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Profit & Growth Tips for Digital Agencies

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How to Stabilise Your Digital Agency’s Workload

Posted by Laura Hernalsteen on Jan 21, 2016

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Before you can begin to grow your digital agency, you need a stable and predictable workload. This will allow you to plan for the longer term, rather than working on a month-by-month basis with uncertainties around securing future work and cashflow.

It will enable you to make informed and appropriate changes to staffing levels, hiring new team members if your workload is regularly overburdening your existing team, or shrinking your core agency team if your staffing costs are outweighing your revenue.

Today I’m looking at the two factors that will impact the stability of your agency’s workload, and what you can do for each to promote ongoing stability.

Factor 1: The Work Pipeline

When you’re thinking about how to stabilise your agency’s workload, the first thing you think about is probably the work itself – making sure you’ve got enough coming in to keep your team busy and meet your overhead costs.

At its very core, agency workloads are unstable and can change dramatically from one month to the next, particularly if you work primarily on one-shot projects for lots of different clients.

For a more stable workload your agency should aim to increase its number of ongoing projects in relation to its number of one-shots. To improve your chances of creating long-lasting relationships with customers, you have to make sure that your positioning is clear and that prospects see you as the obvious solution to solve their specific problems.

Working on retainer for clients over several months will be an advantage to both your agency and your client. Your agency will be able to plan and anticipate its workload over a longer timeframe, and your client will feel that your agency is reliably and regularly providing value to them, and know that you will be available to work on projects for them whenever needed.

The key focus should be on building a sustainable, ongoing relationship with your client that is one of collaboration, rather than a simple buy/sell transaction.

Factor 2: The Employee Pipeline

The less obvious, but equally important, consideration for workload stability is your agency staffing.

If your team is suddenly understaffed (for example, if someone takes a two-week holiday, or someone is signed off sick for a month), that will destabilise your workload as someone will need to pick up extra work. And if someone leaves, that creates a permanent shortfall in team functionality that will only be addressed by hiring another team member.

In the same way that agencies should always be on the lookout for new customers (keeping the pipeline filled with prospects and leads), you need to adopt a similar approach to hiring staff.

This could take the form of a rolling hiring process, with new job applicants and interested parties encouraged to get in touch with your agency year-round, not just when you have a specific vacancy listed. This means that when a position opens up, you will have a bank of potential hires to choose from in your “employee pipeline”.

And to promote stability in the longer term, you need to ensure you are working to retain staff by giving them opportunities to progress and develop new and existing skills.

As far as possible you want to make sure you’ve got the right people working on the right projects, doing work that is appropriate to their skill set and level – not too stretching so as to frustrate or intimidate them, and not too simple that they feel it’s too low level for them and would be better suited to a more junior team member.

Using a Resource Management tool like Scale can provide you with a high level overview of your agency’s workload and team utilisation. This will help you understand and address any problems in terms of workload, and help make sure team members are engaged and fully utilised in a way that is suitable to their skills and seniority.

Learn how streamlined resource management can transform your agency’s profitability, and download our eGuide below.

how to make your digital agency profitable

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