How to hire and work with design agencies

Hiring a design agency to assist your organization in an upcoming website design, app or other digital project can be a daunting task, but if you fully understand the process and how to find the right agency beforehand, it’s not so bad.

This is the first in a series of articles that aim to answer your questions about hiring a design agency for your web design project. From getting all your ducks in a row before you start the search, to finding the right agency for your organization and what to expect during the project process. By the end of this series, you should have a much better understanding of what to expect while working with a design agency.

In this first installment, we’ll discuss what you need to get in order before seeking out a design agency of your own.

Everything you need to know before you start the search

Before you start searching for the best design agency for your organization, you need to get a few things in order. You should understand your project in the form of business goals rather than features, you should have plenty of time set aside to assist during the project and you need to have a realistic budget.

Understanding your business goals

You need to have a good understanding of the goals you wish to achieve and the problems you’re trying to solve with your upcoming digital project. Being able to articulate your needs and expectations clearly is something that professional web design agencies expect. You can do this with a simple project summary.

Your project summary doesn’t need to be super detailed, and can be achieved with a page or so of a few well written paragraphs. If at all possible, steer clear of the long winded RFP that states exactly what you need and how it should work. A key component of a successful digital project is that your agency partner is involved from the very beginning. As soon as you understand your needs and goals and can articulate them in a few paragraphs, it’s time to bring in outside help.

Design agencies solve business problems with digital solutions on a day-to-day basis, and including them as soon as you understand your needs will result in a better project in the long run.

Digital projects require your time, too

There are quite a few things that you’ll be in charge of during a digital project, and depending on the scope of work, the amount of time you’ll need to make yourself readily available can vary.

For instance, if you haven’t hired a content creator, you’ll most likely be in charge of content. And if your site includes things like blogs, news and case studies this can add up to quite the pile of work. There’s also all the other digital assets your website feeds into, like email newsletters and social media accounts, that need to be setup and working prior to launch.

Lastly, you need to get used to answering lots of questions, giving feedback on mockups and making all kinds of other decisions related to the digital project in a timely manor. For small projects you can probably set aside as little as a day per week and be fine, but bigger projects can require anywhere from one to ∞ full time client side (your) staff.

Your digital presence is a big commitment, but it’s worth it. As long as you can set aside enough of your own time and be readily available when needed you’ll be fine.

Setting a realistic budget

You’ll want to be completely transparent about your budget from the first conversation you have with your potential agency partner. A design agencies job is to make the best use of your budget, and if they know it up front they can offer solutions that will work for you.

If you’re not sure how much a digital project typically costs, you can start by asking a few potential agency partners about their typical project budgets. Size and scope of digital projects can obviously vary wildly, but this way you can get a better idea of what you’ll need.

A digital project is not a product. You’re not buying a widget off of a shelf. The pricing for a digital project is essentially the cost of a highly experienced team of designers, developers, and digital project managers for a set amount of time. The size of team you’ll need depends on the scope and timeline of your project. This may sound expensive, but the value an experienced digital agency brings to the table compared to recruiting, hiring and training your own internal team is damn near limitless. Not to mention less risky for your organization in the long run.

To summarize

In part Ⅱ of this series we’ll go over a few guidelines to help you find the right design agency for your organization. In the meantime, here’s a quick recap on everything you need to know before you start the search for a digital agency partner.

  • Understand your high level business goals for the project, write them down, and wait until you find the right design agency partner to flesh out the details.
  • Be sure you have enough internal time and resources to commit to a digital project and can be readily available to answer questions and provide feedback in a timely manor.
  • Set aside a realistic budget for your digital project. Remember, you’re paying for a team of experienced designers, developers and strategists to work full time for your organization for a set period of time.

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