Back when we started our little agency in Belgium, we posted various case studies on Reddit. You guys were harsh. We received a lot of feedback, some were nicer than others. But we appreciated it. You can’t learn if everybody tells you you’re doing a great job.
We’ve been receiving mails and DM’s on a monthly basis of people saying our post inspired them to start their own agency. https://imgur.com/a/C0Nl3
It’s high time we did a follow up.
Business has been going great for us. Through trial and error we have determined what to do – or rather not to do. Now, we work with over 150 companies, and occasionally reel in larger clients.
We moved into our own office in 2016. After working for 1,5 years in the cloud – in our garden or in the kitchen – it was time to step our game. We lease a small space in a corporate building for around €1000/each month. It’s expensive, but it offers a central reception, utilities and free parking lots. https://imgur.com/a/vHowm
This affected our business considerably. Our clients began taking us more seriously and our productivity spiked.
It’s still only William and me (Oliver), but we rotate interns. They’re highly motivated and they love working here – or at least, that’s what they tell me – as they’re offered a chance to see different side of the business. We include them in every process and value them for their advice and opinion. They join our meetings, they receive client feedback and they are responsible for their own little projects. Interns are an amazing addition to our workflow. It’s a win-win. If the project demands some custom work that’s out of our reach, we hire a freelancer. Way better for overhead. https://imgur.com/a/H7qpj
We’ve expanded our services. We’re still doing websites and webshops with WordPress/WooCommerce and themes. We mostly use them as frameworks now. We’re also offering a full scala of digital marketing, PPC, email and more. About 10% of our time goes into graphic design. Lately we’ve picked up something new and that’s LinkedIn consulting. It’s probably the best converting social media there is for B2B. I’ve gone viral a bunch of times just by telling a story. About 80% of our meetings in the next few weeks are thanks to LinkedIn. It’s been madness. I get about 900.000 – 1.000.000 reach every month. Some of my posts had 4000 likes. And I only post in Dutch, it’s hard mode.
Local CEOs and marketing managers are picking up on this trend and we’re consulting them on how to perform on LinkedIn. It’s been amazing. We love building products like websites and webshops, but the satisfaction from seeing your clients go viral is awesome. https://imgur.com/a/uwha6
How are we making this work? We’re honest. We welcome clients who are dissatisfied with old school agencies. They hate the secretive attitude. Invoices with no clear explanation. They call them for support and they immediately receive a bill afterwards. Deviations from project fees, no clear timeline for when the project will be delivered. We’re trying to be as transparent as possible and it’s working. We explain why we charge this or that amount, we offer coming over personally and fixing an issue. We give a timeline estimate. We’re not saying we’re better than other agencies. They have way more experience than us. We just believe we can make a difference in service, and the market seems to agree.
How do you start an agency? Pretty simple. You get your hands dirty by either doing free work (don’t hate on this, if you’re starting out and your portfolio is empty, this is the way to go) or, if you want to offer multiple services, find people who want to join your team and maybe work commission-based. Make sure you nail your marketing. Be honest, underpromise and overdeliver. Follow up, call your client when it’s their birthday. You have to be their partner. Make sure you don’t fake this. You HAVE to be their partner, you can’t fake being their partner. You need to make sure you treat their business like it’s yours. Go the extra mile. You don’t even have to start an agency. You could do this on your own, then expand later on. I’d rather see you do something, than being stuck in the ‘wantrepreneur-lifestyle’.
I’m often asked for public speaking gigs. I love going to schools and inspiring the people in the room. Entrepreneurship is harsh, but fun. I want to show them that.
I also started a local club called ‘Jong Ondernemerschap’. That’s ‘Young Entrepreneurship’ in English. Our Facebook-group has more than 600 members and we have already held a meetup where people could pitch their project. https://imgur.com/a/HJukL
We started our adventure as total noobs, acting way more experienced and successful than we actually were. We’re happy we did that. It allowed us to get so much feedback and make so many mistakes in order to prevent them in the future.
We’re glad you guys roasted us pretty thoroughly. We learned a lot.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask them. I’ll disclose as much as possible.
There’s no ask, there’s no link. Our site is in Dutch anyway. I just wanted to share a follow up to our story, because it was total crap, and even then it inspired a lot of people.