When to Contract Your Creative

Many companies are torn between contracting creative work or developing a team to do it in-house. If you have the capital and resources, developing an in-house team or department can be very advantageous. On the other hand, there are times when contracting just makes more sense. For both small businesses and large companies, deciding between contracting and in-house development depends on three key factors:

TIME: What’s your level of urgency?

Time may be the biggest factor when deciding between contracting or building in house. If you have the time to hire, train and acclimate a team – which generally requires at least a year to begin operating at full capacity  – then in-house is the way to go. Conversely, if you have projects on a tight timeline or you need initiatives completed immediately, contracting a freelancer, firm or agency is undoubtedly the best choice.

For larger companies or corporations where projects tend to take more time to get off the ground (because of more decision makers, departments and personnel involved), working with an outside partner offers an additional benefit: Contractors can help speed up development time by sidestepping the internal mechanisms and bureaucracy that tends to delay projects.

Building an in-house team takes time; contractor recommended for quick project turnaround or large corporations looking to speed development.  

MONEY: How much do you have to spend?

Time is a crucial factor, but money is the one companies care about the most. In the long term (think 10 years down the line), establishing an in-house department or team can be more financially beneficial. That’s assuming services are streamlined to achieve the productivity necessary to pay for the initial investment and annual costs.

In the here and now, contracting your creative is by far a more cost-effective solution. The reason is your company saves on health care, taxes (social security, Medicare, etc.), 401k matching, bonuses, on-site amenities, and more. That adds up to a significant amount of money – especially if you’re talking about a multi-employee team. Unless you are doing a mass amount of creative work or providing it as a profitable service, contracting probably makes more financial sense.

In-house may offer a better long-term (10 years+) investment; contractor recommended for significant short-term cost savings.   

EXPERTISE: How much knowledge do you need?

Companies also may weigh the value of contracting outside creative services if they don’t have the expertise they need in house. In that case, it comes down to recruiting outside professionals either on a contractual or new-hire basis. The benefit of contracting an agency in this scenario is you can get a wide array of expertise – for example, a developer, designer and copywriter – for the cost of a single salary.

If your company is committed to having those resources on hand at all times, and you are willing to invest in bringing in highly skilled experts, then the in-house route is highly recommended. However, that description probably only fits a small minority of lucrative companies. But contracting outside services offers a convenient alternative, giving you access to teams of industry experts as you need them.

In-house preferred if you have the resources and workload; contractor recommended if you don’t, making experts available to your business on a per-project basis.

Think partnering with a creative agency may be for you? Think MONSTERS.