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Marketing Agency Exposed Podcast

Aug 26, 2020


In today’s episode, we’re breaking down the “image” of a giant advertising office with a giant team vs the reality. We hit on the pain points of proving yourself to new clients, managing dynamic work preferences in a changing work landscape, and the deep, long-lasting benefits of a blended team with varied levels of experience. How do you determine which roles require a full-time employee versus an independent contractor? How much access should those contractors have to your clients directly, if any? What are the pros and cons of each? We’re diving into all this and more!


Top 3 Curtain Pulls in this episode: 

  1. When hiring, think about the future and the company you want to be. Being forward-thinking with your hiring strategy is key. 
  2. Regardless of how much work is being done by a contractor, make sure they are part of your team and sold on your way of doing things and your company culture. 
  3. Work smarter. Having a blended team of full-time employees, freelancers, and contracts with other agencies or individuals with awesome skillsets should be the goal.


For more tips, discussion, and behind the scenes:


About The Guys: 

Bob Hutchins: Founder of BuzzPlant, a digital agency that he ran from from 2000 -2017. He is also the author of 3 books. More on Bob: 

Brad Ayres: Founder of Anthem Republic, an award-winning ad agency. Brad’s knowledge has led some of the biggest brands in the world. Originally from Detroit, Brad is an OG in the ad agency world and has the wisdom and scars to prove it. Currently that knowledge is being applied to his boutique agency. More on Brad:

Ken Ott: Co-Founder and Chief Growth Rebel of Metacake, an Ecommerce Growth Team for some of the world’s most influential brands with a mission to Grow Brands That Matter. Ken is also an author, speaker, and was nominated for an Emmy for his acting on the Metacake Youtube Channel (not really). More on Ken: 


Show Notes:

[2:38] Bob introduces our topic- contractors, team composition, and how you communicate with the outside world about that. 

[3:21] Ken says that although there is an image of a large office with a ton of employees, in reality “there’s always a blend of staff and that’s usually a good thing.”

  • “How does it better serve the client and yourself to blend the team?”

[4:16] Brad shares his experience with a team of developers in Romania that he has a strong business relationship with. It began 10 years ago and has only grown stronger since then. Technically they would be considered freelancers but the relationship is so strong, that team feels like an extension of his team here in the States. 

[7:18] Bob asks what is the main reason for maintaining that relationship over the years, when certainly there have been opportunities to bring it closer. Is it availability, skillsets, etc?

[7:26] Brad says it used to be cost, but that has definitely gone up over time. “We’ve had to adjust a lot of their fees and stuff for us, right now I wouldn’t say they’re super competitive to the US… but they know so much information, especially clients that we’ve dealt with for years… there’s a value in that.” 

  • He speaks to the positives of waking up and seeing work that has been done overnight- purely because of the time difference. “We haven’t felt the need to hire for any of that internally.” 

[9:25] Bob asks Ken about outsourcing.

[9:28] Ken says that the general rule of thumb for him is that if it’s a core business need, then you really want someone internal, or full time… “especially in niche specialities, which is a lot of what we do.”

  • “When you hire, you hire for the future and you gotta hire looking forward… how do I build a team for the company that I want to be?” 

[11:40] Ken continues: Not only is it important to be forward-thinking in this way for your own business, but it is tremendously helpful to express this to your clients as well. 

  • Oftentimes, agencies find themselves as the outsourced employee, a larger agency hires them to do something for a client, etc. There has been a stigma attached to that- with clients asking “Why can’t x agency get it done themselves? Are they trying to pull the wool over our eyes?” 

[14:05] Brad shares that a recent client expressed worry about this and asked if a project would be done by his agency or if it would be outsourced- they have had bad experiences in the past in this way. 

[15:00] Brad and Ken talk about how it really shouldn’t make a difference who’s doing the work, so long as the client experience is stable and seamless. For example, if they’ve worked with a specific person to establish the projects scope, etc and then are moved to work with a totally different team for execution, the switch can be jolting and not always a seamless experience. 

  • What makes a difference is the integration of those contractors into your team. If they are separate entities completely, how can the client rely on them to be as invested in the project as you are?

