Twelve Tips for Freelance Creatives and Small Agencies

In our first year of business we worked to develop some healthy habits of reflection. We made sure it was a habit from our earliest weeks.

We started with a clear understanding of why we’re here: we want to help good businesses thrive, because more good businesses mean a better world.

On Friday mornings, we sit together to share our highs and lows of the week.

Every quarter, we look back at our completed projects and rank the impact we think we had on our clients’ businesses, and the impact we think our clients are having on the world. These exercises ensure we take pause and check in—are we actually tracking towards the “why” we established 18 months prior?

Amidst the mayhem of holiday parties and year-end tasks, we carved out a morning to compile our list of learnings from the entire year.

We asked ourselves: What can we do better next year? What sacred processes did we let slide?  What was the recipe for our best projects? And we consolidated our lessons.

We hope these learnings give you a little nugget of wisdom to carry into your new year.

  1. If you can meet in person, make it happen

    Face-to-face interactions are becoming ever more rare, and more sacred. We learned that connecting in person gives us cues and clues to knowing our clients and collaborators better, ultimately contributing to better relationships and better work—so we go out of our way to make sure it happens no matter where our clients are.

  2. Celebrate

    When kudos come in from our clients, we record it in a shared document so we don’t forget the little victories. Another thing that feels good? Giving a shoutout or sharing a “woohoo” when our clients reach major milestones themselves—like the launch of a new website or product, a hard-earned media mention or an uptick in sales. These practices always remind us that the work we’re doing is meaningful.

  3. Trust your gut

    A couple of times we didn’t do this, and our gut always proved its point. If you don’t feel like you’re the right fit for a project, don’t do it. Saying no—and trusting your no—feels so much better than saying yes and feeling yucky about it.

  4. Over-communicate

    Marketing can be confusing. There are so many acronyms and mysterious terms that feel like they’re made up just to mess with your brain. Explaining what may seem obvious to us, and investing time in client onboarding helps them feel primed to receive our work, and get on the same page from day one. We also learned the power of weekly check-ins and status updates, even if they aren’t requested by the client.

  5. Feedback takes time

    Nine times out of ten, it’s client feedback that slows down a project. To ensure one delayed project doesn’t throw our others off the rails, we create generous buffers for feedback, create shared timelines and crafted a simple guide for clients so that gathering stakeholder input is less intimidating.

  6. Present your work

    There is a real difference between reading something on a computer screen, and having a real, live human bringing the words to life in person, with context. We pour hours, days, and precious ideas into our strategies, and when we share that energy and passion in person, it has an impact.

  7. Good writers are worth their weight in gold

    There are a lot of great writers in the world, and a lot of good marketers. Finding a creative brain who can communicate clearly, and also understands strategy and conversion? That’s a rare specimen. Great content creators are hard to find, so when you do, treat them well.

  8. Hire the right people

    Even if that means powering through a couple more weeks of being understaffed. The right people are out there. Sometimes you just have to wait, or look in unexpected places. But don’t settle. Hire the person someone smarter than yourself—who you know you’ll learn from, and who is hungry to learn from you.

  9. Make it simple and more human

    No one wants to read long emails laden with jargon. And no one wants to read copy that sounds like it came from a robot. So whether we’re corresponding with a client, or crafting web copy for an audience of millions, we always ask ourselves, how can we make this simple and more human?

  10. Own your meetings

    This one may seem obvious, but we’ve all been in aimless meetings or ones that got derailed because no one owned it In the meeting invite, give context for why you’re booking this time. Come with an agenda. Prepare, so you can guide the discussion with confidence. Be present. Share takeaways and articulate next steps following the meeting.

  11. Protect your process

    We have a saying around the office: “No one ever died from a marketing emergency.” Whenever we bent to “rushed timelines” our work suffered. In 2019, will unapologetically protect our process so we can deliver what you deserve from us, and what we’re capable of. We want the best for our clients, and the best doesn’t come in a rush.

  12. Make time for what makes you special

    Some of us read with a ferocious ferver. Some of us seek quiet time amongst the trees. Some of us get inspired by new cultures and cuisines. When we take time to fill our imaginations back up, it always makes us better at what we do. Even if that means carving out 30 minutes to read an interesting article on a day with big deadlines. You can’t pour from an empty cup.

And just like that, 2019 is off with a bang. We plan to display our 2018 learnings up on our wall to serve as a reminder of the things that are important to protect, to let go of, and  share with others.

We’d love to hear what you learned in 2018, so feel free to slide into our DMs @mondayvancouver.

Lindsay Seguin