Ever wanted to know how the big agencies got there start…us too. However, in our own right, we are working toward becoming one. Future Design Group is still in its infancy, but before FDG our team was wide spread and part of companies that started small and made it big. We have a better start then most, but it is still a lot of hard work.
First, an agency can be small or large so don’t worry about the amount of people but the quality of people you have. At Future Design Group we strive on hiring the best of the best and our quality of work shows for it. We have developers and designers near and far as part of our team but we are still considered a small agency by agency standards. On the other side of the spectrum, making the jump from freelancer to agency owner is harder but possible. So take note and hopefully our combined experiences can help someone out there make the leap.
Agency?…but There Are MILLIONS of Them. How Do I Compete?
Let’s face it. Googling “website design agency in florida” will bring millions of results…even if you are specific with your local area like we were. To compete with the competition, you need to set your agency on a higher bar then anyone else in your area or even nationally. What do you provide that they do not, or, how can you provide what they do better? For us, it was our team…our responsiveness to our clients…our brand! We stand out because we try harder, we work well together and we understand our client’s needs.
We are all part of the solution, so we act as a cohesive agent and our clients value our work. We give them what other agencies can’t, actual face time and they know they are priority…even if they are new.
Pick Your Clients and Projects
Now, this is not an easy one, but one that will be learned over time. Choose clients and projects based on the value they bring to your agency and team. I know that sounds ludicrous, but over time, if you pick your clients and projects well, you will create your niche. A niche helps you stand out among the crowd (see point one). Don’t accept every bid or project that comes across your desk just because you or your agency needs the money. Sometimes you do not have a choice, but when you do, pick clients and projects based on how you want your team and agency to be perceived.
We try to stick to the government or medium business sector but we have picked up on a few start ups in our history. Our profits are in the black because we choose our clients…not the other way around. We know what we are good at and we tend to stick with it. This helps us establish ourselves in our niche and allows us to work with people who not only respect our work but love it. Our client referrals show this.
Everyone knows someone who dealt with a cheap client or someone that wanted to reinvent Facebook…pick your clients to weed out the uninteresting or unmotivated. Do yourself a favor and help your team’s talents shine because their abilities reflect on you and your agency. Bad Work = Bad Clients.
One thing I learned a long time ago is that when you talk…you need to know what you are talking about and you need to help other people understand it. Whether it is by writing tutorials, creating amazing – award winning work, or just helping people…you need to inspire.
We are known in the local community through our charitable donations and in the online community through our blog and plugins. You are here…you are reading this to be inspired. If what we are writing helps you in any way, our job is a success. You may not know Future Design Group, but if we help you in any way…we are not one that you will easily forget. So, be charitable, be creative, be informative…it goes a long way for your reputation as an individual or an agency.
Yes, this is in here twice because it is important. No one cares about your agency until you show them you care about them and others. Make a name for yourself by working with or donating to charities. This small gesture goes a long way in the eyes of your clients and other agencies. Do not think of your charity as a tax write off, but as a way to get discounted advertising. Charities need all the help they can get and will usually help you the only way they know how…by putting your name out there for you. Good will is spread all around…take advantage of this and help your agency help others. The benefits always outweigh the consequences (well, that is because there aren’t any).
The best way to get noticed is to put your agency out there. Socialize at local events, parties, committees, BarCamps, WordCamps, local Meetups, and conferences. The best kind of advertising is word of mouth and if you attend these type of events right, you will be the agency everyone knows. Trust me, from our experience we have asserted that in order to become the agency, you must be present and accounted for as an agency. This may seem like common knowledge, but you would be surprised at home often (never actually) small agencies attend events. Events cost money…money that smaller agencies do not always have but a little investment in the movers and shakers in your community go a long way. Attend a local event and see who the big players are in your area…9 times out of 10, they will be there front and center.
Be yourself or hire someone that can project your brand when they walk in a room.
Motivation and Duration
Take a look at the big players in your area or even nationally. They do not sit by and let their clients come to them. They move and make connections. They are motivated. Maybe you are motivated, but durability goes hand in hand with this motivation. Starting small is how everyone got started (unless they come from old money), but looking around your area smaller agencies just don’t last. They don’t because their motivation ends at some point. Motivate yourself, your agency, and your team by hosting events, learning everything you can at all costs, and prove you are in it for the long haul. Clients can see an agency for what it is…despite your tech speak and marketing…they know you better than you know yourself because they have dealt with many of the same as you. You are at the end of a long list of agencies they have dealt with…so, prove to them and yourself that your agency is the right choice now and in the future.
Your Agency Awaits
In conclusion, creating an agency is not just creating a brand and marketing it, but developing a team of like-minded people, creating awareness, and being awesome in the community and in the office. Drop your guard and let people help you…compiling a team of people is the best thing you can do to get started as an agency. So, make it count. Show clients and other agencies that you are a force to contend with and you are in it for the long haul. It takes time, but following a few simple guidelines can rocket you from garage freelancer to creative director of your own agency in less time then you think. Good luck and hopefully we helped at least one person. Got any other tips? Let us know in the comments below. We would love to hear feedback about how you obtained agency status.
About the Author
Director of Website Development
With over a decade of experience designing and developing websites, Eric has worked in every position of the agency ladder. He is fluent in multiple backend and front end programming languages and has written multiple international best selling plugins for WordPress. He has been part of or is still part of many startups. He is the Director of Website Development for Future Design Group and one of it's founding partners.