[16:51] Ken mentions that the argument could be said for the other side as well, that because contractors are solely responsible for their own business, and compared to an employee that gets paid either way they may invest more in the project and do a better job. 

  • The point is, it comes down to the relationship with your people. 
  • “Do you have a deep relationship with people working for you, with you, on your team?” If they’re integrated, and deeply invested in the relationship, it really doesn’t matter how they get paid. 

[18:31] Brad says that even those employees that don’t work directly with the main team should get an invite to team events and functions. 

[22:13] Bob speaks about companies like Fivver and Upwork being available to help create entire agencies of freelancers. While this may be a quick, somewhat easy and direct way to get employees quickly, attempting to build a lasting company on this strategy is questionable.

[22:19] Ken adds that this is definitely not a winning strategy.

[22:52] Brad says there is a difference between a contractor that is doing a specific, niche part of a project and will never have face-to-face interaction with the client- versus someone who’s a contractor that has face time with the client and needs to be fully bought into your company culture. 

  • If you are hiring a contractor only for a season, but they do have face time with the client, be sure to make it clear to the client what that relationship is so that down the line they don’t feel misled when those same individuals aren’t their primary point of contact. 

[24:46] Ken switches gears to the dynamics of agencies hiring and working closely with other agencies. Do you keep them behind the scenes or bring them into the picture with the client? How do you communicate that relationship? 

[25:46] Brad speaks on how Anthem does this. Typically the partner agency doesn’t lead on strategy. He always makes sure the partner agency comes in with a very defined, strong statement of work and a detailed list of deliverables so the client can see everything very clearly. This helps to prevent scope creep, which tends to be worse as more hands reach into the project. 

  • This can be challenging, because you have to renegotiate a few times and redo things.

[27:47] Ken speaks on Metacake’s experience of being hired as an Ecommerce specialist. Typically MC leads strategy on this front, bringing in smaller sub contractors for more niche parts of the larger project.

[31:27] Bob asks for platforms that have helped with finding contractors. He mentions a private Slack group for Nashville- NashDev.

  • Speaks to his experience hiring an animator through Fivver. “I was really impressed with the quality that they gave us for the cost. It was unbelievable… we wrote this, the creative and the script, but the production was awesome, and there’s no way I could ever compete with that.” 

[33:56] Brad speaks to the level of healthy competition that those platforms create. Quality of work, speed, cost, etc are all wound into the platform algorithm and help to produce high quality candidates with varied skillsets at competitive prices. 

[36:00] Ken talks about how access to these high-quality creatives allow for more risk taking and new opportunities in projects. The cost is cheaper, the track record and portfolio is right there for you, so why not ask them to try out this project and see where it takes us? 

[39:11] Bob speaks on the quality of people available on UpWork specifically, and how the algorithm seems to have worked out the nuances of how to promote and reward competition between qualified freelancers. 

  • The only people that can rate on UpWork are those who have paid someone to do actual work, so there is no room for faking reviews or ratings. 

[41:10] Ken talks about how Metacake uses freelancers from UpWork for smaller animation projects, with the lead designer doing all the art direction and giving feedback. This frees up so much time for other less specialized projects. 

[44:46] Bob: “The value that we bring as agencies to our clients- what we’re really good at- is the strategy, our knowledge, our background. And that always has to guide the freelancers, and that has to kind of govern where we go…”

  • He mentions that the way Agency owners talk about freelancers might be the way that our clients talk about us as agencies, so this is a great opportunity to look in the mirror and do some self-reflecting. 

[47:47] Ken talks about finding the balance of when it’s appropriate to use a freelancers versus when bringing someone in-house may be more beneficial.

[50:50] Brad talks about how important it is to integrate those who will have direct contact with your employees- freelancers who come in for projects often should feel a part of the team and well-integrated when they come in on a project. 

[53:00] Brad continues “What I found is really valuable for me, the best freelancers are the ones where when I bring them in, there’s a passion for the client and there’s a passion for the end result that is hard to find and that is worth more than anything.” 

  • Freelancers who bring in the busy-ness of their other clients or relationships are never fun to work with or great to rely on. 

[55:41] Ken clarifies: “Full time means I have access full time” and it’s important to define those parameters with your internal as well as external team members.