I have worked in the web design, mobile development, and marketing industries for more than ten years; now. And my experience working with industry-related agencies has been nothing but negative.
For one: in their bid to be profitable, agencies put a lot of pressure on employees to deliver high-quality projects as fast as possible. It’s not unusual for the project manager/business owner to push employees to be ultra-efficient. (Which can result in them working long hours or cutting corners.)
The situation is worse in cases of under-budgeted projects. Because then, employers try to hire talents at the lowest price point possible. And may circle through employees, creating a stressful and toxic environment.
The resulting toxic work environment can affect seasoned employees and lower the project’s quality. That’s especially true if the project isn’t well-documented, making it hard for new hires to pick up.
Having dealt with such politics for years, I was desperate for a change. There had to be a better way. So I started my own company – Fast and Slick Design Studio – hoping to run it differently and make a difference.
But the more I worked on the agency, the more I realized their inherent problems.
Project Pricing Issues
Prospective clients would often ask me: How much does a website design project cost?
Yet, from my experience: it’s hard to price a web design project as there is no one-size-fits-all. Every website is different, and depending on the purpose and features, the price can vary in the 1000’s if not 10,000’s.
Even if you were to build the same website, you could use different tools and techniques. The difference of which can affect the price drastically.
Creating web content can prove challenging for clients. And more often affect project completion. As a result: many agencies opt to charge hourly rates for their services to avoid incurring losses associated with such delays.
Unfortunately, hourly-rate-based pricing makes it hard for clients to budget – and can prove impractical for small and medium businesses.
Agencies that opt for flat rates tend to deliver the project in the most efficient way possible, leaving no room for midterm adjustment. Clients then strive to squeeze in as much additional work to get the most out of the deal.
Where’s the win-win?
Growing up, my parents taught me (and my sister) to build relationships that focus on mutual benefits.
They also advised that: if you always have the long end of the stick, no one would want to work with you for the long term.
What do I see? Many agencies focus on retaining clients instead of empowering them to manage their digital needs independently. That could result from fear of losing business if and when the client learns to do everything by themselves.
Many small and medium businesses cannot be completely independent of design agencies. The reason is: agencies are better equipped to keep up with the evolving technology. And be a step ahead to recommend the “right” design solutions to these businesses.
Plus, there’s always some advanced technical work that requires specialized skills. Think advanced programming, illustration, customization, cinematography, etc.
So why not give business owners the support, training, and direction they need to leverage digital solutions? After all, doing that has many upsides.
One: educated clients can better articulate their problems, making it much easier for us to solve them.
Two: educating clients will keep us motivated to improve our services and knowledge in the long run, as we strive to remain a step ahead.
Three, continuous learning will see us deliver even higher quality services to clients, which will keep them coming back. The list is endless and brings us to,
The New Fast and Slick Design Studio’s Business Model
I believe that small and medium businesses are the foundation of local economies. Unfortunately, they face many paywalls that prevent them from thriving.
As an agency owner blessed with the knowledge to improve businesses’ efficiency, mine is to be a light to help these businesses access this knowledge and industry best practices affordably.
That means building value-based relationships with clients, even if it means getting fewer monthly retainers. Or smaller budget projects.
I want Fast and Slick Design Studio to teach clients “how to fish” instead of having them keep coming back to buy “fish” from us.
Prioritizing to produce low-cost and free materials to help clients solve their digital needs with DIY solutions.
We’ll focus on higher-budget agency work to keep our skills and knowledge competitive, which is high-capital investment services that require specialized effort – think advanced programming, illustration and motion graphics, cinematography, photography implementation, etc.
We’ll distill the insights gained from working on such projects down; in easy-to-implement formats. And avail the guides to small and medium businesses.
Our Guiding Principles
First and foremost: We believe in people over profit.
That could be based on my simple optimism, or maybe I believe in Karma, or that God is watching our every move.
Whatever the reason: I believe something good will happen if we help our clients genuinely and treat people with respect and kindness.
Two, we value learning, listening, and evolving.
We acknowledge that we’re in the business of cutting edging innovation, where there are changes in the digital domain every other month. We, therefore, embrace a culture of continuous self-learning and feedback.
We also encourage team members to be thought leaders, share their own opinions and celebrate diversity. That means there’s always room for passionate individuals who can contribute business ideas to propel us forward. After all, there’s #strengthinnumber.
Three, we make our service and products transparent.
We gear our services towards helping clients achieve their set objectives. And strive to demystify the process, kill the fear, and explain every step.
Internally, we simplify the business goal and keep a flat structure so anyone in the team (regardless of their seniority) can speak and be heard.
Looking into the Future,
Our goal is to build a solid foundational block over the next two years. And prove that our new agency business model works.
We also want to establish and solidify a learning culture and synergy, helping team members attain their personal goals. The goal is to have a no overtime policy by year three. And in its stead, implement a solid support system beyond work life.
By year five, we want to be the pacesetters: inspiring other agencies to adopt a new business model – i.e. empowering clients with tools and DIY solutions while exemplifying higher budget projects with quality and efficiency.