On choosing the right branding agency for your small business


If you’ve never worked with a design agency before, the prospect of choosing one can be so daunting. With many agencies offering the-same-but-different packages, others blinding you with jargon and some refusing to even speak to you until you’ve handed over a chunk of cash, it can be a minefield.

Of the businesses we work with, I’d say that around half are start ups, and the other half are businesses looking to rebrand. Of those, the overwhelming majority have never worked with a branding agency before. Many have DIY’d their visual style, and though some might have employed a friend or freelancer, it’s not the same as bringing in the professionals - the process and level of investment are entirely different. So how do you navigate the choppy waters of finding the right team to work with? I always recommend that clients take the time to think really, really carefully about who they’re hiring, even if that takes them away from us and toward someone different. Here’s what I think you should consider:

Do you feel comfortable with them?

Whoever you work with will be in your life for a while - it’s absolutely essential that you like them on a human level. And should you hit problems along the way - if they present something to you that you don’t like, for example - you should feel able to be honest with them, and confident that they’ll take your concerns seriously.

Do you feel a connection with their portfolio?

The best branding agencies have a clear style. You don’t need to love absolutely everything in their portfolio, but you should definitely feel a connection to it, and be excited by the work you see.

Are they tried and tested?

How long have they been around? How many projects do they have under their belt? Can you speak to previous clients of theirs to get an honest review of what they’re like to work with? Of course, new agencies frequently pop up who have a limited portfolio and client list, but even they should be able to prove their worth to you before you commit.

How well have they communicated with you so far?

To me, this is really important. How quickly you receive a response, how excited they sound to work with you and the manner in which they respond to you is so indicative of the level of service you should expect from any potential working relationship.

How does their offering fit with your expectation and budget?

It’s crucial to be clear about exactly what they’ll be delivering to you, and for what investment. Sadly, affordability is an important factor (isn’t it boring?), but shouldn’t necessarily be the deciding one. If you’ve come across an agency whose work you love but are more expensive than your budget allows for, I’d strongly recommend taking a moment to think about priorities before leaping to a cheaper alternative. No matter how much you invest, you’ll still be paying someone something, and you want to make sure your money is going in the right direction. Could you hold off on starting the process while you save up to work with your dream team? Do they offer payment plans to ease the impact on your cash flow?

What does your gut tell you?

I’m a firm believer in the power of a gut reaction. Heart over head every single time.

What about you? Have you hired an agency before? How did you make your decision?