Continuing the discussion from How much coding do you actually do?:
I don’t have personal experience so I’ll invite in a few people that have either started their own agencies or probably know of someone that has.
Hi @dougcollins, three years ago I’ve been trying to set up my own agency, starting from creating a consolidated network of 6/7 freelancers with the purpose of creating a company as soon as the work increases. The reason why I switched to work for an already consolidated agency is explained below in point two.
From that experience, and from working previously in agencies, but most of all, working in a good agency right now, I learnt two things:
- The quality you deliver is important but not crucial to your business (merely in term of money). The most crucial thing is how many connections with important people and companies you have. Indeed I know many agencies with really poor skills but with very big clients and impressive revenues. And I know other agencies where the great quality they provide is running against them, because great quality often requires more time and more money and it is not easy to find the right clients for this. I am saying this just to warn, because people at the beginning of this adventure are 90% focused on quality, but reality tells them that at the beginning 90% needs to be investment on network, partnerships, visibility, under-budget jobs, etc. This links me to point number two.
- It takes years to kick-start an agency, but it’s possible (and rewarding, I imagine). The important thing is to know that you need time. You are doing it as an entrepreneur, so you first years will be of investment and failures. I clearly see this in my current agency, observing the story behind the people who grew up this place and all the time they have spent in organizing conferences, speeches, guest posts, partnerships, public relations, etc. etc. You need years to maturate this aspects, and yes, in my opinion they are the answers to your questions on laying the groundwork for a successful agency.
So, this point two was an investment I didn’t want to do, but it was for personal reasons. I think that for someone who wants do it (and has money to invest), it’s of course possible.
Sorry for the late response. Just returned from a much-needed vacation
I’ve been an “Agency of One” since 2006 (with the exception of a brief return to full-time in 2011). Three things have made the biggest difference for me over the years: 1) leveraging my professional network, 2) focusing on results and 3) learning to be a more effective business owner by delivering high quality to clients without sacrificing profitability.
Before diving into any project it’s crucial to make sure it’s a good fit for both you and the client. For me that means having a definitive sales process and pre-qualifying clients before making any long-term commitment. It’s kind of like dating
A prospective client needs to be willing to invest some time up front into a thorough discovery process so we can collaborate around what they think needs to be solved vs. what really needs to be solved (we often unearth deeper issues during the process and they get better value as a result).
It’s also critical to keep your expenses down and your productivity high. I don’t outsource anything unless absolutely necessary. I do have a VA for admin work and sometimes outsource technical and visual design when it’s in the best interest of my clients.
For anyone wanting to start or grow an agency, I highly recommend Ugurus 10k Bootcamp. It made a huge difference for me. You can learn more about my experience in a recent podcast here: http://digitalagencyshow.com/episode11