If you were to ask me to identify one of the most important lessons I’ve learned during my career, it is this: I can’t do everything well. Business leaders face this realization when creating a team to carry out the goals of the organization. Great leaders identify team members’ strengths and assign tasks based on those skills to create the most successful business model. But what about small tour businesses? How can you do it all when your staff size and budget are limited?
You can hire an independent agency to offer your business the skills you are looking for without the overhead of having them work in-house — think marketing, social media management, blog copywriting, photography and web design; these are just a few areas to consider outsourcing.
Start small when beginning new contractor relationships. Consider beginning with a less critical project or breaking large projects into smaller, individual tasks to determine how well you work together. Maybe you need to produce a new tour brochure or newsletter — you could outsource just the design, just the copy or the entire project.
Relationships with independent agencies need the right level of engagement and management to achieve the highest quality of work. As the hiring business, it is up to you to ensure a productive and mutually beneficial relationship with outside contractors. Selecting a partner begins with identifying the right skills for the project. Look at the agency’s portfolio to see that it reflects the level of ability and business practices you are looking for. A great place to start is to ask colleagues for recommendations or by requesting testimonials from the contractor’s current clients.
“We understand the hesitancy that small businesses might have when deciding to partner with an outside source, but the benefits are extremely worth the time and research to find the best fit,” said Courtney Birchmeier, chief content creator at Shoreline Creative, a marketing studio that delivers transformative print and digital resources to niche businesses and brands. “When selecting an independent agency, don’t be afraid to ask questions and ask to see their portfolio. By having an open dialogue, you’ll feel much more comfortable, and the agency will get a true sense of your needs and the needs of your business. Building that relationship is key to success.”
Once you have selected an agency to partner with, follow these tips to get the most out of your relationship.
Set clear expectations
Create a written agreement detailing the scope and schedule of the outlined project. Contractors need to know the project’s ultimate goal. It is helpful to recognize previous work of the agency and discuss specific areas you liked or want to avoid. Identify project milestones for evaluation and include a plan for revisions. Both you and the independent agent should clearly agree on the deliverables of the project.
Negotiate your rate
Understand the market for the type of work you are requesting. Fees will vary among agencies based on deliverables, timeline and the skills required of the agency. Think about the future needs of your organization. If you have lots of work, an independent partner might be willing to reduce their rate for the reassurance of steady work. Agree on the payment schedule. One popular payment guideline is to pay 20–30% of the project upfront, with the remaining payments awarded based on the completion of milestones.
Keep communications open
The more the hired agency understands your needs, the better they can deliver a good result to you. Most often, independent agencies work with multiple clients at a time, meaning they are not as accessible as in-house workers. It is helpful to determine the preferred method of communication upfront. It is important to be available for questions and freely provide feedback in a timely manner. As the project progresses, communicate updates that affect the contracted work. Making additional requests can quickly result in incurring costs you did not plan on. If more work develops, be prepared to amend or write up a new agreement that clearly addresses the changes from the original project.
Protect your assets
Part of your written agreement should state the completed work belongs to you and your business. Pay attention to basics by including data protection, confidentiality and intellectual property agreements within your written contract. Additionally, you may request independent contractors sign an agreement prohibiting them from soliciting work from direct competitors for a specific period of time.
Partnering with an independent agency helps small businesses achieve big success. Working with an independent agency on specific projects allows your in-house team the ability to concentrate on their strong skill sets.