One of the most important challenges that any agency faces is delivering projects under budget. If you’re over budget, then your agency will lose money on a project.
A few years ago, I ran my own marketing agency and developed some strategies to ensure that I was able to get my projects done profitably.
Let’s face it. In the agency world, time equals money. And any extra time spent on a particular project drastically affects the amount of money that goes into your pocket.
That being said, here are six core strategies that I developed.
Keep Track of Time
Let’s face it. The past is the biggest predictor of future events. If you know how much time your team spends on previous projects, then chances are you will know how long it will take your team to complete upcoming projects of similar scope.
A time tracking software can help you understand exactly how long a project takes to complete so that you can bill more accurately in the future.
You will also be able to find inefficiencies in the workflow of a project that may be taking longer to complete. If a team member is taking more time to finish a task than anticipated, you’ll be able to determine the cause long before your project goes over budget.
Stick to Your Core
Where does your company’s strength lie? Chances are, if you’re a small agency, you’re not going to be an expert in everything. You might be really good at Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, and not so great at SEO.
One of the biggest challenges I had when I was running a marketing agency was that I tried to be all things to all of my clients.
We did content creation, social media, website design, SEO, and all the rest. We were a small shop and were really good at creating killer content. We had a streamlined process, great writers, and produced results our clients loved.
When we started to do the other services for clients is when we got into trouble. Because we weren’t that great at SEO, most of our projects came with a huge learning curve; greatly slowing down production and increasing costs.
I know it’s really hard to say no to clients and turn away their money, but sticking to your core in the long run will increase your profitability and help you get all of your projects done on time.
Build Relationships with Freelancers
In the life of your agency, there will be periods of both feast and famine.
When your agency gets overloaded with work for a few weeks, you will have to bring on additional help to get through these times of brief overwhelm. However, bringing on full time staff doesn’t make sense. Especially if you know that you’re going to have to let them go when the excess work dries up.
I learned very quickly about the hassles of hiring freelancers. The interview process and the trial period are some of the more tedious tasks agency owners must undergo.
Once I found a great freelancer, I hired them again and again and again…
I can’t even begin to tell you the amount of time and money this saved me over the course of running my marketing agency. I never had to worry if the freelancer was going to deliver on time. I always had a ball park feel of what their pricing would be so I could quote my clients accurately. And last but not least, I developed a great referral system with the freelancers. Because I was giving them work, many times they would refer business to me.
Hammer out the Details
Before you commit to a quote and a schedule, make sure every detail is hammered out first. In other words, you want to know two things:
- What is expected from you.
- What is expected from your client.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spent waiting for clients to get back to me with information that I needed to complete the job at hand.
These small wrinkles in the schedule can have huge implications to whether or not your project gets done on time.
One thing you may want to do is list out the implications to any delays (on the part of your client). If they don’t get back to you with information on time, spell out how that will impact the project schedule.
And write it down in the contract. That way you can go back to it when/if they complain that you’re not meeting your deadlines.
Finally, avoid scope creep at all costs. Any add on services that you agree to, no matter how small, will impact your profitability.
It’s ok to do these things to make the customer happy, but make sure you write it down and show them how it affects the schedule, and their initial quote.
There are two strategies I was able to stay organized running an agency. First, Google Docs was my lifeblood. The ability to share documents that will be edited by multiple team members will keep your workflow streamlined
You can keep all comments and corrections made by team members contained to the document. This way when you’re finally ready to turn over the document to your client, you don’t have to spend hours cobbling together suggestions, edits, and comments.
My second strategy for staying organized was using a work flow management system such as WorkflowMax. As a small team, you may be tempted to handle all work flow via email. I can tell you from experience that this is dangerous.
Email gets lost. You can’t keep track of who is assigned to complete which task. You have no idea how the project is progressing. The relatively small investment that you make using WorkflowMax, or any management tool, will save you thousands of dollars and numerous migraines.
While leveraging technology is good to monitor progress and stay on top of projects, face to face meetings are priceless.
In my agency, we used to do a weekly review of the status of all the projects. Even though I could see how each project is progressing, there was always a level of accountability that had to take place when each team member discussed their progress that week.
We were also able to see where team members were struggling and offer quick brainstorm sessions to help them get over the hurdle and move their project forward.
These meetings also gave us the feel that “we’re all in this together”. When you only use technology to run your projects, you can get the feeling of working in a silo. Discussing the trials and tribulations of certain projects and clients can be therapeutic to your team.
Over the years of running my marketing agency, the single most important keys to my success was making sure that projects were completed on time and under budget.
By using the six strategies outlined above, I was able to eventually accomplish both of these goals 100% of the time.
Greg Digneo writes for TimeDoctor, a time monitoring and productivity monitoring software designed for tracking hours and productivity of remote teams. If you would like to see where you and your team are spending your time during work, then check out www.timedoctor.com to try TimeDoctor free for 30 days.