Agencies are there to help you deliver amazing results. As long as they all get along.
Agencies are there to help you deliver amazing results. As long as they all get along.
We like to think we know our eggs when it comes to shooting video. But guess what? You can too.
The old agency vs in-house debate has been around for years, so as the newest member of the Paradigm Creative family, here are my ramblings about moving to agency life after nearly ten years working in-house. See if you agree.
Variety: Working in-house is an awesome way to become an expert on one brand/organisation, whereas working for an agency gives you exposure to a number of clients across different sectors, all with their own communications challenges that need your support.
Culture: Corporate culture differs greatly depending on the organisation or sector. Some (like my last employer) can be really lovely and encourage things like flexible working. On the flip side, agencies like Paradigm are often small but rapidly growing, and as a result, feel lively and exciting, more like a start-up.
A different way of learning: In-house usually allows more time for things like personal development and training courses. Agency life is fast-paced and you learn on the job, mainly from other members of the team.
It ain’t 9 – 5: One of the big differences in agency life is that every day is different. You may have to work long hours on a proposal, respond to late night client requests or be on your feet at back-to-back events. It’s definitely a work hard, play hard culture.
The thrill of the pitch: One of the best things about any agency is pitching for new business. This is the potential start of a new client relationship where you show you’ve listened to their problem and come up with the best way to help achieve their objectives. And if you win the contract, it’s time to celebrate!
The waiting game: This is the kicker. Once you’ve pitched an idea to a client, it’s out of your hands. Sometimes it’ll get signed off, sometimes it’ll get binned. Sometimes, it’ll get given to another agency for them to deliver. Whatever happens, understand that this is part of agency life. There’ll be plenty more opportunities if you’re good at what you do.
Easier to get stuff done: Usually, when clients ask you to help them, it’s because they’ve already jumped through the relevant internal hoops to get their project prioritised, budget signed off, and initial ideas agreed, so you don’t have to.
Keeping in touch: Once you go agency side, you’re one step further away from the client, so you need to stay connected to them as much as possible. Regularly check in with them over the phone, or better still, over lunch, to understand what’s happening in the business and where you can add value for them.
Staying alert: Agencies are always looking for new clients and opportunities can come from anywhere. Always carry your business cards wherever you go. You never know when a random conversation in the coffee shop could lead to a new contract.
Working in an agency has great benefits, but so does working in-house. At the end of the day, they’re different sides of the same coin. And as a creative comms professional, they’re both great to have on your CV at some point in your career.
Have you made the move from in-house to agency, or the other way round? Let us know your experiences in the comments below.
Iain Lumsden joined Paradigm Creative as Client Services Director earlier in 2015 after heading up O2’s content and channels team. He brings almost 10 years experience working in internal communications and PR across telco and financial services organisations in the UK. He also loves collecting hats.
At Paradigm Creative, data often means video and design files. Lots of them. Sometimes several terabytes per project. It’s the same in most creative agencies, so with all that data, we thought we’d share what we’ve learned about storage, to make sure your client’s work always stays secure.
When we started out, we used external hard drives and soon realised how terribly inconvenient drive failure can be. So we quickly moved to using desktop two bay RAID drives configured as RAID 1, which basically meant we had two drives making copies so if one drive failed, we weren’t scuppered.
(Don’t worry, there’s a glossary at the end to explain the more techy terms in this blog.)
While this prevented drive failures, we began to notice a few issues as we took on more work:
It was clear we needed a networked solution, with quick access for the whole team, redundancy for data security, and something scaleable as we took on more work.
Not much to ask, right?
It’s worth noting at this point that we do creative comms, not IT, so understanding the relative merits of fibre channel networks, Ethernet and switches was a very steep (and useful) learning curve for us all.
The (technical) solution
After weighing up our options we chose a 16 bay RAID chassis (an Evo SNS solution if you’re up on this type of thing) which is basically a monster of a hard drive which runs on an extremely fast network, allowing everyone to work on it at the same time.
