Having a trusted agency that can help your business with projects is a valuable asset. When you need to tackle deliverables that go beyond your in-house team’s abilities, or are simply too large for one team to handle, an experienced agency partner can step in and help.
Finding just the right agency can be tricky, though. You need to strike the right balance between expertise and cost and find people who jibe well with you and your team.
Luckily, you can easily research, talk to, and hire agencies through Upwork. Gone are the days of having to look for agencies in big cities—now, you can work with highly skilled agency teams around the world.
In this guide, we’ll go over the key steps involved in choosing the right agency for your company and show you how easy it is to find high-quality agencies on Upwork.
Types of agencies
Many companies will need to engage the services of an agency at some point—and they often turn to one of these three types:
- Creative agencies that can assist with marketing projects, writing, design work, and branding initiatives
- Staffing agencies that provide support for recruiting and headhunting
- Temp agencies that can provide shorter-term staff for a variety of roles, from health care to office administration
Within the creative world, you can find full-service agencies that provide a complete end-to-end solution or agencies that specialize in one specific thing.
If you aren’t quite sure what your creative project needs are, you’ll probably find a full-service agency helpful. They’ll be able to offer an array of skill sets like:
- Web design
- Social media marketing strategy
- Content creation
- Public relations
- Video production
- General marketing
If you’re pretty clear on what you need—such as a new website landing page or a social media plan—then you may be better suited by working with a specialized agency. These include:
- Brand strategy agencies that help companies figure out their brand’s tone of voice and messaging, as well as other key elements that can aid in building brand awareness
- Digital marketing agencies that offer an array of services for improving a company’s online presence through various channels like blogs, social media, YouTube, and email
- Advertising agencies that create and manage ad campaigns for businesses. They’ll typically be able to help you develop an advertising strategy, create ad media, and track the success of each campaign
- Email marketing agencies that design, strategize, launch, manage, and monitor email marketing campaigns
- Web design agencies that build attractive and well-optimized websites for clients in a wide array of industries. Some web design agencies also offer ongoing maintenance services and can take care of hosting and updating your website.
- App design agencies that can help you turn your game, store, or digital product idea into a full-featured app for iOS and Android devices
- UX/UI design agencies that focus on making sure websites and apps have well-designed, accessible user interfaces and user experiences
- SEO agencies that optimize your business’ website and online content in order to drive more traffic—and ideally, customers—through search engines
- PPC agencies that strategize, plan, and manage digital ad campaigns on platforms that use pay-per-click advertising—think Google Ads or Facebook Ads
- Copywriting and content marketing agencies that help your company get its message across through well-crafted landing pages, taglines, mission statements, articles, and more
Staffing and temp agencies
As with creative agencies, different types of staffing and temp agencies also exist.
Some of these agencies will hire or fill a wide variety of roles. Others focus on specific industries.
For example, if you need to hire a receptionist, you may be able to get help from a staffing or temp agency that helps businesses in multiple industries. But if you need a nurse practitioner, you’ll probably need to work with an agency that specializes in health care staffing.
You can also find agencies that focus primarily on headhunting and will help to fill high-level executive positions within a company.
What to look for in an agency
Regardless of the type of agency you need to work with, finding just the right fit can take time and research. The investment you put in upfront is worth it, though, as you’ll ideally find an agency partner that helps your business operate more smoothly and reach higher levels of success.
First, look for an agency that has compatible values and a mission that aligns with your own. If your company is all about helping others live more sustainably, for instance, it may be helpful—but certainly not required—to find an agency that works with similar companies or demonstrates related values in their own work.
Next, look for an agency that has a history of documented expertise and proven success. If you connect with an agency on Upwork, this is easy—you can see details about the agency and reviews from past clients right on the agency’s profile page. If you’re selecting an agency on Upwork, look for:
- Client testimonials on the agency website or other platforms like Reddit
- References from trusted colleagues in your industry
- Case studies that illustrate project outcomes
If you’re trying to hire a creative agency, you’ll also want to see their portfolio. Getting a chance to look at, read, or even interact with the agency’s previous work can help you visualize how their deliverables might work for your company.
Other important factors to consider when selecting an agency partner include:
- Communication style: Look for an agency that prides itself on maintaining open communication with its clients, either through meetings or updates in a shared project management system like Asana. Make sure you feel like you sync well with the agency’s representatives, too—you’ll be working closely with them for the next few weeks or months!
- Budget: Everyone’s project is different, so you probably won’t get a firm price from an agency until you’re in discussions to work together. However, getting a general feel for an agency’s prices—such as by asking how much similar projects cost in the past or checking out the rates listed on their Upwork profile—can help you assess whether or not an agency’s services are in your budget.
- Industry knowledge: Make sure the agency you’re interested in has a solid understanding of your industry and target audience. Even if they’ve never worked with someone in your industry before, they should be taking the initiative to learn about your market and be ready to make realistic suggestions for projects and goals.
Above all else, make sure that you feel you can trust the agencies you’re considering working with.
Nicolas Amarelle, CEO of CodigoDelSur, a web and mobile development agency on Upwork, says that trust is paramount for all parties.
“When you’re hiring an agency—especially a remote agency—the key thing is trust. You have to find someone you trust will be up to the challenge,” he explains. “My advice is to try to find someone that makes you feel, through conversation: ‘These guys are the ones I trust.’”
