Summer is over, and almost every year at this time we have a couple of strange months where the weather is bad, money is short, the workload daunting and I am left asking myself: WHY did I think this was a good idea?
So, I decided it’s time to show the true colors of building and running a small agency and why you should not quit your 9-5.
1 You seem rich but you ain’t liquid
You usually go from rich to broke within weeks. Though you swear to set aside something from the next big project, even if you do – since you are an entrepreneur at heart – you use it for investments. So, two weeks of no payment and you can’t even pay for dinner.
2 More employees do not save you
It always seems that with hiring the next employee workload will be manageable, and you will have less pressure. Instead, you just run up your monthly costs and jobs are still either too few, too small or too many and too big for the team. Simply put: It will never seem quite right.
I love to pay taxes. It makes the social system in Austria work, and that’s great and necessary. But be aware: taxes can be tricky since a lot of them don’t look at what you actually make but are based on assumptions on what you could make. So sometimes you have to pay way more than you can actually afford (see section 1 – you’ll never have enough savings).
4 The project cycle
Agencies depend on project-based work, which is way more complicated than working with an actual physical product. After each project ends, you have to start from scratch: first finding a new possible project (see next point) and then becoming acquainted with it.
This is also a financial issue: there is always a big gap between start and actual payment.
I understand pitches from a client’s perspective – for them, they are practical, efficient and will give an excellent overview of a pool of ideas they can just point at and say: “I want this one.” But to survive as an agency, you have to pitch which brings you into the situation that you have to work very hard for no money, pretty intensely, on stuff that only in a small percentage will ever pay off. In that regard, pitches are a huge inconvenience. If you want to keep your project cycle short, it means pitching while you are still actually working on other projects, doubling (tripling, quadrupling – you get what I’m saying?) the workload. Not to even mention that pitching for public projects is so complicated and time-consuming that I could dedicate a whole blog entry to it.
I could for sure go on. Like the fact that your maximum vacation time is one afternoon where you manage to not touch a work device or write that quick e-mail or respond to a question on Slack, etc. However, I only announced 5 reasons, so consider yourself lucky.
But I, of course, have to say I don’t regret a thing about starting my agency. The best is the ability to build your own working environment, with a team that you can treat (hehehe) as family or friends.
I would say though, if you have a well-paying 9-5, specifically in Austria where nobody bothers you in your legally free time – I envy you.
Maximize Your Social Media Presence in 10 Easy Steps – The Ultimate Summer Guide for Small Entities with Big Plans ;)
So, you run a small project space or gallery, want to grow your social media presence and have no budget to pay for (our) services? No worries – treat to the rescue! Here is a list of 10 easy steps on how to professionalize your social media presence:
1. Write a strategy
While creating a large-scale strategy might sound scary (and it is a hell of work), if you are small, you can keep it small. Yes, but what exactly is the correct strategy, you might ask. Well, it should include whom you want to talk to (audience or target groups) and what you want to talk about (what are the core topics of your space/gallery?). It’s also important that you define ONE goal (for example, how many followers you want to gain) and make it a measurable one.
2. Chose the right channels
You do NOT have to be on every social media outlet there is. Actually, you are not obliged to have any social media! The only important thing is that you look at your strategy and try to understand where you will find your audience. If you have limited resources, it’s better to do fewer channels. Google usage statistics and general audience descriptions. Try to get a sense for the channels by using them for a couple of weeks before you invest work in developing them. Choose not just based on your target audience but also based upon the used media that fits your proposed topic. Do you need more moving image? Short clips? Longer clips?
3. Write stuff
Creating content is, of course, the core of content-based marketing such as social media, so this is important. In one of my recent blog posts, I already emphasized the importance of good copy, so what I suggest is that you write a story. Ideally, this reflects your strategy and the topics you want to cover based on that strategy. This story then can be adapted to your target groups‘ communication needs and habits, if you wish. If you can, write multiple chapters based on various „storylines.“
Planning is essential. You can be reactionary on your channels, but that is no way into achieving your goals in a controlled manner. It is actually pretty easy: set up an excel sheet and make entries for the days you want to publish content.
