Growth can be a trap for agencies
Earlier this year, an independent contractor and I jointly pitched a prospective client. We were up against an agency, who tend to have the kinds of expense accounts to better woo clients.
Truth be told, we may not have cost much less than the agency. I’ve been told by an independent developer that an agency won a pitch that equalled his solo asking price.
I can see how it probably seemed like getting more hands on deck is better value for money.
The thing is, I’ve worked for agencies. People who know me in real life have heard me describe my experiences in creative agencies as being like that of a digital sweatshop.
The end clients never saw this aspect. They saw a quickly produced website and didn’t think to question what was under the hood or how many people inherited the project from someone who quit suddenly from stress or interned out, or that they were utterly miserable for not being able to take the steps necessary to do quality work, and constantly in a state of anxiety of needing to work faster.
This isn’t a model I have any intention of replicating.
The price we pitch is the cost of two experienced people who will do a standard of work that’s equally suited to be maintained by us or handed over to someone else without hours lost to finding where the spaghetti code is hidden. A standard we can stand by and be proud of.
It’s for our advice on what’s best for the client’s aims and overall business, even if it’s not what they had in mind.
If I ask a personal instructor or dietician to give me a plan to become unhealthily skinny, I would hope they wouldn’t carry out my wishes by saying “well, it’s what they wanted”.
We have to be more than a monkey’s paw, granting wishes and abdicating responsibility for the outcome.
Size isn’t a good indicator of quality or speed
Some agencies hire as if three juniors coding is the same in terms of quality and speed as having one experienced developer.
In practice, the reverse is true.
More juniors can never work as a fast as a senior because all of them need to get approval at each stage from someone.
And that someone will max out on smart feedback as the day gets longer.
But when you’ve committed to the idea that team size matters and there’s an office that needs paying for, you’ll hire for affordability.
And you can’t take too long on any job because that expanded payroll needs to pay for itself quickly.
Do clients ever win with all that pressure, tension and cost-cutting behind the scenes?
Many startups don't seem to understand the 'cost' of running a business is very different when you are small and when you are the size of Facebook … or that the shift from one to the other isn't linear. In simple terms it works like this: pic.twitter.com/b5s9qNcUkU
— Thomas Baekdal (@baekdal) April 3, 2018
Small is less stressful and allows more creativity and problem solving without the big overhead.
Small is nimble and arrives at decisions quickly.
Small means seeing clients as people, not as “briefs” to “fulfil”.
Small means no one has to wonder what was said in a meeting, leading to mistrust or misunderstandings later on. This will eventually affect work.
Small means no one gets shoved in the back of group photos for not being cute enough or important enough and pretend to be ok with that. This also will eventually affect work.
Small means there’s no job that can ever be more important than my relationship with a work partner, or their happiness or health.
Small keeps things human.