Working with nice people is great, working with talented people is essential and working with the right people for your project is a no brainer. Choosing the right agency or freelancer depends on many factors, such as style, proficiency, background, time and budget.

People buy

from people

Ensuring you work with the right people is so important, a truly talented designer, marketeer or agency will not see you as just an income, but will share your passion, and invest time in truly understanding what you do and why you need help. This can be invaluable. Their background and commitment to projects need to align with your values and your business values, and so meeting face to face (if possible) is key, build a relationship and develop a working relationship together. Consider them an extension of your team and yourself.
The true value in a healthy and prosperous working relationship is their investment in time and focus on you as a client and the project at hand. Not all designers/freelancers/agencies are the same, we’re a bit like dogs with a newspaper, some will happily bring it to you in pristine condition, and some will tear the shit out of it and leave paper bits all over the place. An odd analogy I’ll admit, but the point is you need to identify how you want your work produced and this reflects in the type of people you should work with. Safe and reliable can be best, but do you want someone who is also capable of creating something new.

Money Vs Passion / Time Vs Money / Time Vs Effort

Money sucks, it runs the world and controls way too many factors in life, (I don’t mean it really) but when it comes to paying someone for a service, it’s really important to get a feel for how they perceive money vs what they do. Their love of their craft. I’ve been in agencies with bells on the wall that ring when you sign on the dotted line, (Cringe. This isn’t wolf of wall street.) and seen how the divide between creative, time and money can cause real problems with expectations and passion.
Designers and creative people alike have a passion for their craft that can overrule their need for money and glory, because we love what we do, but sometimes cash is king and this can be reflected in how an agency/freelancer wants to work with you.

The problem with large agencies (Generally speaking and not applicable to all scenarios)

Inflation is the keyword here, the larger the agency you work with, the more you pay, but you are not just paying for a project and the work, you are covering the costs of the running of the business (electricity, rent etc) and people salaries, (account managers, studio managers, multiple designers) you are also paying for inflated internal ‘price on people heads’ which is multiplied by time. The same level freelancer could be a fifth of this cost and still produce the same result. Most of the time you are only ever assigned 1-2 designers from the team anyway, as there are other projects to be done. Then there’s a simple % mark up for just using an agency.
Now, don’t get me wrong, this IS the way it works, otherwise, companies don’t hang around too long, and also sometimes the outcome is much greater as you are paying for a teams experience and expertise in the sector they specialise in. Invaluable really. But the point is to identify when it’s the right people to work with and asking yourself are these the right people for the task.
The biggest bugbear is having a cost on your head, and being seen as a ticking clock, in agencies where creativity is culled by a money-driven ethos. The impact this has on the outcome can be great, and the caveat is that sometimes it has to be done in order to keep projects on track, but it’s still not right. See my blog on ‘What to do when a project runs over budget. Asking for more money or absorbing costs?’.
Time is money, we all get it. Just make sure the passion comes across and that money is spent with the best team for the best result.