of creative you deliver, but the quality of product that you spend time creating. When engaging with an agency you may be entering periods of fast-paced sprints, so it is important to time-manage well around their expected deadlines, making sure that the quality never suffers. When we have partnered with agencies, we get a sense of their clients’ timing expectations regarding turn-around times and review process. When working directly with clients, you are responsible for creating this timetable to a final finish date. Make sure you understand the agency’s timing that has been scoped, and how this will apply to the work you will be doing.


Working with agencies can be a great opportunity for your business. They have excelled in their business practices and landed larger clients than you may ever target with your personal business. Take the opportunity to bring the skills your company offers to partner, and succeed, with larger agencies to help grow your portfolio, business structure and revenue.

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