Transform Agency Operations for Project-Based Work
Learn how you can update your agency’s operations and back office to thrive in the future of work.
Clients are increasingly shifting their relationships with marketing and creative agencies from Agency of Record (AOR) and retainer models to a more flexible and agile relationship. These new relationships are driven project-by-project, which has fundamental implications for agency operations. Agencies are shifting to project-based models for their resources and building out an on-demand workforce.
Project-Based Work Model
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Over the past decade, businesses have increasingly embraced agile and scrum methodologies. Work is becoming more project-based than role-based. Companies require strategic and operational agility to thrive and compete. As a result, how they partner with agencies is also changing. Increasingly, companies are turning to agencies on a project-by-project basis, finding the right partner for each project.
For clients, project-based agency partnerships provide flexibility and agility. Clients can scale up or down agency partnerships at any time to reflect current business needs. Plus, the project-based model can be more cost-effective, as there tends to be less overhead than with a standard retainer model.
For agencies, project-based work requires a new resourcing model and adaptation of operations. Resourcing must be flexible, drawing from an internal core team and a scalable external talent pool. Operations must support dynamic resource management with processes that enable rapid onboarding, compliance management, and various payment models.
Flexible, On-Demand Workforce
Project-based work requires a new approach to resourcing — a distributed agency model. In this approach, the emphasis is on a scalable, flexible external talent pool where agencies can tap the right expertise on-demand. It’s a flexible rather than rigid staffing model. Agencies build teams on-demand to meet the clients’ needs for each project — combining internal resources with external talent.
Operations for Project-Based Work
As agencies shift to project-based work, this strains their back-office operations. Traditionally, agencies have worked with freelancers, consultants, and independent contractors to supplement their client teams when needed. However, shifting to project-based work takes these engagements to a different scale. It’s no longer possible to manage these engagements one-off through email, spreadsheets, or patched together systems. As you ramp your on-demand workforce, not only does this become time-consuming, the potential for compliance issues and errors in invoices and payments increases significantly.
So how can you streamline your agency operations?
Build and Manage Your External Talent Roster
As an extension of your workforce, you must have external talent with the right expertise and experience, plus the ability to collaborate effectively. One of the best ways to expand your existing external talent pool is through referrals from both your internal and external workforce, as well as your network. Just as with hiring a full-time employee, assess and evaluate each new candidate, including checking referrals.
To meet your client’s needs, you must have a system that can support easy, automated onboarding of external talent. With a standard onboarding workflow, you can onboard new freelancers and contractors in a matter of minutes. Any onboarding workflow should include all the essentials – contact details, contracts, work orders, NDAs, W-9s/W-8s, and payment details.
Throughout the project, provide feedback to your freelancers. Feedback not only helps ensure a successful project but helps build a long-term relationship with the freelancer. At the end of each project, evaluate your external talent and record what types of future projects the freelancer / contractor is best suited for.
Manage Compliance for your Bench
Misclassifying freelancers, consultants, and independent contractors leaves agencies open to liabilities and penalties. A misclassification of a worker as a contractor violates tax and employment laws. Many behavioral, financial, and relationship control factors determine whether you are hiring a W-2 employee or 1099 independent contractor.
To easily manage external talent at scale, you need a system that can support automating and streamlining background checks and contractor / vendor information verification. You also need built-in tools to protect you from freelancer / contractor classification issues.
Manage Projects for your Roster
An essential success factor for any project is defining clear scopes of work. Every work order should clearly define the deliverables, timelines, criteria for evaluating work (expectation), and rates / cost estimates.
Your system for managing external talent must include templates for quickly setting up work orders, including a process for approval and recording freelancer / contractor agreement. You’ll also want to easily organize, communicate and track details of all projects.
Make Global Payments to your Bench
Today you can tap into the expertise of talent anywhere in the world. While this expands your potential talent pool, this can make payments more complicated for agencies. You need a system that can easily and cost-effectively support global payments for freelancers, independent contractors, and vendors.
Another headache for many agencies as they shift to project-based work is managing approval and payment of invoices for freelancers and contractors. Given the work’s fluid nature, the payment models and timing can vary greatly from one freelance project to the next. And when you have many different invoices coming in at once, you can easily miss errors in invoices. You need a system that supports invoice matching — automatically comparing invoices against work orders to flag any discrepancies (such as overbilling). And with an invoice approval workflow, you can streamline invoice reviews and pay invoices within minutes.
Transform Your Operations with Liquid
Liquid provides our agency users with a complete contractor management system — onboarding, contracts, compliance, and global payments all-in-one. Liquid makes it easy and efficient to manage your external talent without the hassle so that you can focus on your clients.
Our users report that Liquid has saved them thousands of dollars a month in overhead costs. And on average, they deployed seven different systems to manage their external talent. Plus, our users saved an average of $12,000 each year from reduced errors in invoices and payments. Ready to transform your agency operations?
Ready to simplify your agency’s operations? Request a demo of Liquid today.
Updated: March 30, 2021
Quick note: This is not to be taken as tax advice or legal advice or payroll advice. Since tax rules and laws change over time and can vary by location and industry, consult a CPA / tax advisor and/or attorney for specific guidance.