Managing a creative agency is a lot of fun… until it’s not.
Creatives are great. A bunch of personalities filled with ideas that can create fireworks for your business. But we all know they can create headaches, too.
The good news is, if they’re underperforming and missing deadlines, you can make changes in-house to get back on track—and get your team back to performing to their full potential.
Let’s take a look at some tips you can use to manage your creative agency, as well as some tools to really get the most out of your team.
1. Make teamwork the priority.
Instead of using feedback to put certain creatives on pedestals and knock others down, try to create an environment that’s focused on the value of teamwork
Sure, some creatives are going to be stronger than others. And giving negative feedback sucks. But these factors are just part of the creative agency game. And they're necessary.
In fact, your creatives really want to hear what you have to say.
But instead of tearing something down or criticizing a piece of work, band together and talk about how, as a team, you can collectively make it better.
That way, instead of negative feedback being thrown around (which never ends well), your team will rally and the end result will be more positive.
Sharing successes as well as failures will go a long way in cementing strength in your team and their ability to get the job done.
See how this creative agency collaborates and gets projects done.
2. Praise each creative differently.
Although we’ve drilled into when your agency should rally as a team, there are also times when you should address each creative individually
And because each creative will be different in how they respond to praise, you need to change what you say depending on who you’re speaking to.
I know what you’re thinking… Didn’t we just do the whole “great job, team!” thing in the previous step? Well, yes. But as much as the success of your agency requires a team effort, to get the most out of each creative, you need to be praising them individually.
You might be surprised to find that 1:1 feedback from yourself or a client can mean more to a creative than group applause. You need to find this out yourself, though. Ask your creatives how they like to be praised. Even this little step will go a long way with building a better relationship with your creative.
Be cautious: Although this practice seems easy, sometimes it isn’t as simple to put into place in a real environment. The larger your agency, the harder it’s going to be to have this 1:1 culture. The only way to keep this consistent (no matter how far your company scales) is to make it a priority for your agency management to address from the start.
The result? you’ll end up with creatives who are more likely to thrive and respond to any feedback or praise.
3. Scope out each creative’s unique skills.
When’s the last time you checked in to see what unique skills your creatives have? Is anyone harboring a secret talent that you aren’t using
Once again, the best way to scope out these skills is simple: ask your creatives what their hidden talents are.
When you’ve got all these skills and sub-skills written down in black and white, it’s a lot easier to designate tasks when a project comes in. Having an assessment of everyone’s strengths and weaknesses will allow you to line up the right skills for the right project.
4. Manage your creatives’ expectations.
Sometimes it’s frustrating when you’re managing a project and your writer or designer just isn’t stepping up to the plate.
But take a step back and ask yourself, what did they expect from the project? Is the project proving to be what was pitched to them when you hired them?
Make sure you do your best to avoid this gap in expectations and nail down exactly what your creative should expect from day 1.
Once you’ve figured that out, you then need to work on managing those expectations and not let them slip. To get the best results, you should set out clear, manageable benchmarks to track any progress with your creative.
Something as simple as a timeline on a spreadsheet that you update when you progress through a project will keep their expectations in line. Or, try scheduling weekly updates with your creatives to check in with their progress and re-adjust expectations if you need to. (More tips on how to schedule meetings effectively here.)
5. Allow your team to create whenever they feel the urge.
A creative’s mind is like a hamster on a wheel… it needs to be constantly on the move. And when it’s on the move, it’s happier
Research by Gallup tells us what we probably already knew… Happier employees are more creative and productive.
So instead of only giving your creatives set assignments, how about giving them a bit of slack? For the sake of your agency, it’s important for your team to have the freedom to daydream, create and constantly produce new material to satisfy their minds.
Encourage your team to be creative whenever they feel the urge. If it seems like ideas are bursting from their minds, throw them onto a project where they’ll be of most use. This way they can be used to their full potential, instead of feeling like their creativity is being wasted.
6. Confuse your creatives into creativity.
Structure is great. It’s often the most efficient way of managing and controlling the crazy game of owning a creative agency. But sometimes you’ve just got to lose the carefully planned calendar and go with the flow.
If certain creatives on your team thrive on chaos instead of structure, don’t try and force them into sticking to your way of getting a project done. Instead, let them thrive in the chaos.
This might mean throwing a team member four different projects at once. That way, if they get a rush of inspiration on a particular project, they can harness it straight away.
A creative mind works best when it’s constantly busy and engaged. Learn how to manage the chaos until you’re comfortable with it.
7. Nail your workflow.
When you’re just starting out and trying to get your agency off the ground, spreadsheets might be alright just to get by
But as you scale and build your team, you’ll notice that they become more of a hindrance than a help.
Thankfully, technology has come a long way, especially for creatives and their workflows.
Whether you’re wanting your team to collaborate on a project, track their hours or have a way to manage leads, there’s now a tool available for pretty much anything. The most important benefit of these tools: they’ll give your team more time in their days to brainstorm and come up with ideas instead of doing tedious tasks like data entry and tracking client interactions.
Here are four of the best tools to keep the creative juices flowing and your workflow on track.
Workflow management: Asana
Few tools are better built with creatives in mind than Asana.
Asana allows you to collaborate with teams from different departments on a single project. You can communicate within the dashboard to keep your inbox clean and make sure everyone stays in the loop.
Setting up entire projects, sub-tasks and deadlines in the system is easy. You can then leave notes for any team member and move the task along until it’s been completed.
Boosting efficiency across the board has never been easier.
Digital toolkit: G Suite
G Suite has become the go-to toolkit for any team looking for ease and efficiency.
It lets you take your whole office with you, wherever you are. Google Spreadsheets, Analytics, Docs (learn how to be a Docs wiz) and Calendars can all be synced and used to supercharge team collaboration.
Tools like Google Hangouts have also made it a million times easier for teams to coordinate video meetings (no matter where in the world they are).
Team communication: Slack
Slack may be one of the most useful tools for team collaboration that’s ever been built.
Whether you’ve got a team of 10 or 1,000, Slack’s Channels are the easiest way for everybody to know what’s going on with every project.
Want to quickly communicate agency updates or see who’s up for beers on Friday? All you have to do is let your team know through a dedicated channel.
It syncs up with Google Docs, Dropbox and Asana, just to name a few, so everyone will be on the same page at all times.
Think you don’t need a CRM? Think again.
Using a CRM in your creative agency can boost your team’s collaboration on deals by 43%. And your prospects and clients? They’ll get a 36% faster response time from your creatives, too.
But the crux of a CRM is its ability to automate the mundane, low-value tasks your team has to do every single day.
For example, Copper is made to work with G Suite. It automatically captures data for every relationship your team is managing (freelancers, vendors, clients, you name it) and tracks it automatically, so data entry becomes a thing of the past. Your team can even use templates to email prospects and clients to make their workday easier.
Oh, and it’s integrated with all of the above tools and lives right inside your Gmail inbox. No learning curve with this one.
Learn more? 👇
Looking for tips on how an agency can best use a CRM? Download the free Agency CRM Best Practices guide.
Flexibility is key with your creatives.
Letting your creatives have room—and more importantly, time—to dream up ideas in your agency is the key to getting them performing at their full potential
We don’t mean letting them go wild with no control, but you might be surprised at how many actually thrive when they have more time on their hands.
Managing each creative in a team environment as well as on an individual level is essential to putting their talents to good use.
Don’t be afraid to use tools to keep everyone in check. Automating mundane parts of your creatives’ workflows, like data entry and time-tracking, will mean they’ve got more time to do what they do best!