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10 things we’ve learned in 10 years of running a creative agency

4 min read

We’re so excited about our big 10 year anniversary celebration that we had to make a website for it. Let’s check it out here. And if you’re in the neighborhood on Nov 14., come party with us. Details in the link!

As we reflect on 10 years our hearts are full. Our team, our community, our customers, our friends, and our families, have all supported us big time on this journey. Especially – our Moms. Thanks for all the facebook and Instagram likes and comments. We love y’all.

We thought we’d include a few things we learned about running a creative agency over the past 10 years. Actually we’ve included exactly 10 things. Did we learn more than 1 thing per year? Possibly, but it’s more likely that we learned more things we didn’t know we needed to know. And that kicks off number 1.

01. Consistently learning makes us more creative. And – inspires us to greater ambition. It’s a simple concept, but many times we get into a dangerous cycle. Our comfortable processes takes over, and complacency sets in. Complacency is an ugly, ugly, beast. When we are intentional about crushing that beast, we make bigger, bolder moves. Have you seen our Drift Book Club we started?

02. Asking questions does not diminish our expertise. Never feel embarrassed to ask a question in a meeting. Many times, being the expert doesn’t mean you’re the one doing all the talking. Listening is one of our most strategic tools. A problem is much less scary when you understand it. Many times in the past, we tried to fix a problem, before truly making the effort to understand it. And the consequences were crippling.

03. Transparency and clear expectations lead to great relationships. Understanding scope can be simple or it can be very challenging. For projects where scope is not clear – it is critical to the success of our agency to make sure we do all that we can to clearly establish goals and deliverables. This is one of the biggest reasons for unsuccessful projects.

04. When we wait for perfect, we lose opportunities. While there are times for perfection, we’ve found the more we get preliminary work in front of people, the better the results. It doesn’t matter if we’re working on the UX of a dashboard platform or, thinking through brand strategy for a energy co-op, or creating content for our social platforms – the faster we get user feedback, the quicker we can iterate. The more we iterate, the more effective the work will be. We love the concept of Design Sprints – ask us about our workshops for quick ideation and prototyping for complex problem solving.

05. The best ideas come when we give them time. We have to be intentional about scheduling time for thinking and planning. For many years, we thought we were robots pounding away on a keyboard from 9-5+. We were constantly too busy with work, and we had forgotten that the part of our brain that would help us scale and grow was getting bogged down. We’re all guilty of being too busy to think. And yet, typically we’re paid to do just that. We constantly have to remind ourselves that ideas drive creative, growth, and culture. And to be successful we have to give time to think big. Check out the 2Bobs podcast titled, “Things principals should do more of.”

06. Create a network of mentors. Every “expert” we know, also has their own mentors. We have to be very intentional about leveraging our own network, and our own mentors as often as possible. It is so easy to get caught up in our own little bubble. For us, outside perspective is a necessary tool for growth. People are usually pretty great if you’re conscious of their time. Just ask. The worst that can happen is they say no. #ontothenextone

07. Failure is a step in our process. When we think of failure as part of the creative process, it’s much less scary to try new things. In the creative process, failure means invention, creation, and new. And some times you have to invent a few unusable ideas, to get to the good stuff. Don’t let fear keep you from thinking biggest. For some inspiring thoughts on failure, check out James Victore’s instagram.

08. Getting new clients is tough. Many freelance creatives and entrepreneurs ask us how we get new clients. The qualified leads all have a similar reason for finding us; “I saw you did this for someone in my industry”, or “Some person told me about your team”, or “I heard you speak at some event.”, or “I’ve been following you on social media for a while now.” If you reverse engineer what we hear, then it translates to these 3 things: 1. Word of mouth is our most powerful sales tool. 2. It’s much easier to sell a website to an industry we work frequently within. 3. Our social platforms are a place to share our expertise, insights, and culture, and in turn it can translate to new work. 4. When we write or talk about what we do, we create new opportunities. This could really be a long list of ways to get new clients, but I would add one more, which would be your community. For us, being an aggie-owned creative agency, means we get to work with other aggies. That’s our community – our people.

09. Our partnership is a huge asset. We have three partners at Drift. Each of us brings a unique perspective and vision to the company which is invaluable at a principal level. A partnership is not easy, and takes work – and we’ve put in our fair share of work. Trust and openness are the key ingredients for fostering a healthy partnership. We’ve found that the more open we are with each other, the more perspective we gain. And when you have clear perspective, the things you say, think, and do, are usually more thoughtful and intentional.

10. The power of story. One of our favorites, Donald Miller says, “Story is atomic. It is perpetual energy and can power a city.” Or it can be the driving force behind your brand, marketing campaign, or website. The day we first hit the road we started the story of Drift. We weren’t completely aware of the power of our story until we came home to College Station. People kept hiring us even after the road trip was over, even though our work was far from perfect our story was still driving sales.

If you have any other questions about running a creative agency, feel free to reach out to us on instagram @driftcreate or email me: gavin@driftingcreatives.com



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