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From the Frontline: Tips for Running a Design Agency

We are in the business of helping designers and design agencies succeed and grow. This is precisely the reason why we launched the LightCMS Developer Program more than a year ago. The Developer Program enables designers and resellers to focus on what they do best in creating leading-edge websites with a standards-based platform that does not require special programming languages while offloading server maintenance, hosting and upgrades to us.

Design agencies such as Striking Alchemy, Collision Media, Marcher Designs, Prime Inc., Screen Four and so many more are all taking advantage of the LightCMS Developer Program and seeing great success.

But having the right platform in place is just one part of what goes into running a successful design agency, albeit, a very important one.

We covered this topic before where we shared some of our own tips for running a successful design business. For this post, we sought out some tips/advice from designers and agencies who are working on the frontline every single day serving clients while also building their business. Here are some of their best tips.

Never Stop Hustling

Dennis Michael from Wake Creative, a boutique design studio based in Canada and Travis Bennett, managing director at Studio Digita both suggest that designers must think like a business owner first, designers second, and never stop hustling. Even when you think you are too busy to take on more clients, you still need to be out there looking for new work. Bennett warns that “if new leads aren't coming in regularly, or you're not able to convert the ones that do come in, your agency will be dead in the water before you know it.”

First Impressions Are Everything

If you don’t look good, do you really think prospective clients will want to work with you? According to Michael from Wake Creative, they definitely won’t. He warns that “designers need to put their money where their mouth is. If you are selling logo design, make sure your logo is awesome. If you are pitching brand development to clients, make sure your brand is spot on.”

You’re Only as Good as the People You Hire

Without the right people to serve your clients, your business could suffer. Jean H. Paldan, managing director with Rare Form New Media has an interesting approach to finding the right employees by asking perspective employees if they like their family. “Your employees are essential when you are growing. They have to be good at what they do, that's a given, but what is even more important is that they fit in with your company. When we hire people, one of the last questions we ask during the interview is if they like their family. Even if they come from the family from hell, if they are willing to disparage their family to you, that's a warning sign about loyalty and their overall character. Over the years we have had employees who had horrible families, but when they answered, they did so with respect for them.It's amazing how powerful this question is, and it will help you get the right people working for you.”

Don’t Try to Sell What You Don’t Do Well

Don’t spread yourself too thin. Sajeel Qureshi from Computan shared, “most boutique agencies are experts in a few disciplines, but they communicate themselves as a full-service agency. If you’re an agency that does design really well, then continue to do design really well. Don’t promote yourself as capable of web development, SEO or copywriting. In contrast, if you’re an agency that does development really well, don’t promote your design skills. As a result, you’ll attract the right clients and will be able to exceed expectations.”

Know What Your Ideal Client Looks Like

The perfect client/agency relationship isn’t always that easy to come by. Sometimes that chemistry just isn’t there. While most agencies don’t have the luxury of being too selective when it comes to taking on new clients, Jodi Hersh, President and Creative Director for Orange Star Design, Inc. suggests that “agencies should define upfront what their ideal customer will look like, what problems/needs will they have and how will they solve them?” Sticking close to this methodology, according to Hersh, will help determine which clients you choose to accept.

Do you have any of your own tips to share that have helped your business be successful? Please share in the comments below.

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