Ideally, just split what you have written so far and divide it over a fixed period of time (like a month). If you have multiple chapters, mix and match if you want. And boom – you have a content plan!
5. Produce stuff
With your plan and texts at hand, go ahead, and create media! If you have a good (i)Phone, don’t be afraid to use it to produce videos. 9:16 is the new 16:9 anyway. If you have a little budget, maybe get accessories for your phone like a stabilizer, a gimbal or other video equipment.
6. Let go
I see many people freaking out trying to post everything in real time. In reality, nobody cares. Before you compromise on quality (see the next two points) to post something instantly as it is happening, just take a breather, sit this one out or do it later – but properly.
7. Don’t post bullshit
“The internet” can be a very unforgiving place. Make sure you do not post anything that has errors, typos, etc. While it is ok that some minor mistakes might happen, take the time to have everything proofread or at least try to read it backward (a technique to try to identify errors). Try to establish punctuation rules and even if they might not be Oxford English at least follow your own rules. Fact checking your story, if it has any data included, is vital. And do not rely on the first thing you found when googling.
8. Don’t post broken stuff
Content that doesn’t work on a technical level turns people off very quickly and makes your content impossible to consume. So, refrain from using formats if you are not (yet) able to produce them properly – keep it low key, my friend. Be particularly careful with the audio when you are doing video content. Bad sound destroys any experience. Also, do not rotate your camera while recording.
If you are small, it is hard to use technologies and methods like the bigger players, especially if you want to use paid media or bloggers. So, my suggestion is to get together with kindred spirits of your field of work (like fellow galleries, other project spaces, etc.) and plan activities together. You can build fan bases easier and feed into each other. Joint paid media promotions can be extremely fruitful, but I suggest you get professional help before investing real money on the ad portals of various social media.
10. Take part in the discussion
It’s helpful if you take the “social” in social media literally. One of the most critical channels for growth (if that’s your goal) is to partake in relevant discussion, to be present with comments on relevant postings and threads. It gives you great exposure and people the opportunity to discover your channel.
I hope this list helps you with elevating your presence. I was thinking of offering a small group workshop for small galleries and project spaces, so if you’re interested in an introductory four-hour workshop: hit me up.
Cultural institutions need to amplify their role in online content creation.
While there is a strong movement for institutions to be present on various online channels (especially social media), more significant steps are needed to establish them with a global impact.
The internet presents a massive opportunity for anyone to create and publish content. However, only a few knowledge transfer institutions manage to do so with a high reach.
If academics are wondering what to do against the mass of poorly researched - or made up – content, then using their skills and knowledge combined with the technical possibilities of today’s content distribution online might be a great step forward as it holds excellent opportunities.
I would argue that the current trend to mistrust “the media” presents an important opportunity for institutions to rise as the source of credible content. This is specifically true for smaller, lesser-known knowledge institutions, like museums, universities or art foundations.
Multiple factors might help to fuel this transformation:
Establish Digital Reach as a Core Number
If institutions put the sole focus on “traditional” KPIs such as visitor numbers, they reduce the role of digital communication to merely a marketing instrument and disregard the opportunities these channels pose for knowledge transformation and education.
A person educated about the content of an exhibition/program in any form online has the same value as a physical visitor.
This fact should be reflected by establishing the online reach of unique visitors into the core reporting and goals of the institution.
Resources for Digital Should be Integrated into the Program
Integrating online communications into the (curatorial) program opens a different view on digital content creation and enables the access of varying budget methods.
Presenting content online can be easily intertwined with an exhibition on-site. For an example on how this can be implemented, check out https://art.treat.agency/detail/hdgoe.
