As I keep exploring what I want to do with my next steps, I'm thinking a lot about how to bring together all the random, and not so random, creative energy that I see flowing around on the Internet, and the evolution of an ad hoc agency is forming in my mind.
There are two extremes for how people offer their services. The first is the JWT model of corporate agencies. Even the 10-15 person companies follow this model to some degree. You get cubbied into a box, and your workflow and process are at the whims of management. And there's a LOT of management -- creative directors, account managers, partners.
The large agency model attracts work, but it churns through people like the meat grinder that the Agency world is.
Then there is the independent contractor, otherwise known as the feast or famine model. As annoying as a creative director is, you get direction in an agency model, and you get cross fertilization from other disciplines.
Working alone tends to stagnate your skills, and you're so busy taking care of billing and getting new business, you don't have much time for anything other than the task at hand.
As for building new business, the only people who know you are people you already know -- you get work from word of mouth, repeat business or cold calling. The odds are slim to none that a decision maker will wake up one morning and say, "Hey! I need to hire so-and-so to do a project today!" And while social networking is changing this to some degree, the cacophony of voices gets in the way of your success.
Corporate decision makers know Wieden+Kennedy, JWT, and cmd. If they're an Intel or an HP, they're going to try branded agencies before some independent contractor.
I recently wrote a blog entitled It's the Brand, Baby. What I'm thinking now is that we need to create an umbrella brand -- if we can get 50-100 independent creative under the same brand, we can start generating some serious traction.
The problem is account management. If you have a bunch of independent contractors bringing together work, they all want to manage the client. But as a client evolves and needs more services (graphic design to web to photography to video to viral marketing), the initial contractor may not be the best person to manage the account.
In the independent world everyone is an account manager, but no one is. It's always the part time job of the designer, the writer, or whoever got the client. I want to find a way to provide account and project management services without causing a lot of agency friction with a group of independent, free thinking, individuals.
Account management is based on relationships, which means keeping involved with the client. Project management is resource management and requires a boss to make final decision and keep things on track, which is good for the client, good for the project, but can be painful for the creative-type.
There are lots of ways this model could be implemented. It could be completely virtual or it could have one big office space. Even if everyone signs off on using the brand, the question is to what extent, and how much variation are they allowed?
So, options may include
- License the brand
- Coop agency space
- Social network style membership website
- Project by project contracts