Then the work started piling in and we needed a decent back up system. We went for a Linear Tape-Open 6 drive as a single tape kept in the right conditions, is good for up to 30 years. We started making two copies of every tape – one for the office and one stored offsite. We also backed up the stack of external drives we’d got in storage, giving us a lovely set of labelled and catalogued tape that wouldn’t look out of place in an IKEA showroom.
With the pile of empty drives, we added the third and final tier of our backup solution – recycling the old drives into a new RAID chassis, and set up copy software to backup our active projects every night.
It took us a few attempts at various data storage solutions but this is the one that works for us and makes sure all client projects are backed up and secure, whatever happens.
Have you had a similar experience in your agency? Or are you looking for ideas for your own data storage solution? Let us know in the comments below.
Glossary of terms
RAID: Stands for ‘redundant array of independent disks’. Basically, it turns several individual hard drives into a single drive, making into a much more effective and secure way to back up.
RAID 1: Writes and reads the same data to pairs of drives. Also referred to as mirroring. The drives are equal partners—should either fail, you can continue working with the good one until you can replace the bad one. RAID 1 is the simplest, easiest method to create failover disk storage.
Redundancy: Is a system design in which a component is duplicated so if it fails there will be a backup.
Linear Tape-Open: Is a high-capacity tape storage technology that is open format, giving users access to compatible products from many suppliers.
LTO 6: This provides a maximum native storage capacity of 2.5 TB and a maximum compressed capacity of 6.25 TB.
Paradigm is still a young whippersnapper in the big wide world of creative, but in the short time we’ve been around, we’ve learned a few things about running an agency that we’d like to share. Cos we’re nice like that.
1. There’s never a right time to start
If you’re considering starting an agency, don’t wait for the magic moment. There isn’t one. The best time to start is now. Of course, have a rough idea of your business plan. Make sure you know what you’ll be doing on the first day and who your clients are going to be. But it’s more important to seize the moment. You’ll figure out the rest pretty quickly.
2. Look after your clients
An obvious one, right? Relationships are key to the success of any agency. Always be nice, even when you’re having a rubbish day. Do favours for your clients. Meet up for lunch from time to time rather than relying on email and phone calls. Treat them how you’d want to be treated. They’ll remember you in the future.
3. Be prepared for long hours
Especially at the start. And then later on. Ok, so the first few years are definitely hard graft – they’re also very rewarding. Oh, and if you have a partner, make sure they’re aware of the late nights and travelling involved in your new business venture. Trust us, a well-timed ‘spontaneous’ dinner date goes a long way.
4. Be nice to your people
The world doesn’t need ‘just another creative agency’, it needs special places to work. Make sure yours is one that people want to be a part of and treat them with respect. In turn, they’ll help you when you most need it.
5. Embrace your inner geek
A successful agency is just as much about IT and data as it is about creativity. A good workflow system and infrastructure is vital to service clients effectively. Test out new processes and ways of doing things, from archiving projects to sorting out holiday requests. Learn from what works and evolve. And don’t be afraid to ask for advice from people that have been there before.
6. Make lots of industry friends
It goes without saying, collaboration is crucial. No small business is an island, especially in the creative industry. Establish a strong network early on and it will lead to more opportunities, especially if you know other agencies that offer complimentary services to yours.
7. Take time off
Running an agency can feel all-consuming but it’s important to take time off when you can, otherwise you’ll burn out quickly. Book a holiday abroad, go to a spa, visit family and friends, hike a mountain or go on a yoga retreat. It’ll give you give you a fresh perspective on things, which is usually when you get the best ideas.
8. Stay alert
Opportunities can come from anywhere, sometimes when you least expect it. The clients you thought were sure to give you work may never come to fruition whereas a random conversation in the coffee queue could lead to huge long-term contracts.
Above all, never lose the passion for why you started this in the first place. That’s why clients will choose you over other agencies out there.
Have you got any tips to share from your own experience in agency life? Let us know in the comments below.
And if you liked this, you can stay up to date with our ramblings by following @paradigmcrtv on twitter.