Your Nephew (or Neighbour or Buddy) vs. An Agency: When It's Time to Go Pro


It’s a question most of us who do creative and development work know well. Why should I pay you thousands of dollars when my nephew can do it for a couple hundred bucks? We don’t hear it every day, but enough to have spent some time considering a few “reasons why”. The question may be about anything from brochures to social media campaigns to websites… we focus on websites here, but a lot of the points can easily apply to the range of services we and other agencies offer.

Before we get into the “why choose us over your nephew” business, we want to be clear about a few things.

a) Freelancers.

There are awesome ones out there. They’re experts at what they do. They may have even worked in an agency setting before, and decided to do their own thing. They understand business, and they understand people. They also charge more than $200/project.

b) Getting started.

We know it’s hard. Our business—our industry—doesn’t exist without the creative ideas and aspirations of the young people coming in. We often hire them ourselves. We bring in a minimum of six co-op students each year to work closely with our team and apply their skills to project work, with the support of a knowledgeable and experienced team around them to help when they need it.

c) Unilateral vs. specialized thinking.

Being an expert in a particular area (whether it’s design, HR, or taking out the trash) is something we value… but not at the expense of understanding other pieces to the puzzle. When we talk about design experts, for example, we talk about people who have specialized in design in their education and in their work. But a website project doesn’t work without an audience, a client need, and a developer… a designer must understand them all. A design expert doesn’t know design alone, they just know it best.

Your “nephew” may not actually be your nephew. Or male. He/she may be your son/daughter, your squash partner, your barista, or your father’s brother’s nephew’s cousin’s former roommate. Whoever they are, we’re sure they’re great people… but remember that your website is one of the most important tools you have to connect with the people who keep your business alive—your clients, your supporters, your partners.


Here are the top five reasons you might consider giving that job to an agency, instead:

  1. Client-Centred Strategy:
    An agency understands goals and audiences, and can help you reach them both. It’s important to walk the walk, and that takes some strategic thinking backed by years of professional, proven experience.
  2. A Deliberate Approach:
    An agency team will know what they don’t know, and identify where challenges can arise before they derail your project. They ask good questions and get your input where needed to make your project a success.
  3. Depth and Breadth:
    Agencies hire the right people for the right jobs, with deep experience across strategy, design, and development, and ask those people to bring the best of each world to their collective work efforts. They also have people who do the marketing, sales, and other administrative work so that the people working on your project can focus on just that.
  4. Consistent Support:
    When someone on a team gets sick or decides to move on there are others to pick up the ball. If you need support after your site is live, an agency can continue to make helping you a priority. If your site goes down in the middle of the day, you need timely maintenance support, or you want a quick change, an agency has someone whose job it is to do that for you.
  5. Ownership and Accountability:
    Agencies don’t make money if their projects sit idle, and they don’t keep clients if they can’t hit a deadline. They’re used to managing needs and energy across multiple projects, guiding clients through what they need to know (and provide) to make a project a success, and offering clear steps toward getting things done.

Those are the top reasons, but not the only ones. From here, we start to get into things like web standards and accessibility considerations. They are also important, but can tie back to #3.

Ultimately, the decision comes down to you. And we have a question of our own. While a “nephew” may only cost a couple hundred dollars (or a few free dinners, or a great bottle of wine, or tickets to a [sport] game), can you afford not to have an experienced, specialized team in charge of one of your most valuable marketing assets?  

Want to talk to some professionals about your digital marketing?

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Rachel Berdan nearly hired her nephew to write this... but thought better of it after speaking with a few colleagues.