Hello again! I’m back with the last installment of this series. I have started my agency and it has been a huge success so far.
The process of converting a freelance career into an agency is not simply a matter of expanding a business model. It requires careful planning and close attention to details as the business processes come into existence and mature. Rather than a static, one-off thing, building a full-service web development and design agency is a work in progress.
Here is a brief overview of my journey so far:
- Experienced Developer’s Tips On Finding The Best Freelance WordPress Jobs
- The Art Of Creating Perfect Bids And Winning Customers For Freelance WordPress Developer
- Why Successful WordPress Freelancers Don’t Say YES To Every Project
- WordPress Project Management And Agile Methodology For Freelance Developers
- Best WordPress Workflow Management Tools For Freelance Developers
- How To Hire WordPress Developers For Your Agency
Many freelancers make the mistake of jumping into the deep end without thinking out several important aspects of the transition. While all freelancers think about developing the business and the team, however, the success and long-term viability of the agency depends on factors and principles that often slip the discussion.
In this installment, I will present those important elements of the plan for launching an agency.
Important Aspects of Building an Agency
Finances, workplace design, and office hardware are important for any agency. However, transition into an agency from a freelance career, the following aspects attain greater significance:
The Mission of the Agency
Defining a clear mission helps you make decisions without ever losing the sight of the objectives. An effective mission will motivate the employees, distinguish you from the competitors and inspire the customers.
A Brief History of the Business
The history of the business summarizes the creation, inspiration, evolution and the vision that powers the business. This is important for creating the story that resonates with your target audience.
The ideal structure of the team for a WordPress agency is open to debate. I prefer a team of developers working under project management. Marketing activities are handled by a digital marketing. When the team grows I would add a separate sales and customer support team.
I created a summary of each person’s experiences and skills and utilized them accordingly. Remember to lead your team by example. This is the best way of building the right team ethos.
The projects are the lifeblood of any agency. In order to ensure timely delivery of the projects, it is essential that you implement agile project management practices. In addition, write precise project descriptions that are clear and do not require interpretation. The statements should include the quality requirements that should be realistic, verifiable and obviously achievable.
Always remember that every project has a financial angle that should not be overlooked. Every project requires resources that come out of your agency’s pool of resources. These resources (contributions from developers, equipment and time of the stakeholders) actually determine the cost of any project.
The Cost of Assets
Assets are usually classified into tangible and intangible. Many agency owners focus on tangible resources (workspaces, laptops, networking architecture and office furniture) and forget about intangibles. Remember that intangible resources (software licenses, paid training for developers and designers, etc.) are equally important and require monetary resources. The financial planning for the agency needs to include both these types of assets.
The Industry and the Market
WordPress industry is very diverse and includes overlooked areas such as maintenance and product marketing. You, as the agency owner, should determine what areas the agency would focus on initially and what areas it would expand into as the agency grows.
Competition is always healthy for a WordPress agency. It drives innovation in services creation and delivery and allows the customers to choose the best fit of WordPress services for their budget. As an agency owner, you should always keep an eye on the competition. This analysis should focus on the services and cost-benefit advantage offered by the competitors. In many cases, this allows you to tweak your offering to attract more clients and improve the revenue of the agency.
The Marketing Strategy for the Agency
Every agency has its unique mix of resources and stakeholders that determine the marketing strategy. However, in general, every marketing strategy should focus on the 4 Ps (the four basic variables that combine together to create your marketing strategy):
- Product: Which range of products or services will the agency offer to its clients? This should include all support and maintenance features as well.
- Price: The price structure depends largely on the market trends and competition. However, if you could justify higher prices (through quality and/or unique services), you shouldn’t be afraid to tackle the issue directly.
- Promotion: Promotion in the digital world requires attention to digital marketing channels and tactics. Remember that WordPress audience could be found on several different channels and your promotion strategy should be custom tailored for all these channel and audience.
- Place: In the context of a WordPress development agency, the place is defined as the entire internet. Product and service distribution locations are your website, third-party owned websites and crowd-powered project listings. Remember that a digital channel is as good as the attention it receives from the agency.
The Team and the Culture
The team makes or breaks an agency. It is essential that you invest in the right people to build your team. Many people assume that the “right” people are the most technically qualified and experienced. This is correct, but only to a certain extent. Experienced developers and designers could carry the agency to a limited distance only. After that, an agency survives and grows on its culture.
As the agency owner, it is your responsibility to create and foster the right cultural values that ensure the appropriate work environment and ethics. It takes time to iron out the kinks in the process and you should always pay close attention to the feedback of your team.
To ensure the continuation of the right cultural values, hire the people who best fit your cultural values. Remember that even if a developer is highly skilled, he is a poor fit in the agency’s culture, if he is not a team player. Similarly, a designer with a poor reputation for confidentiality would add little value to your agencies structure.
A WordPress agency is a team effort and by implementing the right cultural values, you could ensure that all stakeholders remain happy and productive. In some cases, you have to make hard choices in both hiring and accepting projects. In such cases, remember two vital points that contribute to the success of your agency:
- People who fit cultural values will help grow the agency
- People not profits ensure long-term viability of the agency
By implementing the ideas presented above, you will ensure that your agency has a firm foundation that allows for both growth and continued success. By focusing on giving your agency a culture of innovation and teamwork, you will see sustained and quantifiable growth over the years. The first few years would be slow but if you place the reputation of the agency before short term profits, you will discover that the client list would be populated with returning customers who bring in more work and become your agency’s evangelist in their own industries.
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