In or out? The pros and cons of in-house vs. external agencies

In-house branding and design teams are on the rise. They do great work, they win awards, and they’re often cheaper than going to an agency. But despite the benefits, using an in-house team might not always be the best option (and we’re only being a little biased). Here are some of the pros and cons of going in or out.

One huge benefit of having an in-house team is the knowledge and understanding they’ll have of your brand. They’re around it all the time so they’ll know the ins and outs, making it easier and quicker for them to produce work. An external agency on the other hand would need to take the time to get to know your brand before they can start a project.

The idea that talent can only be found inside agencies is quickly becoming a thing of the past. More and more creatives and marketers are moving client-side, being wooed by the prospects of job security, a more relaxed pace, and never having to look at another time sheet again. This means companies can now attract and keep talent in-house and have them work on the brand consistently.

Having an in-house team can also be a lot more convenient. If you have a new idea or a pitch, there’s no need to search for that agency that will be a perfect fit – all you need to do is hand it over to the in-house team. There are also a lot of advantages that are just down to proximity. It’s easier to check in with them for progress updates and the team can also easily collaborate with other departments.

However, there are some drawbacks to always using an in-house design team with one of them being that they can turn out to be a false economy. Levels of work can vary throughout the year for staff, making it costly to keep some employees around when they’re not needed. There’s also a good chance employees will get bored during these downtimes and might start to miss agency life.

While it can be a huge plus having creatives who’ve been at the company for a long time and know the brand inside out, there’s the risk that they’ll be resistant to change. New suggestions might be met with scepticism and the phrase ‘but we’ve always done it this way’. Consistency in branding is not a bad thing but there are times when a fresh approach is needed.

What agencies do best is offer that new perspective, which comes in handy when you have a project where you’re aiming for something different. Your in-house team is heavily involved with the brand on a day-to-day basis so it can be harder for them to take a step back and look at the brand in a new light. Bringing in outsiders can help breathe some new life into the brand whether you’re looking for a complete refresh or a new campaign.

Agencies also come with a huge breadth and depth of expertise.  They’ll likely have a wider range of competencies either within the agency or through a network of people they work with regularly. If you want to try something new with your brand but don’t already have the skills in-house, going with an agency can help you do just that.

While agencies offer all these amazing services, they do come at a price. Cost is probably the main reason why so many companies set up an in-house team. Of course it depends on what brands are after, but generally maintaining a long-term relationship with an agency isn’t going to be cheap. However, this is something a lot of agencies have recognized, so they give clients retainer rates that sometimes work out cheaper than having an in-house team. At Huddle we offer Huddle Credits – prepaid credits at discounted rates – that clients can use against a menu of fixed cost services.

Although we’ve been discussing the pros and cons of using one or the other, the reality is that in-house and external teams often end up working together on projects. When this happens, both teams need to communicate and collaborate, not compete, to get the best results. In-house teams need to be open to new ideas and new ways of working, while agencies should be sensitive towards the in-house team and remember they’ll be the ones working on the brand once the project is over.

So is it better go in-house or out? Well, it really depends on what you’re after. If you have a lot of design work that you need doing on a regular basis, employing in-house staff makes a lot of sense. If you want a new brand identity or something that’s beyond your own competencies, say create an app or try out digital marketing, an agency will help you do just that.