by Joelle Steele


Every business needs to market itself. But so few owners and managers have the time or the skill to do it themselves. If your business does not have its own in-house marketing department, you can still produce an effective marketing effort by hiring a creative services company or individual.

Almost any person or group of people who provide artistic or editorial services can be considered a creative service, sometimes called an advertising agency. Creative services design everything from CD labels and covers to wine labels to magazine and book covers to restaurant menus to Web pages to infomercials to radio jingles to — well, you name it! Many also provide editorial services and will write your ad copy, book blurbs, press releases, marketing letters, brochures, etc.


Each creative service company is a little different, and they all have their own specialties. One of them is just right for your needs. To find it, check the yellow pages under advertising or marketing, make some calls, and get a few referrals. Ask each creative service a lot of questions so that you can find the right company for you. Be sure they have training in their field and that they are not just amateurs who happen to know how to work in Photoshop or InDesign or Dreamweaver software. There is a lot more to providing creative services than just being creative. Your creative services team should know about advertising and marketing, including copywriting.

You will be spending a lot of time exchanging information and ideas and discussing things with your creative service representative. If the two of you don't hit it off or seem to speak the same language, it will not be a positive experience for you. In addition, it is unlikely that you will be satisfied with the end result. So take your time getting to know them. Also, be sure that you review work they've done previously so that you can see if they are capable of applying their design skills to a variety of different business styles.


Your input is not only valuable, it is absolutely essential to the successful completion of your project. Just because a creative service has been designing Web sites for ten years or has been creating print ads for their clients since 1952 does not mean that they can just pull a rabbit out of the hat, so to speak, and make it do exactly what you want or need. A professional creative services person will ask you a lot of questions and they will ask to see samples of what you have had designed or written previously, or they will want to see some samples of other works that you like or ideas that you have, so that they can understand you and your company and specifically identify your style.

You know your business better than anyone else does. The better you can communicate this to your creative service person the faster and more expediently your project will be completed to your full satisfaction. Don't be surprised if you are called frequently and asked a lot of questions. This is all part of the process. You may feel at some point that you could just as well have done it yourself because of all the time you have put into it. Well, you may know what you want and you may have great ideas for achieving it, but translating your ideas and your knowledge into a designed and written piece is a skill and talent that you might not possess — but your creative services person does.

Creating anything is a process. Ask any artist or writer and they will tell you that you start with an idea and you develop it through stages until it achieves whatever goal was set for it in the first place. With this in mind, be prepared to look at some drafts and sketches that may never see the light of day. Elimination of things that don't work is just as important as approving things that do.


Every creative service wants and needs to know how much you can afford to spend. They need this information not because they want to soak you for every dime you've got. They need to know because it affects the ultimate output that they create. For example, if your budget dictates a 10-second radio spot aired six times during drive time on weekday mornings and evenings, this will cost you considerably less than a 30-second radio spot aired 10 times daily. And, while writing something effective for a 10-second spot is a little more difficult than it is for a 30-second spot, the creative services fee is likely to be the same for both. But you don't want them to write a 30-second spot if you can only afford a 10-second spot.

This is true for book blurbs and brochures and other kinds of writing. When it comes to design, if they're doing your website or advertisement, it can be as simple or as complicated as your budget dictates. If you can't afford a full-color or full-page ad, you better say so sooner rather than later. You will not waste the creative person's time and your money that way. So think about how much you have to spend on everything, including the creative person's fees, before you decide what you want to do and who you want to do it.


One of the biggest money-wasters is having someone re-do work that has already been done. You already paid for it and now you have to pay for it again? No way! Always get a CD containing all of the work that was done for you. This should include the components of ads and brochures and other printed materials, such as TIFs and JPGs or images such as logos or products or people, and the PDFs of the finished ads, brochures, business cards, etc. This is extremely important because you may not always want to or be able to use the same creative services person again. Maybe you didn't like them or had problems working with them and you have to find someone else to work with on further creative projects. Or the creative service you used may have gone out of business or simply not kept your files around for longer than a year. You want to make sure that you have those files when you need them.

This article last updated: 11/08/2013.