Playing with the big boys: the next step for your studio or agency

The Creatives versus the Suits.

It’s the classic dichotomy in media and advertising. You have the talent, the source of your creative ideas, and you have the managers and executives who make it possible for clients to make the most out of that talent.

To succeed in this business, you need both. You need to strike a balance between pure creativity and business management. Perhaps, even better, you need to look at the two not as opposing forces but as the ingredients you need to run a successful studio or agency.

For creatives starting their own shop, it’s possible to do these things on your own—seek out your own clients, negotiate contracts, and manage the finances while doing the creative work.

This is a sustainable model if you’re a freelancer or working on smaller, one-off contracts. But because you’re talented and deliver, your clientele has probably grown. You’re getting referrals left and right, and your gig is turning into a full-blown business.

This can be hard for creatives—not necessarily because they can’t manage the business side of things, but more because it’s hard to do so when you need to focus all your creative energies on the work. And because you’re still starting, it might be too much of a sudden leap to incorporate or hire an entire staff and move into a bigger office.

The great thing is that there are services that you can maximize to make this transition from a small shop to a new player more gradual and sustainable.

Co-working spaces

When you started with your creative business, you probably did it from your apartment. With a laptop and some late nights, you bagged your first client and closed your first contract. Maybe you corresponded primarily via email. There was no need for any formal meetings.

As you grow, however, you will need to appear more professional. Doing so will allow you to secure bigger accounts and clients who normally only deal with agencies and studios rather than individuals.

This is where renting out a table or room in a co-working space becomes an ideal solution. This setup provides you with a professional business address in a key city center, along with a receptionist and a business phone number.

These spaces normally also provide basic office services like fax machines, a fast and stable internet connection, meeting rooms, and free coffee. It allows individuals or really small businesses to look legitimate without investing so much capital or expanding too quickly.

men shaking hands

Virtual executives

Running a business isn’t just about the space—it’s about the people, too. You and your team may have the creativity down pat, but are any of you equipped with skills for the business side of things? Granted that you are, do you have the time to attend to these matters while brainstorming and developing your projects?

This is where virtual, fractional executives can enter the picture. As your business expands, you’ll need executive-level expertise to advise you on your finances and strategies for the growth of your enterprise. Instead of paying a full-time salary to hire a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) or Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), you can tap the services of a virtual CFO or fractional CMO.

For example, with a fractional CMO, you are partnered with an executive who can handle concerns like customer acquisition, sales, and company growth, leaving you with time and energy to focus on the creative deliverables. And because they aren’t full-time employees, you only invest in them for the period you need their services.

Supporting small businesses

Like any small business, your shop may be qualified to receive grants and participate in programs from the government. Of course, you will have to check if you and your business qualify for a grant, but there could be opportunities out there available to you. You might also catch the attention of some investors looking to enter the creative industry.

This inflow of cash might be the thing that your agency or studio needs to take things to the next level. You’ll finally be able to truly expand, hire more talent, and employ full-time executives.

Creative work is almost always a collaborative effort—not just in terms of the art itself but also in the different business functions needed to make everything possible. Through collaboration, your little shop may soon turn into an agency that can pitch against the big players. It may seem like a pipe dream right now, but slow and steady growth can lead you to it.