Open up to a Sponsor
Plenty of brands are looking for content creation and possibilities that give them a chance to position themselves near a cultural/academic level. By including a brand into the content creation, both parties can profit from each other: the brand becomes an integrative part of a meaningful project, and the institution finds a partner that enhances their online reach and can pitch for a bigger budget.
Get a Partner and Let Go
I have seen a lot of resistance when it comes to including digital communication experts (or agencies), especially from (old-school) curators. Their main argument is the questionable reputation of the medium. But that depends what you do with it and is not defined by itself. A partner – yes, just like us – can help you maintain the integrity and build up your reach. Every institution’s goal is to communicate their program to the largest proportion of the target audience. So, our goals do match.
Many people I meet often don’t understand the importance of a copywriter.
A possible reason might be a topic which keeps bubbling up – that the internet killed “reading.”
So even though I secretly hope that most people will find this blog entry of mine not very new, I’d like to provide an answer to those, who are yet to understand why it is essential to pay for good copy.
With the rise of social media and all the wilderness once called “viral videos,” there is still this (mis-)conception in a lot of (marketing) people’s heads, that all you need to do is produce glossy, catchy, and breathtaking content (aka videos) and all will be fine.
However, this is simplifying a task that needs much more consideration. Such an approach leads to clients thinking that they can save money by doing the copy themselves.
The fact that great content is based on more than a good video is slowly spreading.
In addition to high-quality video production, the content needs to be strategically crafted from the beginning. Nothing is more relevant to the content than a good story – which is formulated with good copy. You can have ever so many strategic thinkers at the table, but if you are not able to formulate their ideas into precise language, your genius strategy will fall flat.
In the beginning phase of our company, we have struggled with this a lot. We were rooted in programming, and it was a journey to discover that the most hindering factor to our creative success was the absence of a good copywriter.
We’ve had one on board for a while now (hey Karim and now Naa Teki) and it made a huge impact on quality.
I still have to explain why this position needs to be financed in projects and how much work text is. Interestingly, in our experience, it is mostly the clients in art + knowledge who are very hesitant about budgeting for something they think they don’t need. Because they are very invested in their own text production, they believe it is done well. What needs to be explained the most is that a lot of text work still needs to be optimized. Not because it is bad, but because the text is for a different use.
So, if you are just starting your business and want a hot tip: your first hire should be a copywriter.
I founded the agency in 2012, after years of freelancing madness. I think I’ve literally worked for every ad agency in Vienna. As soon as I had the money to put up the necessary capital for the company formation, I went for it.
Since then, I can proudly say – even if sometimes I wish I would have a “simple” 9-5 job – that we have grown (sometimes slower, sometimes faster) into a fun and dynamic team which ultimately is the company.
With time – and with the constant push of our stimulating and intellectual clients – we have started to implement more serious topics. Despite being a small team, gender equality, language usage, strategic vision, and work quality are discussed and deployed.
So even though we still believe in the force of the creative, handcrafted solutions we have always offered, we moved away from the “Manufaktur” and are growing into a more mature company with all the above themes integrated into our DNA as we expand even further.
The beginning of this year was an ideal starting point to redefine our strategy and to set new targets for 2019 and 2020.
We clarified our strategy and set achivable goals working on our geographical diversification within the German and American markets.
This results in splitting into four distinct “working units” or divisions, called:
treat – art + knowledge
treat – products, apps + services
treat – commercial clients + campaigns
treat – sport sponsoring digital
Each division has its focus and can thus deliver a more precise and bespoke service to our clients.
After all this strategic work, it became clear: we are not the same company anymore.
So, the decision was obvious: We have to redefine our company and communicate this to the outside world.
We have so many intricate assignments and are dealing with complex topics that we needed a playful and versatile branding. After several brainstorming sessions, the name was born:
With this new name and look, and an additional focus on specific aspects within our four divisions, we want to provide a clear picture to our future clients with services tailored to individual needs.
We hope you like what we came up with and I am always thankful for feedback.