When Is White Labeling Your Services a Good Idea (and How to Do It)?

Apr 24, 2023

White labeling is super common in entrepreneurship, but it can be a bit of a mystery to digital agency owners. Whether you offer white labeled services to a larger agency or bring on white labeled services to support your clients, white labeling can seriously elevate your business. But that doesn’t mean it’s not tricky to navigate at times! Let’s dive into all things white labeling so you can make the best choice for your business. 

What Is White Labeling? 

White labeling is when a freelancer or agency provides a service under another agency or firm. The person or company doing the white labeling offers a service that is needed for the overall scope of work or a specific project a client is looking to accomplish. Younger companies and freelancers white label their services the most often, since it’s a great way to boost your revenue and gain experience in a new niche

Firms and larger agencies usually turn to white labeled services when they need additional support outside of what their team normally provides, but still want to offer an overarching, one-stop-shop solution to their clients. This way, clients don’t feel like they’re engaging with a ton of outside agencies they have to manage to get the stellar expert service they want. 

As an agency owner or freelancer, you may white label your services for another agency or add white labeled services to your agency to increase your offerings…or do both at the same time! The most important thing, though, is to maintain cohesion and consistency with your clients. You never want them to feel like your focus is on your team of contractors instead of your client’s strategy.  

How Do You Price White Labeled Services? 

This is where white labeling starts to get tricky for agency owners. There’s a lot that goes into figuring out pricing for white labeled services, regardless of whether you’re the one providing those services or you’ve partnered with a larger agency as a white labeler. Here’s everything you need to know about determining the right price for white labeled services.

Pricing for Agency Owners Hiring White Labelers

If you’ve hired a freelancer to provide white labeled services for your clients, you are the one who pays them. That client relationship is yours and the payment structure needs to reflect that.  You, as an agency owner, will receive your standard payment from the client and then would pay the freelancer a separate fee for their white labeled services. 

One risk with bringing on white labeled services is that YOU are on the hook for that payment regardless of whether or not the client pays you. If you contract a white labeler for a $10k project, you must pay them on time even if your client doesn’t pay you on time. When working with a white labeler, you should mark up the retainer for your client to help cover the risks of late or incomplete payment and the extra efforts of managing the client relationship. 

Pricing for Agency Owners Offering White Labeled Services

When white labeling your services for another firm, you should offer your services at a discounted price since the firm manages the client relationship for you. They’re doing the billing, the client communication, the expectation management…all of it! You’re just there to deliver high-quality work that generates results. 

If you consistently work with an agency and have developed a good relationship with their team, you may want to offer a bundled deal or a flat rate as opposed to an hourly fee. This is a great way to further establish trust, build some goodwill, and show your appreciation for the opportunity. And the agency team will majorly appreciate it, too, since they’ll have more predictable expenses and a larger margin to mark up their retainers. 

Is White Labeling Ever a Bad Idea? 

White labeling has a lot of pros for agency owners regardless of which side of the relationship you’re on, but it can be a bad idea, too! The main drawback to white labeling your services is that the client relationship isn’t yours. This is actually the reason why my agency doesn’t white label our services! 

The wins you score as a white labeler belong to the firm you’re working with — you can’t use them in a case study or testimonial to secure your own clients. White labeling your services removes all visibility for your business and you can’t leverage your results going forward. It minimizes your presence in your niche and prevents you from becoming an established expert who clients turn to. 

If you’re the agency that’s bringing in white labeled services, you could also run into issues if you don’t know the freelancer very well. You’re telling your clients that the white labeler’s work will be up to the quality they’ve come to expect from you. If the white label doesn’t deliver work to your standards or drops the ball entirely, YOU will be on the hook for poor results, wasted time, and lost revenue. 

4 White Labeling Best Practices You Need to Follow 

White labeling your services or using white labeled services can be a balancing act. You need to navigate tricky payments, manage relationships with your clients and the white labelers you’ve hired, and make sure you’re still generating the results and revenue you want. Following these four best practices will help make white labeling easier to manage as a digital agency owner. 

#1: Make Sure White Labelers Stick to Client Protocol 

Your client’s information is theirs, and that doesn’t change with white labeling. No matter who you bring onto your team, whether they’re a freelancer or a full-fledged team member, your client’s protocol needs to take priority. A white labeler must respect the authorized use of your client’s logo, branding, and past content as they complete their projects. 

If you’re white labeling your services for another agency, you should only access the client files you have permission to access. There may be file permissions that slip through the cracks and you won’t have access to the documents you need — just reach out to your agency contact (not the client!) and request that access be granted. 

#2: Everyone Should Have Their Own Company Email 

Working with your agency should be a seamless experience for your client — they don’t want to receive emails from addresses they don’t recognize! Give your freelancers company emails to use as they complete their projects. Make sure your white labelers use their company emails as they reach out to the media, too. 

We actually had a freelancer who refused to use her agency email when reaching out to media contacts and eventually stopped disclosing that she was working with us. Those media contacts never connected the clients to our agency and it damaged our opportunity to establish ourselves in that niche and show that we have high-quality clients. 

If you’re white labeling your services and your contact doesn’t give you a company email right off the bat, request that they set one up for you. Even if you’re white labeling your services as an agency and have multiple team members collaborating on a project, communicating through a single email will be easier overall

#3: Sign a Contract and an NDA 

Contracts are how you protect yourself while white labeling your services or working with white labelers! Your contract should clearly state that the white labeler is a third-party contractor and any work they produce belongs to the firm offering the service to the clients. Remember, the client relationship belongs to the firm, not the white labeler, and the contract should reflect that. 

It’s always a good idea to include a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) with your white labeling contract. You don’t want a freelancer running off to the client and claiming the work as theirs, especially when the client doesn’t know the white labeler was brought on board! An NDA helps you preserve your client relationships when utilizing white labeled services — and as a white labeler, you need to respect this part of the process and preserve your relationship with the firm you’ve partnered with. 

#4: Always Do a Quality Audit First 

White Labeling 101: never assume that a white labeler is going to do a good job and complete work to your standards. Always ask for samples of their work before hiring them and hop on a call to make sure they fully understand both your expectations and your white labeling contract. If the freelancer has been heavily vetted by someone you trust (like another digital agency owner in your niche), you can skip asking them for samples, but the meeting is a must. 

Once that freelancer comes in and they’re executing projects for you, the quality of their work is on YOU. If they do a poor job or aren’t able to complete the deliverables for a project, you’re responsible for the subpar work. And if those bad results damage your credibility and client relationships, then the reputation rehab is on you, too.

Related: 6 Business Mistakes Every PR Pro Should Strive To Avoid

White labeling has a ton of moving parts, whether you’ve hired a freelancer to work with you or are the one providing services to a larger firm. But for all the relationship-juggling and sticky situations, white labeling remains a great way to expand your agency’s offerings or build up your resume in a new niche! With this white labeling knowledge in your back pocket, you can decide if it’s the best path forward for your business and start growing your digital agency.