agency management tips

Agency Management Tips : Upgrade your operating system for profit

Thanks to Sian Lenegan for this fantastic agency management tips article for Women in Agencies. Are you ready to streamline and look at your work in a different way? Read on for Sian’s expert insight.


Running an agency can be one of the most rewarding professions. And at the same time can be one of the most draining and demoralising. The stuff you hate doing, the “little stuff” that takes up all your time, the fire fighting grinds you down and you forget what makes you get up every day.

You know exactly what I’m talking about. Writing proposals (with no hint of a budget), clients want free spec work (aka crowdsourcing ideas), never-ending projects, chasing payments (when you know they’ve seen the invoice), justifying your prices because “my neighbour’s nephew’s son” can do it for £100, the “I need this now” emails at 4 pm on a Friday. And that’s all before the never-ending hunt for new clients and new work.

We do all these things because we think we have to.

You can do a hard refresh, clear your cache and restart right now by writing yourself a “not to do” list. Write down all the things that you’re not going to do anymore. If you need some inspiration, how about…

  • Doing speculative work for pitches
  • Never compromising on price without compromising on deliverables
  • Stop working for clients who aren’t the right fit
  • Working on projects that take way longer than they should (because of the client of course)
  • Starting work before you get content
  • Accepting feedback from third parties via your client, “well my cat thinks…”
  • Doing never-ending rounds of revisions
  • Bankrolling clients’ projects by providing credit terms you didn’t agree to

If you experience all or some of these, you’re stuck on vision 10.8 “Mountain Lion” and it’s time to upgrade your operating system.

You can have your agency on your terms, start moving towards profitability and have the freedom and prosperity you so deserve. You have to find a way to eliminate doing all these things, not only for the health of your business but to give you the headspace to be creative, to be enthusiastic, and add massive value to your clients.

We start off by looking at the core of your operating system and getting your agency set up for success.

The Agency Operating System For Profit

Part 1. Clients

Not just any clients, the right kind of clients. You want to be the North Star to your perfectly aligned clients, meet them where they are, and offer them a solution to their problems. As an agency, as any business for that matter, you don’t want to be compared to the competition – you want to show more value than anyone else.

Part 2. The Business Model

Regardless of being an agency business or service business, you want to make sure that your services and clients’ needs are aligned. What I mean by that is providing services that you want to do and aligning that with what your clients need. If you’re doing all the things, well all I can say is dilution is not the solution.

Part. 3 Processes

Having a lean way of doing things will help to self-manage scope and you want to make sure that projects don’t become one of those never-ending sagas. Systems, processes, and having things constantly being optimised will help your team and you focus on the creativity, the client, and that kind of consistency breeds quality.

business planning for agencies

There’s a reason that 80% of the time you’re working on things that don’t light you up and only 20% of the time doing the things that get you up in the morning. You might have stuck it to the big man and you’re working for yourself, but without an operating system for your agency, you own a job (and probably don’t get paid what you deserve).

I understand the feast and famine or what it’s like to ride the boom and bust rollercoaster (I have a previous post, “what type of agency owner are you” which explains that a bit more).

Click here for the agency management tips full article, and click here for the podcast episode.

Beth Hellowell
Founder of Women in Agencies and co-founder of Signify Digital. Mother, social media scroller and frequent pasta eater.