This morning I've been doing some research for work, and I stumbled upon an article that is very helpful for freelancers like me (relatively new to the freelance arena) and people looking for freelancers/design agencies.
Given the recent freelance opportunities that I have been involved with, I found this article to be particularly beneficial. There are many pieces of advice that, taken into consideration, really do distinguish the good freelancers/design agencies from the bad ones.
If the agency has any clue at all, your company will basically have to "interview for the job" in order to be accepted as a client. Agencies that know what they're doing work hard to take on only those projects and those clients that are a good fit for their skill set, even their personality. They'll want to get to know you a bit and they'll want to learn much about your project, its scope, and your specific expectations before they agree to work with you. If you find that they immediately suggest you work with them and start talking about sending you a contract, you're probably talking to the wrong agency. Hang up the phone.
I know that I am guilty of such behavior. In the past, I have quickly jumped at any opportunity to make some extra cash as a freelancer. It usually doesn't take a long time before I begin regretting my hasty acceptance of a job. This is extremely sound advice.
If anyone other than the designer who did the work presents the designs to you, something's amiss and there is likely more yet to go astray. It is an unfortunate habit among some agencies to ever get between the client and the designer. This is a terrible mistake and a clear sign that the agency, large or small, is not well run. As a result, the work produced by the agency is likely to be flawed for the voids in understanding and effectiveness that result. In short, if your project's design phase does not begin and end with direct contact between yourself and the designer, you're getting short shrift. Find another agency.
I'd like to twist this one around a little. I completely agree with what Andy has said here, but I have also been on the receiving end of this particular type of situation. On one recent project, I was receiving instructions from a person who apparently didn't have the same goals as the "real" client. The end result was a product the "real" client didn't really want. Working directly with the client/agency is critical to a successful project.
There are several other important points in Andy's article, and I wholeheartedly recommend that you read it if you find yourself in such a situation. It will only help. In conclusion, I just want to share another quote from Andy's article:
And if you do notice too many of these telltale signs of incompetence in your current agency — don't walk; run.