How to hire a creative agency

RFPs are the worst way ever to find an agency and we get them all the time. Why are they so bad?

From the client’s perspective:

  1. They take a ton of time to produce
  2. They try to outline problems that they don’t fully understand
  3. They have no idea what their budgets should be
  4. They’re mostly internal jargon-y fancy words for: we’re not sure what to do

From our perspective:

  1. They take a ton of time to answer
  2. We’re responding to problems that might not be the real problem
  3. We don’t know what the budget is most of the time
  4. Our response is mostly jargon-y words for: look at how great we are

Do you see the issues in there? They are the same. We’re trying to find answers to problems that are probably not the real ones, with no sense of how much time and money we have to work with and spending tons of time spinning our wheels.

There’s a better way. Here it is:

1. Get your team together and figure stuff out first

Talk about:

  • The problems you are trying to solve with this project
  • Your organization’s goals and how those roll into project goals
  • What everyone’s role is in the project
  • How you will make decisions about hiring a creative vendor
  • How you will make decisions during the project
  • What your budget is

2. Figure out what kind of creative team you’re looking for

There are lots of us and we all have different strengths, different business models and different areas of expertise. Are you looking for a freelancer to help churn out a small project? An agency that can do it all? Someone who’s great at strategy? An agency that is great at campaigns? An agency that does straight up development, QA and no design? Do they have to be local? What matters most to you?

Make a list of must-haves and nice-to-haves.

3. Ask your network for recommendations and interview some agencies

Ask your network who they would recommend and why. Explain the project you have and why it’s important. Find websites, campaigns or print materials you like and ask who did them.

Then, trim your list of agencies to a manageable number by vetting them against the list you made in step #2.

Have a phone or video interview to see if they’d be a good fit. Let them interview you too. And for all that is holy, tell them what your budget is.

Ask the agencies to present their process and case studies to your board or project team.

4. Then quickly make a decision. And let them know immediately.

Hire your agency as soon as you can. You probably knew who you wanted to hire after that first phone interview, so no sense keeping everyone hanging.

See? No lengthy RFP writing. You probably saved yourself about a week’s worth of time.

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