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The Burning Question – Keep It In-house Or Go External?

4-minute read

It’s a conundrum companies ask themselves regularly. Here, we look at when it pays dividends to outsource and when the right move is to flex your own creative muscle…

Thinking man

With the appetite for all things digital off the charts, and social media’s star still on the rise, demand for stuff that hits the mark visually is high. Quality design work is getting greater prominence than ever among companies looking to up their game, which often leaves them with a dilemma – whether to use their own people or enlist an agency to do the job. Here, we dive into the pros and cons of each…

Keeping It In-house

Great knowledge This is the biggie – your own team will have the inside track on your brand. No-one knows your business and what it stands for better than your people, so you won’t have to waste time bringing anyone up to speed.

A time saver Finding the right agency is a task in itself. Often you’ll have to sit through a string of pitches to find a good fit. Use in-house resource, however, and you can simply set up a meeting and get the ball rolling instantly.

Quick updates It’s often easier to swing by somebody’s desk or arrange a quick video catch-up with a colleague than it is to set up something with another company. Similarly, it’s handy to be in close proximity when the inevitable to-ing and fro-ing on designs gets underway.

Day-to-day design work If your branding’s sorted and you simply need a steady stream of branded material, it makes sense to have an in-house team on the case. They can get the work done quickly and to a high standard, often juggling tight deadlines and last-minute changes.

Outsourcing The Job

A fresh perspective This is what agencies do best. Because they’re removed from your brand when they first come in, they can bring a raft of new ideas and a level of creativity that’ll feel like a breath of fresh of air. It’s ideal if you’re looking to kick off a rebrand or launch a new campaign.

New frontiers Great marketing often requires great courage. An agency will help you push the boundaries to grow your brand and target a wider, sometimes new, audience. In-house creatives can sometimes be loyal to the existing branding and way of doing things, and therefore prone to scepticism and a reluctance to shake things up.

A limitless pool of expertise Your team could have envy-inducing CVs and skillsets, but consumer design preferences are changing all the time. If you want to try something new with your brand and simply don’t have the expertise in-house, it makes sense to find an agency with talent in that field.

On time, every time An agency just doesn’t have the same room for manoeuvre as an in-house team – it needs to deliver to a high standard and bang on time, or you won’t be calling them again. It’s a good way of making sure your project is always someone’s priority, rather than letting it get lost in a sea of day-to-day tasks and deadlines.

The Question Of Cost

It’s hard to say which one will cost you more long term – you’ll need to do the sums. Most companies set up an in-house team to keep the cost of design work down, but then find they’re paying designers to twiddle their thumbs in between projects. Opt for a price-per-project approach with an agency and you have greater control over your budget and can flex things up or down depending on how well your business is doing.

Another factor is how much work you need doing and how often. If you need a substantial amount of branded material producing, it may be the in-house route is for you. Just remember to factor in the true cost of hiring a member of staff, though – the time it takes to train that person and check their work can sometimes add up. Alternatively, you can hire an agency on a retainer basis. A set, usually monthly, payment will get you access to a fixed amount of agency time every month, which may or may not be enough for your business.

The Answer

More often than not, the answer lies in a mix of both – internal staff to answer the daily design needs, and agencies for the bigger projects, like a company rebrand or that first foray into something new on the digital scene. The key is to make it a collaborative process – both teams have something important to bring to the party, so respect should be a mutual thing. Get everyone onboard from the start and, chances are, your designs will shine, whoever’s working on them.

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