The more billable tasks you complete, the more money your agency makes. The less time you spend on admin and non-billables, the more you can spend on valuable client work.
Productivity equals profitability. But being productive is easier said than done, especially as you scale your agency.
To help you out, here are some of our favorite productivity hacks for digital agencies to get more done in less time, whether your agency makes money from digital marketing, SEO, web design, or other skills you’ve turned into a business.
How to Make Digital Agencies More Productive
1. Delegate tasks that someone else can do better.
Many agencies start this way: you’re a lone consultant monetizing your skills, and business is good. In fact, you’re bringing in too much work to deliver yourself. You either have to turn down clients or overstretch yourself unsustainably. But eventually, you decide to distribute the workload by hiring someone else. Soon enough, you’re running a digital agency.
Being able to delegate is crucial for any business — whether it’s hiring those first few employees or knowing what to outsource later. One of the best productivity tips for agencies: if a task is time-consuming and doesn’t require your team’s skill to do it well, find someone else to do it. Platforms like Fiverr and Upwork make outsourcing easier than ever.
2. Use price elasticity to your advantage.
This isn’t a productivity tip — but it will help your agency make more money. It’s the easiest trick in the book: raising your rates.
As an early-stage business with a steady stream of happy clients, you should be raising your prices regularly — around every six months. This is because of the economic concept of price elasticity.
A can of Coca-Cola is an elastic product: if a shopkeeper increases their prices unreasonably, customers won’t buy it. They’ll get something else instead, like a can of Pepsi.
But your agency’s work is a value-driven product: it’s more inelastic. If your clients are getting value from your work, they won’t leave when you raise your prices.
That said, you should be careful when raising your rates –—and you have to be certain you are delivering the value to back it up — but your best clients will likely pay more to continue working with you. It’s generally easiest to test the water with new clients before letting your existing clients know, however.
3. Carve out focus time.
You wake up to a flurry of Slack notifications. You open your laptop and emails flood in. Then the phone starts ringing. How can you focus on the work you’re paid for with all this going on?
The answer: with focus and intentionality. Building a productive and profitable agency with clients that love you requires a ton of focus. It means sitting down at your computer, turning notifications off, and concentrating on the most important task until it’s done. No checking LinkedIn, no email checks just in case, no keeping Slack on in the background.
Serious, unglamorous, and ruthless focus is your secret weapon against the competition — and it’s what’s going to drive in more profit.
4. Know that doubling your team doesn’t double results.
When you hire more people, there’s a very real chance that your productivity will stagnate or decrease — at least to begin with. That can even apply to your profits, too.
There’s a value to staying small, as Paul Jarvis celebrates in his book Company of One: Why Staying Small Is the Next Big Thing for Business — your business is more nimble when it’s smaller. It’s usually more productive per employee as well.
If you’ve decided to scale your agency, do it with full acceptance that it will change your team’s culture and productivity; in many ways for the better, but with some losses too.
5. Identify where your results come from.
You’ve probably heard of the Pareto principle, or the 80/20 rule. It suggests that 80% of the results will come from 20% of the work.
In your digital agency, it might mean that 80% of your profits come from 20% of your projects. 80% of your hassles and headaches can come from 20% of your clients. 80% of your work will probably happen in 20% of your day.
To make your digital agency more productive, drill into that 20% — the projects, clients, and time where the results come from, and on the flip side, where the problems surface. Recalibrate your business to make space for more of what works.
6. Choose tools that speed up invoicing and payments.
The end of the month rolls around, you’ve done lots of work, your clients are happy, and everything should be well in the world. But you’ve got to send your invoices out.
Getting paid is easier said than done. Sending out invoices can be one of the most time-consuming parts of your agency’s workload, especially if you don’t have good billing software on your side.
Find tools that track your time and your billables so you know exactly what to charge. The best platforms should make it easy to create an invoice with the right info per client, including address, currency, and payment details.
Some of the best invoicing and accounting tools for digital agencies are:
- Quickbooks Online: The most respected financial software on the market, although it can be overly complex for small agencies that want to keep things simple. Time tracking is available from $40/mo in the Essentials plan.
- Freshbooks: Optimized for freelancers and very small businesses, Freshbooks can be a good fit for smaller agencies, too. It offers built-in time tracking functionality and integrations with payroll providers.
- Xero: At the sweet spot between complex and simple, Xero is beautiful to use and a powerful addition to digital agencies.
7. When you’re in a position to turn down bad clients, do it.
As a digital agency, it can feel like you’re not meant to turn down work. That’s a total myth. The most productive and profitable agencies say no to work that isn’t for them. It can take a while for your agency to be in a position where you can afford to say no, but when you’re less desperate for clients, you should. Look out for:
- Bad fit clients you know you’ll struggle to service well
- Clients that are a nightmare to work with — you’ve either worked with them before, or you can see the tell-tale signs
- Clients that refuse to pay your usual rates and insist on discounts
8. Sync your contact data across apps.
As time goes on, your agency’s data on past, present, and future clients can quickly become unruly — and you have enough to do without having to sift through that.
To help get things under control, set up two-way syncs between your apps to make your data play nicely across all of your agency’s tools, including your CRM, helpdesk, accounting tool, and email marketing system.