It’s just over two years since I branched out on my own. At the end of a frenetic June – initially frustrating but in the end glorious (like the weather) – I’m able to reflect on the highs and low of the micro-agency life.
The edited highlights are:
Failed to win a massive account because we were deemed not to have the bandwidth and lost another reasonably sized piece of business because I wasn’t willing to discount my rates heavily;
Secured some top rate coverage for clients in the FT, Times, Observer/Guardian, BBC, Mail, Sun and – a first for me – The Star;
Worked with a global company, in the midst of a reconstruction, navigate its way through a tricky shareholder meeting;
Helped two clients gain some attention at massive trade shows they’d never been to before.
All but the last of these were executed in partnership with other niche agencies, showing how well the partnership model is now working for me. I’m really grateful to work with grown up intelligent people who don’t need hours of briefing and hand holding, and take a long-term view on fees, i.e. that being relaxed about the last shilling means clients, suppliers and partners are more likely to come back to you in the future. That’s said, don’t cut your rates too far to take some business, because this could mean you don’t have the capacity to take on work at your standard rate (or better).
The other lessons of this crazy month are:
Even if you know you are the outsider it may be worth sticking in there. When a global financial services group approached me earlier this year with a brief in both the UK and the Far East, I counselled them I might be too small. They said this wasn’t the case, but after assembling a team of like-minded operators in London and Hong Kong, and getting down to the last three, we were told we were indeed too small, and they gave it to a supposedly global agency. However, they promise we’ll get work from them in the future. Time will tell;
Whatever agencies and, indeed, in-house teams tell you about social, digital and the like, good old media relations still makes clients very excited. When they see their story as a page lead in The Observer, using the very angle that we told them would work: when it is followed up by everyone from BBC 5 Live to the Daily Star: when potential customers call them saying they’d seen the story: then you see a very happy client;
When working on special situation – I don’t like the term crisis – remember that you will never win in a fight with the legal team, as the client will fear litigation more than a bad reputation. Therefore, chose your battles carefully, and if you are later proven right, allow others to point it out.
That’s flamin’ June for you. Proves you are never too old or too busy to learn. We start again in July with a largely clean slate.