Agencies are a popular model among startups for a couple of reasons – it is easy to start on a shoestring budget and you can scale as demand increases. If you’re offering B2B services, such as advertising, copywriting, SEO or branding, then the agency model is probably the way to go.
When I went from a freelancer to an agency-based model for my business earlier this year, I was surprised at the new skills I had to learn. For one thing, I’m used to working on my own – delegating tasks to a creative team has definitely been a new experience.
Also, the type of clients that hire an agency are significantly different from those that would employ a freelancer, so I’ve had to learn how to approach those clients. They expect a different type of service, so I’ve had to adjust my processes to meet their needs.
So far, the agency model has been working for me.
Are you thinking of starting an agency? Here are my tips for a successful agency launch:
Step 1: Assemble a Team of Experts
As Tara Gentile recently said in her article Solo Entrepreneurship: There’s No Such Thing, business doesn’t happen in a bubble. An agency needs a team to create value outside of what you yourself are able to provide. Every member of an agency team contributes to the service offered to the client.
“Overspend on talent, even when money is tight. An extra $25,000 for a brilliant account or creative person may feel at any given moment like it’s going to break the bank. But it’s a small investment for someone who can help you crack new markets or produce award-winning work for your best client down the road. That’s how you grow.” – Phil Johnson (CEO, PJA Advertising & Marketing)
You can start small, like I did, by hiring a few freelancers on a contract basis, and stepping up their workload gradually as you establish yourself. The important thing is to assemble a team of individuals who are not only experts in their fields, but who can expand on a brief and come up with innovative ideas, who want to see the agency succeed, and who can work together as part of the team.
Step 2: Put Business Processes in Place
The biggest challenge for an agency – especially one just starting out – is to ensure the proper systems are in place so that work flows freely from brief to finished product. It is vital for an agency to track time spent on each task in a client’s job, so that you can understand if you’re charging the correct rate. With many different team members contributing to the various stages of a project, a robust project management system is also essential.
With a creative team, it can sometimes be difficult to get buy in for elaborate time-tracking and project management systems. You need to find a system that is unobtrusive, intuitive, and able to be accessed by all members of your team, no matter where they are and what device they are using.
Workflow Max has developed an Adobe Creative Extension for their popular time-tracking and project management system. This widget allows you to track time from within the creative suite itself, meaning your team don’t have to break their creative flow to fulfill their time-tracking requirements.