Digital Agency Planning for a Project-Based World

Photo by Simon Abrams on Unsplash

Marketing agencies have an ebb and flow to how they work. Sometimes, you’re up to your ears in deadlines and revisions, while other times, things are slow as molasses. Yet, while agencies must often face the feast-or-famine model of business activity that a project-based world brings, labor costs are typically fixed and agencies are often staffed for peak activity.

Generally, agency management must have a plan in place to survive in two worlds at the same time – they either have so much work that employees are mean mugging the leadership team because they feel burned out or not enough work and the cost of labor becomes a drain with not enough work to go round.

While this may not be a problem for agencies with lucrative retainers, it is a challenge for agency leaders who rely on project-based work.

Benefits of flexible staffing

While the default point of view for many agencies is to adjust employee headcount in response to business opportunities, this can have unintended consequences. As staffing agency, Robert Half, points out, it leads to a “demoralizing, disruptive cycle of hiring and layoffs, followed by more hiring when business improves.”

Recent studies show that freelancers make up 23% of the small agency workforce. Clearly, many agencies recognize the benefit that a flexible staffing strategy can provide and are opting for this to manage their labor costs.

We are also seeing a situation where folks with specialized skills are freelancing to exert more control over their work/life balance while earning higher compensation. The benefit of this paradigm shift is agencies can access a skilled labor pool for a fraction of the cost.

There are multiple advantages to adopting a flexible staffing model, ranging from lower overheads costs to accessing a wider skill base.

  • Save money: Agencies can choose to support core permanent staff and then only expand with freelance staff during periods of increased demand. This reduces spend in basic wages, work benefits and tax payments.
  • Wider skill base: Employing a core group of permanent staff means the agency can focus on its core competencies while only outsourcing skills when clients have a need. Freelance individuals or contract-based staff can supply these competencies when they are demand, without being a drain on resources when not needed.
  • Rapid growth: Labor is typically an agency’s most expensive cost. Flexible staffing helps to manage this expense, leaving the agency lean, agile and prepared for growth. When periods of peak business start leading to serious growth, freelance staff will help manage the demand while strategies to bulk up the core of permanent staff are being explored.
  • Improved work-life balance: With the current pressures of the pandemic, it is important to provide work-life balance for full-time workers, reduce fixed HR costs for your agency, and still support the fluid expertise a future proof marketing agency needs to thrive.

Sources of flexible staff

Flexible staff come from a variety of sources which include:

  • Freelancers: They typically work on a contract basis, and many of them are not even interested in a permanent role. There are many professional freelancers that can provide valuable and dependable expertise during peak business periods. Creative staffing agencies are great resources where some of these can be found, and platforms such as Incluzion and Upwork can also be beneficial. You should keep a rolodex of trustworthy freelancers that you have worked with in the past.
  • Permalancers: These are essentially freelancers who have an almost exclusive relationship with a single agency. They get a constant stream of work from that agency and are well-known, and trusted, by your agency team. Care must be exercised here though, as you may begin to blur the lines between freelancer and permanent contractor. This may have tax and labor law complications.
  • Temporary workers and interns: While temporary workers brought in to aid in non-specialized office tasks during peak periods, interns are a more unique staffing solution. Interns are typically brought in for learning purposes, and while they do not always have the fully developed skills to make them valuable staff members, they can be a cost-effective way to provide non-specialized help.

How can your marketing agency manage a flexible workforce?

Do you have internal processes set-up to manage and grow a flexible workforce? With a flexible workforce, you will typically have staff working at various times and often in various locations. Cloud-based technology enable a distributed workforce to collaborate efficiently while supporting the security of firm and client data assets.

Schedule some time to discuss how to future proof your agency and manage a flexible workforce.

<div class=”LI-profile-badge” data-version=”v1" data-size=”medium” data-locale=”en_US” data-type=”horizontal” data-theme=”light” data-vanity=”jeffmeade”><a class=”LI-simple-link” href=’https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeffmeade?trk=profile-badge'>Jeff Meade</a></div>

Agency Advisor :: I help marketing agencies scale their business.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store