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Agencies

How to Build Futureproof Creative Agencies

This is how creatives can build robust agencies.

This is for freelance marketing creatives who want to build something bigger than just themselves—in other words—build a futureproof creative agency. 

You’re probably a freelance copywriter, a designer, a filmmaker, a editor, or a software engineer.

Regardless of your expertise, the first step to growth is to build your solo freelance business—to the point where you feel you’re successful. 

You may be making a living at your freelance business. You’re getting repeat clients, attracting new clients, and billing at the rate you’re happy with (yes, everyone would like to be billing more and at a higher rate).

It’s important to stop here and re-read that.

I believe you can only build on a foundation of success. 

If your solo freelance business isn’t really working, you have to re-examine it—because there’s probably nothing there to build on.

So, let’s assume you’re a successful freelancer and you want to build a bigger, futureproof creative agency. 

This is a good time for a self-assessment. 

  1. What kind of work are you doing? 
  2. Are you happy with what you’re doing? 
  3. Are you good at it? 

You’re going to want to build on what you already have. Don’t try to build on something you fantasize about, but have no experience doing. 

So, for example, if you’ve grown your writing business on a specific sector, say financial services, plan to build on that.

Determine what kind of agency you want

Are you going to work face-to-face or remotely? Will your ideal clients be local, regional, or global? 

If you have a basis for the types of clients you want, how will you logically expand from there? 

To take the financial services example, you could also broaden out into other professional services such as legal or accounting. They have similarities that will make the transition easier.

It’s important to visualize what you’re hoping to accomplish.

Attracting a complementary partner

Once you’re ready to grow, find a partner who complements what you do. 

If you’re a writer, find a designer, and vice versa. If you’re a filmmaker, find an editor or animator, depending on your type of filmmaking.

I know there are some who prefer to do it alone, but that’s limiting and somewhat delusional. 

No one person has all the best ideas or all the skills you need to grow. Look at Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft – all had partners at the top.

With a partner, you can brainstorm, achieve things you’re not capable of yourself. You can share the burden of all the chores you need to do, aside from the creative work.

So, look for someone in a situation similar to your own. They should have clients (that you would be working for if you formed a partnership), and they’re busy and successful. They’re looking to form the same type of agency as you are.

How do you find such a partner? 

Reach out to your network. Let them know your plans. In my case, I advertised. I got 30 responses, met with 5, and eventually chose one.

Before forming a partnership, we met numerous times and did a few jobs together to see how we worked. We decided we liked working together and incorporated a company.

We became 50/50 partners. The money went to the company and we took equal salaries. All decisions had to be unanimous. Have these discussions before forming your company.

Closing tips for building a futureproof creative agency

  • Ideally, you want clients, not one-off projects. In other words, you want to work for companies that need a lot of what you do, on an ongoing basis. You want one job after another, without having to compete for them. 
  • Get close to your clients. Talk on the phone, meet in person. Don’t hide behind your keyboards. Make your clients your “business friends.” Ideally, if a client changes jobs, they’ll take you with them. That’s how I got many new clients. Kept the old company as a client, went along with my client to the new company. 
  • Build processes for your agency. Processes include how you take in jobs, how you do them, how you close them out. Figure out which platforms you’re going to use for communications, bookkeeping, and project management. Learn how to use them effectively so that your processes are efficient.
  • One of your early hires should be a project manager. Let them run the administration of the business, so you and the creative team can focus on your work and building relationships with clients
  • Lastly, watch the finances. Keep your expenses down. Only hire or buy/lease equipment when you can afford it. Related to that, get a good accountant, someone who will also act as your financial advisor. 

That’s it. Good luck!

Start building a futureproof creative agency… even if you’re not ready.

Andy Strote, Author of How to Start a Successful Creative Agency

Even if you’re not ready to start your agency now, you can begin learning how to grow a futureproof creative agency. Sart with my book, How to Start a Successful Creative Agency, to help improve your solo freelancing business. 

I wrote the book, based on my experiences, to help others do the same. The book has 23 chapters, over 300 pages of solid business advice. It’s available on Amazon, Kobo, Apple Books and Gumroad.

Sign up to get Chapter 14, Working With Clients, for free. It’s packed with useful information. Get ready to grow your agency!

By strote

Andy Strote is the author of How to Start a Successful Creative Agency. This book is for copywriters, designers, filmmakers, photographers, and programmers who provide creative services to corporations and organizations.

Andy was the co-founder of two successful agencies, Fireworks Creative and Context Creative. Fireworks was acquired five years after its founding. After 15 years at Context Andy retired to work for a select group of clients and work on his own projects.

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