It’s hard to recruit good staff and even harder to retain them, writes Kirsty Hulse of Many Minds Digital. In the traditional agency models there’s often significant staff turnover because digital marketing is a space with increased demand. The best ones get headhunted and leave with relative frequency, making delivering consistent quality incredibly difficult, and huge amounts of time and energy are spent on recruitment as a result.
This also means that a lot of the staff in traditional digital agencies tend to be junior. Whilst giving people an opportunity to develop is one of the greatest societal responsibilities of any business, this often means that during a pitch process to win clients, agencies send in the ‘A team’ of the best resource they have. Though when it comes to the day-to-day delivery of the projects, it’s the junior staff that execute – and as a result, client expectations are not met against what was originally pitched.
Traditional agency models, especially the larger ones, can also be very rigid in their structures. They often have a hierarchical model that is applied to any client, regardless of their size of requirements, because large agencies have established processes they need to adhere to. This makes them more expensive, as staff resource is being deployed regardless of whether it delivers direct impact.
So, when a friend asked two years ago “Kirsty, I need a new agency – who do you recommend?” I replied “Just get some freelancers to work together, you’ll get better results and better people that way.” It occurred to me in that moment that I wanted to set up an agency, or collective, that did exactly this and I quit my job two days later.
Whilst working with freelancers can equally have its challenges, this model has certainly proven itself. It’s not hard to find, or retain, good quality freelancers. An experienced, career freelancer is often very equipped with a wealth of knowledge of their market. Their reputation is what, quite literally, feeds them, so there’s a direct connection to the work they delivery that makes it quality and on time.
Historically, when I was working full time for agencies, there’s be days where just showing up was enough. Now ‘going to work’ isn’t about getting up and doing a commute and showing my face in a few meetings, now ‘going to work’ is simply opening my laptop and actually doing some stuff.
Myself, and the team, spend less time ‘at work’ but we’re more efficient and productive, because we work when we’re feeling most productive (for me, that happens to be at about 9:30pm with a good Beaujolais). We collaborate well because we’re not living together under the same roof, fighting for the same promotions.
Most of my team have children and I am proud that I have a business that facilitates people spending more time with their family, less time commuting and as a result, delivering incredible work for our clients. My business model also allows us to charge a lot less than a traditional agency, with process, offices and overheads, ever could.