The Subscription Workforce: The Risk-Free Way to Scale an Agency

Updated Jun. 29, 2023 Published Nov. 11, 2020 6 Min. Read

As a small marketing agency trying to scale, you’ll definitely need some creative design work to help take your company to the next level. Let’s consider your options.

The first option that probably comes to mind is to simply hire designers. But with limited resources, small agencies are taking a big risk by hiring designers. What happens when demand fluctuates and there isn’t enough work for the design team? This leaves agencies wasting money that could have been used more efficiently to scale the business. For a small marketing agency without resources to spare, this could be a make-or-break decision.

But agencies have another option: Consider outsourcing a subscription workforce. Under a subscription model, an agency pays a fee to an outside company that provides them with a service. As a subscription-based creative workforce, Design Pickle provides agencies with high-quality designs, without the risks of hiring a designer.

Design Pickle's Subscription Workforce

The concept of a subscription workforce is nothing new. For decades, staffing agencies have been using this model to provide temporary solutions for businesses. The American Staffing Association reports that 16 million temporary and contract employees are hired through staffing agencies each year. It’s also common for businesses to outsource payroll and IT services. These are just a few examples of the popularity and positive impact of subscription-based work. A subscription workforce enables agencies to focus on what they do best and leave the rest in the capable hands of a team of professionals.

A subscription workforce solves a number of challenges for small agencies: direct and substantial cost savings, consistent quality output, and ease of matching costs to sales. Read on and download this white paper to discover how a subscription workforce can help your agency scale, risk-free.

Cost Savings of a Subscription Workforce Model

Direct Cost Savings

Let’s talk numbers. To understand the value of a subscription service over an in-house employee, consider the cost savings for an agency. To pay a freelance designer, agencies spend anywhere from $62,400 to $104,000. For an in-house designer, those numbers are between $58,500 and $109,200. Compare that to the cost of a subscription workforce such as Design Pickle, which clocks in at $30,000 for the exact same output. These are huge cost savings for an agency. Put another way, compared to a freelancer, agencies save at least 52%, and up to 77% with Design Pickle. Compared to hiring an in-house designer, agencies save between 49% and 73%.

These numbers demonstrate that a subscription workforce is the most cost-effective way to achieve the same level of design output as an in-house designer or freelancer, without the associated risks. Economies of scale and tech-enabled automation play a large part in reducing costs for customers, both of which are very difficult for small to mid-sized agencies to achieve.

However, it’s not just payroll costs that agencies save. Consider the hidden costs agencies incur by hiring a freelancer or an in-house designer. First, the hiring process itself is costly. According to a report by the Society for Human Resources Management, it costs an average of $4,129 to hire an employee. In addition, the hiring process takes up valuable time — the more time spent on recruitment, the less time spent on revenue-generating work.

In the amount of time it takes to write a job description, advertise it, sift through resumes and portfolios, conduct interviews, and file paperwork, an agency could have solved its design needs with one quick and easy subscription. Design Pickle eliminates these hiring issues. With Design Pickle, agencies can sign up and get matched with a designer within one business day, in just a few clicks.

Let’s not forget the cost of employee benefits. In-house designers require not only paid vacation and sick days, but medical benefits, vision and dental plans, retirement plans, and life insurance. These benefits — and the associated expense of days paid but not worked — can cost agencies up to 30% extra per employee. With a subscription workforce, these expenses disappear.

Consistent Quality Output

Employees are people with lives. They get sick, their kids get sick. They take time off for vacation. It’s unavoidable, and there will be times when in-house designers are unavailable. With a subscription workforce, however, this is no longer a problem. Agencies simply subscribe to a certain level of output and receive that — guaranteed. With dozens, and even hundreds, of available designers, there is always an experienced designer ready to take over a design project if needed (due to time off, etc.) with no interruption to output or quality. In fact, a subscription workforce provides agencies with the sense of security they need in order to consistently meet their own commitments to their clients.

Greater Match Between Costs and Sales

A major challenge agencies face is that they have to commit to paying in-house designers full-time salaries, even when demand for designs wanes. Agencies are well-aware that marketing budgets are never totally reliable and are dependent on the overall economy. Due to the nature of marketing, demand will fluctuate, and the workload for designers will fluctuate in response.

When the demand for new designs decreases and there is not enough work to justify the cost of an in-house design team, agency owners are put in a difficult position. Do they fire their designers, potentially causing workplace panic and a decrease in morale? Or do they keep them on, risking burning down cash reserves?

On the other hand, agencies might be unwilling to take on the risk of hiring more designers due to concerns that demand may disappear. In this case, agencies can overwork their existing in-house designers, leading to burnout, which makes them less productive and more likely to look for a new job. According to a 2019 survey by Asana and 4media Group of knowledge workers in a variety of industries, 49% of responding companies have experienced an employee quitting due to the high volume of work. This often contributes to the high turnover rate in marketing agencies, a notable obstacle to an agency’s scalability, as discussed here.

With a subscription workforce, this dilemma becomes a thing of the past. By definition, a subscription is flexible. With Design Pickle, you can simply submit more design requests to meet your demand — and you can always add another designer to your subscription, if needed. If there is no demand, no problem! Agencies can pause their subscription for a nominal fee, meaning they essentially pay for what they need.

Subscription Workforce Benefits

Final Thoughts

The concept of a creative workforce as a subscription solves a multitude of problems that impede small marketing agencies’ scalability. The familiar worry of growing “too big, too fast” is no longer applicable. Agencies can have high-quality designs without worrying about hiring too many designers and harming their businesses in the long run.

Design Pickle brings this concept to the world of design. Design Pickle’s flexible subscription workforce model alleviates the risks that ultimately slow an agency’s growth. With a Design Pickle subscription, agencies get all the design power of an in-house team, with none of the risks. They pay a flat rate so there are never any billing surprises and can increase or decrease their subscription based on their needs. After subscribing, an agency is matched with an experienced, professional designer who seamlessly plugs into the agency’s creative ecosystem. With design worries out of the way, agencies can focus their time, energy, and money on scaling their business with outstanding design services on their side.

To learn more about the value of a subscription workforce and its impact on agency scalability, download this white paper that explains in detail how you can save time and money with a subscription and improve your margins by up to 50% at the same time.

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