How To Work With An Agency

The moment I stumbled onto the internet in the late nineties it wasn't long before I fell in love with creating and designing websites. What initially began as a hobby creating sites for myself soon turned into an ever evolving business over the course of the past 15 years.

A lot has changed since those humble beginnings, more importantly, a lot has been learned.

I forget there is a lot of people out there who have yet to take the leap into the digital pond (so to speak). Everyday thousands of entrepreneurs create a business hoping it becomes something big. Now more then ever they look to digital marketing companies like Sixo Media to help promote their brand and reach a network of people previously unattainable before the web thanks to a multitude of digital options.

It's an unknown frontier for some while others figure they have a solid grasp on how everything works. Unless you've been studying digital marketing or web design for an extended period of time there's a good chance you'll be in the dark when trying to communicate with whatever agency you work with.

We're here to help provide you with some things you should realistically expect that next time you make a phone call or schedule a consultation with a digital marketing or design agency.

Be Prepared and Organized.

I can't count how many times I've been asked how much it costs for a website. Clients continually call looking for a set rate on their project without providing any details on what's involved. Don't expect to be given an exact rate without first discussing the finer details or scheduling a consultation.

An example of this would be hiring someone to re-design your home. Would an interior designer quote you a price on the phone without seeing the house? Absolutely not. Chances are after a consultation and walkthrough of your home the designer will provide you an estimate of what the associated costs will be letting you know that along the may run into other things that need fixing that will cost extra.

Web design isn't a lot different. Agencies provide an accurate estimate of what it would cost as well as an expected time frame to complete the project (assuming all materials have been delivered, more on this later) but along the way things want to be added/removed and changed which results in hours worked past the initial consult. If you wanted to add your bathroom to the remodel of your home you would expect to pay for it, if you added more content/pages to your website you should expect to pay for that too.

The initial estimate will provide you with what you originally discussed with your designer so be diligent in knowing everything you want. It's important to take your time in the initial planning of this step. Seek out competitors and like minded websites and take notes of what you like (think layout, colours, feature set etc.). All this information is going to make it easier on the agency and more importantly prevent any mis-communication or changes to the initial estimate.

We are Professionals, not Labourers.

You wouldn't tell your doctor how to fix your health problems so unless you've been educated in HTML5/CSS3, PHP etc you shouldn't expect to tell your web designer how to do their job. For some reason this just isn't the case in the web design industry, to many times people figure by surfing the web it makes them an expert.

Part of the job is the willingness to listen to client ideas, agencies often provide you with some constructive criticism and cold hard facts about the current trends in the industry. While that animated gif/image of that cat may make you laugh it doesn't belong on your website. A lot of business owners don't understand the web design industry and that perception can often result in the feeling that it's easy to do making it look like we're working for them and not with them.

If an agency has trouble with a client more often then not they will abandon the project and keep the downpayment as part of the work completed. Clients are then left with half completed work and once again forced to go through the whole process of hiring an agency.

Every agency is expected to be professional and act accordingly, we expect our clients to do the same.

Be Organized, Part Two.

You've accepted the estimate and are excited to work with your agency. It's the beginning of what should be a smooth and fluent transaction. Unfortunately it often results in delays and hold ups with numerous consultations and meetings throughout the design process.

As an agency, another cliche would be hearing "I want our website done as fast as possible". The majority of clients out there have yet to realize how much work is involved on their part to produce the content that goes on their website. Some agencies will have copywriters at their disposal and offer to write company content but they still fully expect some information on the company and it's business to complete those tasks.

Being organized on both sides is important and being prepared with all the materials in order is an agencies dream come true. You want your website done as quickly as possible? Have all your ducks in a row and content organized into key pages/notes to help smooth out the process. This includes contact information, pictures, products, etc. Again use competitors to see what they're doing and make it better.

Or simply hire the agency for an additional cost to complete all this for you.

Reasonable Expectations on Completion

Going back to the interior design example above, it seems few and far between that most jobs go smoothly from start to finish.

In a perfect world the job would be as simple as this:

  • Client contacts agency and asks them to construct a website.
  • Agency sends estimate and client accepts.
  • Agency makes and completes website.
  • Client pays agency.
  • Client and agency celebrate a job well done.

In reality it's more like the following:

  • Client seeks out agency after consulting and comparing prices. Client mulls multiple estimates.
  • Decides to hire agency but has no content to produce or materials for agency to get started. Back and forth begins until materials are provided.
  • Design phase begins. Agency creates product mock, client rejects. Agency creates another product mock, client rejects. Consultation occurs between client and agency discussing what was liked and disliked. Agency creates final mock (before additional charge) and adjusts to receive sign off on final design.
  • Completion and conversion into website ends and payment is due. Late payments, negotiations, extra charges, hosting fees, etc. results in multiple conversations between client and agency about what they're paying for. Payment is made and website is live.
  • Job is complete but two weeks later client requests changes. Agency refuses to do it for free unless it's a bug issue. Back and forth communication begins.

Not all projects are like this but almost all will involve a lot of back and forth between the client and agency. It quite simply will never be, "make me a website and I'll pay you when it's done".

Don't expect to have a website completed in a few days (depending on the complexity of course). Every client should want the job to be done right and done perfectly. While the design may be completed every agency still needs to do numerous browser/mobile testing to ensure the website looks beautiful across multiple devices and operating systems.

Be patient, but don't be to patient. Both the agency and client should work together to set reasonable deadlines with milestones along the way.

You Get What Your Pay For.

When it comes to hiring an agency the old adage is true, you get what you pay for.

One of the webs biggest questions it seems is how much does it cost for web design. Truthfully, there is no real answer and it can range from a used washing machine (a couple hundred bucks) to a brand new Porsche (5 to 6 figure websites).

For some it's tough to fathom paying 2000 or more for a website and while you can find opportunity out there to hire someone for less you need to remember who, or who you want to, deal with.

With local (or native speaking) agencies you won't have any communication barriers, you'll be able to meet face to face and almost certainly be able to communicate with companies they have worked with in the past.

Freelancers (and foreign freelancers) will typically be offering services at a significant discount but remember, you get what you pay for. A $300 dollar website might sound nice but it can also be a sign of quality of work (think communication, product, and completion). I've actually dealt with clients who paid full price for a website before I told them it was an $80 template and one currently being used on thousands of other websites around the world.

Working with a local agency is almost always going to be more expensive and the more established they are the higher the cost. If you have a budget set aside upwards of $2000 we urge you to work with a local agency or at least see what your options are. Peace of mind and being able to communicate face to face can make the job less stressful in the long run.

Don't nickel and dime your website, today more then ever it's the lifeblood and biggest (and most affordable) marketing tool you have at your disposal. Working with the right company to create your site, implement SEO strategies, and provide content marketing opportunities can help transform your business.

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