If you’re thinking about founding an agency or starting to freelance, chances are that you’ve started to read articles on Medium or other blogs as a guidance and source of inspiration. Around 95% of these articles advise you to try harder and work harder (night shifts) to make your dreams come true. What an utterly bullshit.
Make a plan
When you have a solid contract with your clients, a lawyer saves you money.
First of all, relax. Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. Now make a plan. Write down tasks. Prioritize. Stop multitasking. Just do one task at a time. It simply makes no sense to try doing everything all at once. Also you don’t have to do everything on your own. Surround yourself with partners you can trust. People that are real experts in their field. As an example, when I founded a company together with my colleagues, we got ourselves the best lawyer out there. Yes a lawyer costs money but that’s the wrong way to look at it. When you have a solid contract with your clients, a lawyer saves you money. Also get a good accountant. Good accountants are hard to find but it’s well worth the search.
Invest in good people
Sounds obvious right!? But especially when you’re starting your business you need people you can count on and people who know very well what they can and cannot do. Sure people with a lot of experience also demand higher salaries, but they are worth it. And don’t get me wrong, I am not saying you should only hire or work with senior people, but it’s necessary to hire some in the beginning of your business. It is likely that they already started and completed projects on their own and that they mentored others while working on a project. Also look for people who don’t shy away from discussions with a client. Especially a small company cannot afford stereotypical introverts who would rather look at their screens all day. Again, nothing against introverts, I am one myself. Just look for people who are open to talk to others and who are able to convince a client if necessary.
Stay on top of your game
That’s something every agency struggles with. Mine as well. It is very important that you have time to learn new tools, to improve your methods and to adapt to new technologies. So many agencies are selling cutting-edge experiences and whatnot to their clients without really thinking cutting-edge or going the extra mile to know the latest trends in tech, design and the like. The biggest question is how to embed forward-thinking and doing into your DNA. You could start by reserving time within projects that is only there for improvement tasks. The project is developed with an outdated technology that could be replaced? Change it! Enforcing accessibility and schema.org rules could help the project getting more users through search engines but no one of your team has ever done that? Learn it! Look for minor tasks that could be done within a short timeframe and would benefit your project. That’s a first step.
It’s an investment in the future of your company.
Second step. Implement hack days in your company that follow clear goals or demand a certain outcome. We did a hack day around the topic blockchain recently and it was a success. We even invited clients to take part in the hack day and the response to that was really good. We made it totally transparent that we a) don’t know everything but b) want to learn more about new topics and are willing to reserve time for that.
That all sounds good right? But I hear you saying: But we need to work, we need to earn money and have no time for extra learning and stuff! Really? What effect would it have on your company longterm if you don’t spend time to learn new things or improve your methods? Don’t see it as extra time, see it as a necessity to stay on top of your game. It’s an investment in the future of your company.
Every once in a while you should take a step back and let your team do its job. You hired good people that are willing to learn and improve, people that are also looking to take responsibility and to make decisions – let them! Managing your company is hard enough on its own. If you micromanage every employee you will just get a heart attack one day. Break down tasks and give some to your fellow colleagues. Try it. Then give them bigger task and all of a sudden you‘ll see that they’re perfectly capable of doing them. Yes they will sometimes do things differently than you would, but that’s OK. And they will get better every time.
When you’re open to new ideas and thoughts, great things will happen for sure.
The last point on my list is to be open. Open to new thoughts, open to new technologies, open to new ways of doing things. And that is very hard, believe me. Because when you mastered a new technology and you know how it works, of course you will use it again. But to walk the extra mile and learn a new technology although you could have used the other one, catapults you forward. You always learn something new along the way, not only the new technology but to look at problems from a different angle. If a colleague of your time suggests something, listen to her. It is so important to carefully listen to people and so often managers tend to forget, either because of stress or because of a narrowed perspective. When you’re open to new ideas and thoughts, great things will happen for sure.