When Comparing Agency Billing Rates and Budgets, Be Sure You Compare Apples to Apples.

Mike+Brady“What’s your agency billing rate?” is one of the most common and despised questions in the agency business.

It seems innocent enough; even innocuous in some cases, but it is never either.

Of course, the presumption always is that you are comparing apples to apples, as if you were getting prices from two different car dealers for the same vehicle. But that is never the case.

Agencies don’t sell cars (although some have been known to sell their souls).  They sell services, which means clients are buying people – their character, their work ethic, their commitment, their loyalty, their creativity, their brainpower, their experience and more. And as a professional who has spent the past 30+ years in the agency business, I can attest that all agencies are NOT created equal.

Which means an agency billing rate of $175/hour may be 10-times the bargain of $125/hour.  And a $150,000 product launch budget may be 10-times the deal of a $50,000 product launch budget. And a $5,000 blogger relations campaign may not be half the value of a $10,000 campaign. It all depends on who is doing what, not what they are charging for it.

In the words of Mike Brady, “caveat emptor.” Or if you prefer the words of Peter Brady, “cavet the guy’s eruptor.” Or in my words, always dig below the surface of the budget to understand what you are getting for the proposed cost.

Like the Brady Bunch, things aren’t always what they seem.

Jim Sweeney


Jim is a veteran of the agency industry and the founder of Sweeney. He is uncommonly passionate about the idea of creating and implementing insanely great marketing campaigns that achieve insanely great results. He pioneered the full-service, full-circle agency model and continues to forge new ideas in an ever-changing industry. And he is accessible to everyone about anything, seemingly all the time, serving as a mentor to all agency personnel and clients.