How to choose an agency
It’s easy to find agencies on Upwork. Typically, you’ll start by creating a job post indicating that you’re in need of help and would like agencies to submit proposals.
Before writing your first post, though, you’ll want to do a little prep work. Agencies, like all freelance businesses, appreciate job posts with lots of good context and detail. This helps them determine if they’re a good fit for the project—and increases the likelihood of your company finding a good match quickly.
Writing an agency job post on Upwork
You can write a strong job post that attracts qualified agencies in just a few steps.
1. Decide on your goals and KPIs
First, you’ll want to sit down and think about your project goals and the metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs) you’ll use to measure progress. Ask yourself:
- What’s the problem you’re trying to solve?
- What’s the ideal outcome?
- What milestones will you need to hit along the way, and when?
- How much competition do you face?
- What resources do you have available to you?
- What kind of project efforts have you made so far?
- Do you need an agency that can handle all of the work, or one that will supplement an in-house team?
- What limitations are you struggling with right now?
- What kind of skills do you need access to?
- What’s the scope of your project—how involved is it?
2. Make sure your project is a good fit for agencies
Agencies on Upwork often provide ongoing support to clients of all sizes—from big Fortune 500 brands to small businesses.
It all comes down to whether or not your project is well-suited for agency work.
When your needs are diverse and varied, a full-service agency will be able to help you figure out the best order in which to tackle your project—and get the work underway. This is true for creative projects as well as when you need to fill multiple roles that require diverse skill sets.
An agency may still be a good choice when you need access to one specific skill (such as web designers or health care workers) but you have a large project scope.
However, if you realize your project needs are fairly slim or recur on a regular basis—such as finding someone to write a weekly blog post or hiring just a few new workers—then you may be best served by an individual freelancer whom you can work with directly.
3. Figure out your budget
It’s OK if your budget has some flex in it, but you should have a general idea of your spending cap before posting a job. By including budget information in your post, you can more accurately target agencies that operate at a similar price point.
4. Start drafting your job post
Aleksandr Zolotarevskiy, President of Beluga Labs, a design and development agency on Upwork, says the right agencies are more likely to apply to your job if they have a clear sense of what your problem or need is.
“The best advice I can give to clients is to write a project description with as much detail as you can, whether it’s a technical requirement list or general features you require,” he suggests.
Make sure your initial post draft includes your:
- Project needs and requirements
- Expected turnaround time
- Estimated budget
There are a few different ways to incorporate AI into your recruiting process, too, and writing job posts is one option! Generative AI tools like ChatGPT may be able to help you come up with a good job description or an expanded set of needs and responsibilities.
Once you feel satisfied with your job post, you can publish it to Talent Marketplace™ and begin receiving proposals from agencies and freelancers. You can also reach out to agencies directly.
Connecting with agencies on Upwork
“Don’t expect to write a quick RFP and get the perfect applicant. It’s important to get on the phone and discuss things.”
—Aleksandr Zolotarevskiy, President, Beluga Labs
If you’re confident in your project scope and details, you’re likely to receive some great proposals from multiple agencies that are a good fit.
Sometimes, though, you really just need to talk to an expert to even figure out where to start. If that’s the case, you can still post a job on Upwork—but it’ll be extra helpful if you search for and invite agencies to submit a proposal or set up a consultation.
You can explain in your invitation that you need an expert to help you figure out exactly what to do in order to solve a specific problem or reach a goal. From there, agencies will be able to decide if they’d like to move forward with an initial chat.
You can find agencies to reach out to by searching for them using a variety of criteria like:
- Top Rated status
- Amount earned to date
- Hours billed to date
- Job success score
Simply select on the “Agencies” or “Freelancers & Agencies” option in your Upwork talent search filters to narrow your results to display agencies that meet the other criteria you’ve selected.
Regardless of whether you invite an agency or they submit a proposal, you’ll want to set up time to talk with the agency before starting a contract.
Amarelle says it’s up to clients to do their due diligence when searching for the right agency.
“Check references and previous projects—that’s my best advice to clients. There’s no better reference than a previous customer,” he adds.
Zolotarevskiy agrees that there always has to be a discussion between clients and agencies in order to find the right fit.
“Don’t expect to write a brief RFP and get the perfect applicant without any conversation. It’s important to get on the phone and discuss things,” he says.
Be prepared to ask questions during your discovery chat with an agency. You’ll be talking to skilled pros who are used to meeting with new clients and answering initial questions! This conversation gives them a chance to show you how they understand your problem—and how they can tackle it.
Find the right agency on Upwork
Choosing the right agency for your next project is an important decision that can have long-lasting impacts on your success—but it doesn’t have to be a difficult or frustrating process. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can find an agency that aligns with your values, has a proven track record of success, and is ready to help you achieve your business goals.
And when it comes to finding that agency, Upwork makes the process easy and efficient. With a global pool of highly skilled agency teams, you can be confident that you'll find the right fit for your project. Sign up for Upwork today and create your first job post to start working with talented agencies from around the world.
Disclosure: Upwork is an OpenAI partner, giving OpenAI customers and other businesses direct access to trusted expert independent professionals experienced in working with OpenAI technologies.
Upwork does not control, operate, or sponsor the other tools or services discussed in this article, which are only provided as potential options. Each reader and company should take the time to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situation.
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