Agency life

How to get the most out of your agency relationships: share your business focus and challenges

This article is written for someone working on the clients side, looking to improve collaboration or want to know what you should expect. But also useful for anyone working on the agency side, to make sure you can ask your client the right questions and to help for the relationship.

This article is written from a fullservice perspective – i.e from an agency providing insight work, to building websites to managing your marketing investments. I’ve tried to make this as generic as possible and from a collaborative viewpoint.

Part one focuses on setting the foundation – when you start a new collaboration – a few points that I think is useful to have in mind in this particular phase of a new budding client-agency relationship.


Basic creative agency economy

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Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.

– Andy Warhol


My first article in the series of agency life will focus on three economy terms you need to get familiar with. (there are more, however these four are the most important to get familiar and comfortable with to get the basis of agency business acumen in place) And also a framework for calculating a monthly target for your Account Directors (or Project Managers, department managers or whatever is applivcable to yourcompany).

When you run a creative agency and work with creativity, either it be data, design, marketing or technology related. I.e offer a service of some sort generated by delivering it as a result from intellectual work and emotional labour, you need your foundation in place for understanding the incoming value of your work as well as indicators of success or warning signs in client relationships, way or working/teams and accounts.

If you work a lot of hours you should get a lot of value generated back from that, otherwise you need to understand why this is and be able to change something.

In this article I cover:

Burn rate
How to calculate a monthly target for your department or team of Account Directors


How to make a clear and visual time plan

Every project plan need a clear, visual time plan. This helps both you, the team and client to better understand the project and helps everyone feel more in control since it makes it visually clear on what needs to be done, when and by whom.


There are two types I primarily work with; overview and a detailed time plan. The overview is useful for creating roadmaps or in presentations, when you don’t need to go through every nitty gritty task in a project.

You can also take it to a third level, and make it even more detailed. But I usually don’t – because I think that is a total waste of my time which I can put to better use. Thats because usually there are changes, unforseen things happen, so that level of detailed planning have never been required throughout my 10 plus years long career. (Other people may have another experience though, so I never say never!).

With my detailed time plan you will be able to get a grip of what needs to be done by when, using this level of time plan, with actions – and quickly be able to update the time plan when and if needed without having to spend to much time making the updates.

I think a time plan should include your company branding and be visually appealing. Especially if you work at a design agency, I really think you should make the effort to deliver time plans that don’t look like something that make syour eyes bleed in excel with bright Microsoft standard colours.


Overview/over arching time plan

This is a very simplified, scaled down time plan outlining the process and/or phases. Either it consist of just the different phases in relation to a timeline or you can add purpose and deliveries/outcomes as well in each box.

Suitable for: a project proposal, quotation/agreement or a project presentation.


(click on the image to view a larger version)


Detailed time plan

This outlines each task and when they are due on a weekly basis/ per week.

Suitable for: project team and client


(click on the image to view a larger version)


What to include:

  • Phases
  • A timeline with weeks/dates and months, with any public holidays, team etc, greyed out and taken in account for.
  • Team – who is responsible for what task
  • Tasks
  • Review points internal and with customer
  • Client deliveries, if any
  • Any revision time
  • Any team holidays
  • Progress points
  • Deadline for each phase
  • Final deadline


The software I usually use to create time plans is Excel, and then I save as PDF and distribute to both client and team. You can also use Adobe InDesign to make more professionally looking time plans. Just insert a table and create table styles which you assign to the cells to mark out the information.

Excel is quicker, and you can probably insert custom colours to reflect your company brand, there is a page in the book Excel Annoyances that gives you clear instructions on how to achieve this.

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