At the UK Creative Festival in Margate, LBB's Matt Cooper dug into the hows and whys of starting your own agency with network one’s Julian Boulding, Wonderhood Studios' Aidan McClure and co-founders of Mud Orange Arif Miah and Ala Uddin
A pandemic might not seem like the best time to start an agency, but Covid-19 has seen indie agencies shine, making the most of their nimble and fluid ways of working. And there’s certainly an appetite among industry oldhands and fresh new students to start their own studio or agency. At the UK Creative Festival in Margate today, the audience was guided through the hows and whys of setting up shop. LBB’s Matt Cooper was joined by panellists including network one’s Julian Boulding, Wonderhood Studios' Aidan McClure and co-founders of Mud Orange Arif Miah and Ala Uddin.
For Julian the reason why there are so many independent agencies is simple: “There are an awful lot of people who used to work for big network agencies who are now out of a job because they’re too expensive.”
It’s also about spotting a gap in the market, and for Aiden this is exactly what he did for Wonderland Studios. While Mud Orange’s Arif and Ala spotted not only a gap in the market but a way to utilise their backgrounds and heritage to connect to consumers that perhaps larger agencies were out of touch with. “In our industry, you don't have many people looking like us, doing work for people like us. We pretty much saw that it was adding huge values to these huge agencies.”
The panelists touched upon the topic of in-housing with Julian hammering home that indie agencies are set up to do a specific thing - something which is not found in-house. Whereas Arif believes that being independent means Mud Orange don’t have a model. “We never see ourselves as an in-house creative team. We want to add value whether that's to consultancy or branding.”
Though starting a new agency - especially an independent one - isn’t without its challenges. Someone who is all too aware of these is Julian who’s advice to any people starting out is to choose clientele well. “A client who says I want you to be exclusive with us for a year sounds attractive but it's a kiss of death. Their culture has to define your culture.” Ala agrees with this and recounts working with clients on a long-term basis who can make it harder to find new business as they demand all of the agency’s time.
With more and more independent agencies popping up than ever before the panel concluded with their advice for those thinking of starting their own. Julian’s is simple: “Assume you’ve got no money and think what can you do to advance your business with no money at all.” While Aiden, Ala and Arif urge creatives to hone their craft.