5 Tips For Working With a Digital Agency

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What is on your heart?

Before starting a project, be it web design, a video or some branding work, there are some things you as a customer may do to make the process as swift and cost effective as possible.

This is a list first and foremost written to you who are interested in working with us, but feel free to read and learn about our processes, and put it into action with your own customers or in working with another firm. Following these steps makes the world a smoother place.

1. Have one single project manager at the customers side

And this project manager must have the final say on the product, or involve the one who has the final say at an early stage.

All creatives know what I talk about. The moment when the project seems approved by your contact person at the customers business, and you’re ready to launch, but then suddenly another shareholder turns up, who’s approval is necessary. And suddenly it’s rejected, and goes back into more laps on the revision track.

That is the time when both me and my customers wish we would have had these comments at a much earlier stage in the product, and unnecessary hours have been put into the project.

Do yourself a favor and figure out who has the final say on the project before ever starting.

Countless work hours have been lost this way.

Do yourself a favor and figure out who has the final say on the project before ever starting. Then as the process gets rolling, keep this person in the loop.

Working with a digital agency is like skiing, not snowboarding. Both skis need to go the same direction all the time for the project to get down the hill. And don’t bring a third ski to the table somewhere mid-project, that wants to go some other direction.

Once you’ve dropped into the hill, and things are sliding along, changes always takes longer time. The further you get, the harder it is to do big changes. And this has us skiing straight into point 2.

2. Take your time in pre production

Don’t stress it! The longer your prepare before jumping into production, the smoother the production will go! Stressing through the initial phase only slows down the final delivery.

Get all the details in place, and revise your plan before ever letting the work get in motion. This is the point where you should be most responsive to communication from your creative person, whether it’s your contact person at our agency, or a content creator in house in your own agency. The more you answer irritating e-mails at this point, the clearer a picture the creative will have of your vision – as well as being able to influence your idea at an early stage – and later, things will slide down hill fast (in a positive fashion).

Digital agency at the drawing board.

Make sure to take your time at the drawing board.

To explain our work process—which is how most, if not all, digital agencies work—we split it up into three phases. I have stolen the terms from the film industry, but technically the terms fit just as well in the development of any digital product.

Pre production

The planning phase. If it is a website, we talk ideas, sketch up mockups, talk about goals with the project. What strategies can fulfill your goal? The more time we spend in this phase, the more time we shear off the next two phases.

It is almost always a temptation to rush into production—because, of course, you want to see your finished product. I understand it, but the more you hold back, the more you will thank yourself later.

Hot tip: Find something visual to show your creative contact early in the process. Some logo or brand you like, some video, style or colors that you wouldn’t mind your product ending up looking like.

I have found that most companies, when sitting down to explain what they want from a creative agency, have a specific image in mind that they have seen some place. If that is you, find it and show it!

The last part of pre production is when the designs are mocked up in Photoshop, the script for the film is being completed, the moodboards are drawn. Then when these are approved, we finally move into the next phase.

I have found that most companies, when sitting down to explain what they want from a creative agency, have a specific image in mind that they have seen some place. If that is you, find it and show it!

Production

When you are stepping from pre production into production, you are essentially shoving all your plans into the hands of the creative and waiting excitedly for what may come out on the other side. That is why the process is a whole lot about trust. Do you like what this company have done before? Do you trust them to do it again? Would you be willing to trust their experience more than your own opinions, in the areas that are their expertise?

When you are stepping from pre production into production, you are essentially shoving all your plans into the hands of the creative and waiting excitedly for what may come out on the other side.

Once all the plans are on the table, we go out with our cameras, we start coding, and we produce the finished product. If the pre production was done well, we will have a clear direction, and create the digital product in the shortest possible amount of time.

Post production

The product is complete, and since we took our time in the pre production, and gave additional feedback along the production phase, only minor changes are necessary to fully polish the product. Only remember—once in the post production phase, changes take at least ten times as long, then if you would have done it in pre production or even early in production.

3. Give your craftsperson space

As a business owner, I understand that you want to cut costs and to rush the time until release. You are eager to see your new product in real life, and cutting costs is just the way you think when running a business.

But margins are amazing.

Digital agencies need breathing space.

Margins give you space to breathe, and for creativity to bloom.

They make your breathe.

They make you able to focus in on your work.

They empower you to work at full creativity, enjoying it, and giving it that little extra.

Make sure you don’t push the person you have hired into a stressful mode. The final product will suffer. Pay what it costs, and make sure you plan ahead so that the deadline doesn’t shear at your product.

Also, your respect of the craftspersons skills and expertise, makes them feel energized and inspired to do their best. It clear’s up the air, and makes them work harder. Encourage the parts you love when you criticize. That classic sandwich. If you find nothing to compliment in your creative’s work, maybe you have hired the wrong person.

4. Communicate as clearly as you can

Communication is what we all are working on. One could argue that the human experience revolves around communication—but that is far too philosophical for this article. One thing we do know—we can all get better at it.

What do you want, and how much money are you willing to spend to get it? Don’t you like our ideas, find out why, so we can reiterate and come to an agreement already in post production.

Those irritating e-mails I mentioned. A lot of time could be saved if you read them in full, and reply to them clearly. But that is a whole can of worms to open.

Once again, do you have visuals?

Other websites that look like what you want? Brands that inspire you? Something we have done before that you would like us to take inspiration from, when starting your project?

Visuals is a great help. A simple Google search, some screenshots from Instagram. And remember to try to point out what exactly you like about that design your take inspiration from. Do you like the colors, the typography, the tone of writing?

A picture does actually say more than a thousand words. Hashtag oldbutgold.

5. Take a fika

In Sweden we have something incredibly important—fika. It is a small social break from work, where you grab a cup of coffee with some snacks or a piece of cake. This contributes to Sweden being one of the countries with the highest coffee consumption in the world. And in that same spirit of encouraging and removing stress to make the product great, a good fika may spark relaxed conversations that may lead to unexpected results.

Have you ever strived with a project all day long at work, and then have the solution just come to you the next morning after completely dropping the project. Fika, and all other small breaks has this same effect.

This may be mostly relevant internally at an agency, but could also be applied to a customer–creative relationship.

Digital agencies run on coffee.

Don’t you feel the urge for a fika when you see this picture?

Do you feel ready to talk to us now? Don’t hesitate to email us and get the conversation started!

This one was written by Benjamin Antoni

Reaching about 10 years experience developing for the web, and have been doing various forms of graphic design since he discovered a copy of Photoshop in his brother's room a long long time ago. Mail him if you want work done.

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