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How to Hire a Creative Professional

Hiring a good creative professional is tough and confusing. Creative professional loosely means anyone whom you hire to solve problems and develop customized solutions — not creative in the art sense, but creative in the thinking sense. As creative professionals we take in the business problems you want us to solve, we think about it and come up with the best possible solution for your given problem. The trouble is, how do you hire someone who is smart and experienced enough to tackle your problem and get it solved on time and on budget.

You have a couple options, We'll break them down below. Each has their own benefits and hassles.

Outsource to India/Mexico/Wherever

This is going to be your overall cheapest route. You honestly can find some good talent, who know how to code well and get a task done. However, you're going to have to manage it closely, and you'll have a good amount of communication trouble. For a while, cheap overseas talent seems like the answer/revolution in the industry, but now even big companies are realizing that if quality matters it needs to happen with qualified, local professionals who speak you native language. MicroSoft and other large companies have suffered from enough production delays that they've mostly pulled out from outsourcing completely. Outsourcing comes in all shapes and sizes, you can outsource to an independent freelancer or hire an outsourced agency. The trouble is most discount agencies here in the states sell you on a service locally, then outsource the production to lower their bottom line and pocket the difference. Make sure to check with your agency exactly who, how and where the production is completed. Outsourcing is best handled with small, isolated tasks with a high-level of management oversight from you or your company. We've seen web application startups go bankrupt waiting for an outsourced project to be delivered correctly.


  1. Cheapest option
  2. Good for small, production-based tasks


  1. Unreliable service
  2. Often leads to production/deployment delays
  3. Hard to communicate with
  4. Deliverables are often subpar and of low quality

Hire an Employee for Creative Work

Long term, it's pretty safe that with a good hire you will get the most bang for your buck by hiring directly. Of course hiring makes things real complicated real quick for a small business, you'll need to worry about benefits, days off, a place for them to work, payroll, taxes, etc. Plus once you hire, you are locked into that one person's creative process and skills. On the other side, for a relatively low rate per hour, you get about 2000 hours a year of work from your hire. In a large urban area, a print design is 45-80K/year, a web designer is 55-90K/year, and a web developer is 65-110K/year. It's significantly less is smaller cities. Aquent has a survey of salaries each year, or run some searches at to see the actual average cost.


  1. Highest # of productive hours for your money
  2. You have direct management oversight
  3. 100% dedicated to your project


  1. They are your employee, so you have to deal with the office space, payroll, benefits, etc
  2. They require consistent direction and a management of tasks
  3. Limited expertise/skill set
  4. Limited creative process/problem solving

Hire a Creative Professional Freelancer

Hiring a freelancer is a good way to get a specialized expert onto your team. You can find a good freelancer who is professional, knowledgeable, and local to your business. Most have a wide range of experience both in Enterprise Solutions and agency backgrounds and they typically come in one of two types, an expert is a specific niche in the creative/tech industry or a jack of all trades. For a role with analysis, strategy and planning, you're better off hiring an expert. For a start-up a jack of all trades is a good option option as long as you can handle the strategizing. Since freelancers are often specialized, you often need more than one to complete your project. A well-planned web project needs at least 4-5 different skill sets, and each freelancer will bring their own billing, contracts and other hassles. At the end of the day, you need to create the vision, develop a production plan and assign tasks to the specific freelancers on your team. Typical freelancing rates scale with experience — expect about $30 to $100 an hour. Essentially, you can get top-level talent, on-demand if you're willing to handle the management hassles of leading an independent, distributed team.


  1. Expert Level Talent on demand
  2. Lower cost than hiring an Agency
  3. Less commitment than hiring an employee
  4. Specialists are good for consulting/analysis and planning


  1. Limited Skill Set to their one area of expertise
  2. Big Jobs require Client (You) to manage multiple people
  3. Beware Jack-of-all-trades freelancers for a complex project. Hire multiple specialists instead.

Hire a Creative Communications Agency

If you can afford it, hiring an agency is a great option. Like working with freelancers, you'll get expert-level talent who can consult you on your project and build the best solution for your business. A good agency shouldn't focus on just the production, they should also help guide you to the best creative solution for your business. Working with an agency should also be easy — you should at least have two key contacts within the company, an Account Manager who handles the relationship between the two companies and a project manager who guides your project and delivers it on time and on budget. Your project manager is the keystone of your project and should be communicative, intelligent, interested in your business and feel like a partner in your business. The downside is the cost. For top-shelf agencies expect to pay $250-$400/hour, but most agencies are around $150-250/hour depending on the skill level & experience of their team. Also, a lot of agencies handle the project management and just outsource the work to experienced 1099 freelancers. It's such a common practice that a lot of freelancers get 100% of this business by subcontracting behind the scenes for multiple agencies. Make sure to check with your agency regarding who specifically is working on your project.


  1. Dedicated project manager
  2. One-stop shopping. Can typically handle all your needs.
  3. Feels like partners in your business


  1. Most expensive option
  2. Often outsources your project to freelancers anyway

Work with GrayBox

GrayBox takes the best aspects from the freelancer and agency options and mixes them together. You have a dedicated project manager, a team full of experts and a lower cost than a traditional communications agency. We truly think it's the best of both worlds, and out clients tend to like the savings and level of customer service we can offer as a result of our mixed business model. Contact us and get started.

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