Running an agency can be one of the most rewarding professions. And at the same time can be one of the most draining and demoralising. That’s because of all the BS you put up with. The stuff you hate doing, the “little stuff” that takes up all your time, the fire fighting that grinds you down and you forget what makes you get up every day.
You know exactly what I’m talking about. Writing proposals (with no hint of a budget), clients want free spec work (aka crowdsourcing ideas), never-ending projects, chasing payments (when you know they’ve seen the invoice), justifying your prices because “my neighbour's nephew’s son” can do it for £100, the “I need this now” emails at 4 pm on a Friday. And that’s all before the never-ending hunt for new clients and new work.
I heard a phrase once, “what you resist persists” and it really opened my eyes. We do all these things because we think we have to. It’s ‘part of the territory’ or it’s the hustle and ‘cost of doing business' when you go it alone and set up your own agency. Every agency owner I speak to experiences one version or another of this hamster wheel.
You can do a hard refresh, clear your cache and restart right now by writing yourself a “not to do” list. Write down all the things that you’re not going to do anymore. If you need some inspiration, how about…
Doing speculative work for pitches
Never compromising on price without compromising on deliverables
Stop working for clients who aren’t the right fit
Working on projects that take way longer than they should (because of the client of course)
Starting work before you get content
Accepting feedback from third parties via your client, “well my cat thinks…”
Doing never-ending rounds of revisions
Bankrolling clients’ projects by providing credit terms you didn’t agree to
If you experience all or some of these, you’re stuck on vision 10.8 “Mountain Lion” and it’s time to upgrade your operating system.
I lived in that operating system for a long time when I had my agency business thinking that this was just how it was. Until you have that “come to Jesus” moment and wonder whether you should just close the dang agency and get a job. If these things sound familiar, your agency might not only be living month to month with cash flow but you might also be getting into debt.
You can have your agency on your terms, start moving towards profitability and have the freedom and prosperity you so deserve. You have to find a way to eliminate doing all these things, not only for the health of your business but to give you the headspace to be creative, to be enthusiastic, and add massive value to your clients.
If you upgrade your ‘operating system’ you can move from 'broke as a joke' and burnt out to enjoying the business, loving your projects, and having a holiday without the sky falling down. Doesn’t that sound like a better place to be?
We start off by looking at the core of your operating system and getting your agency set up for success.
The Agency Operating System For Profit
Part 1. Clients
Not just any clients, the right kind of clients. You want to be the North Star to your perfectly aligned clients, meet them where they are, and offer them a solution to their problems. As an agency, as any business for that matter, you don’t want to be compared to the competition - you want to show more value than anyone else.
And if you rely on referrals and you don’t have a strategy for getting the right kind of referrals, my guess is you will have clients who aren’t the right fit. That’s not doing right by them or your business.
When you have the tools, techniques, and frameworks in place to get clients like clockwork, agency life becomes a better place when you’re not worried about where your next client is coming from.
Part 2. The Business Model
First up, I talk about this in a few of my programs. Regardless of being an agency business or service business, you want to make sure that your services and clients’ needs are aligned. What I mean by that is providing services that you want to do and aligning that with what your clients need. If you’re doing all the things, well all I can say is dilution is not the solution.
You want to have your core focus, core expertise, and services so that you can build up a signature offer that guarantees results.
Part. 3 Processes
Having a lean way of doing things will help to self-manage scope and you want to make sure that projects don’t become one of those never-ending sagas. Systems, processes, and having things constantly being optimised will help your team and you focus on the creativity, the client, and that kind of consistency breeds quality.
There’s a reason that 80% of the time you’re working on things that don’t light you up and only 20% of the time doing the things that get you up in the morning. You might have stuck it to the big man and you’re working for yourself, but without an operating system for your agency, you own a job (and probably don’t get paid what you deserve).
I understand the feast and famine or what it’s like to ride the boom and bust rollercoaster (I have a previous post, “what type of agency owner are you” which explains that a bit more). You’re a slave to that boom and bust and you’re caught in the commodity trap thinking that if you work harder you’ll reach the next level. We have to start by cutting the ball and chain and all the BS that’s holding you back.
If you feel exhausted and overwhelmed by the thought of running your agency as it is now for the next five to ten years, and you want to cut out all the BS, Let’s book in a power hour, we can diagnose some of the problems and get you moving towards more freedom, prosperity and enjoying your business. DM me or email firstname.lastname@example.org with ‘agency OS’ and I’ll do the rest.