Back in 2016 I started Big Torch. As I sat happily chatting through one of my first meetings, a new client asked me “so why do you work by yourself? Is there a reason for it?”
This seemingly simple question took me aback. I hadn’t really thought about it like that. I mean, obviously I thought about setting up the business-but I hadn’t really thought about the differences between working on my own or in a team.
Now I’ve been doing it for a little while, I can actually answer that question. And I can safely say it’s no better or worse than working in a team – it’s just different. More importantly for you, working with someone like me (rather than an agency) is also no better or worse – it’s just different.
But what are those differences? Well, here are some of the things I’ve noticed from casual observations and conversations with clients.
Not everything under one roof
You thought this would be a downside didn’t you? But stick with me. For some businesses working with an agency will always be the right choice. Having a one-stop shop for all your creative needs can be a really powerful thing, but it’s also only really useful if you actually want all of those things. All those big meetings, powerpoint decks, beanbags and workshops come with an overhead that’s ultimately passed on to you. In truth for the vast majority of projects it’s rarely a disadvantage to choose an individual. Remember that iconic brands like Nike or Apple, or even campaigns like Cadbury Gorilla were all done by an individual. Sometimes less really is more.
I’m proudly media neutral, which is really a fancy way of saying that I don’t have any pre-set options for what I’m going to sell to you. Want to do print? Cool. Digital? Fantastic. I think big ideas can work across any type of media (with a little bit of TLC of course.) Over the years I’ve happily transferred my ideas and design skills across pixels and print, online and off, traditional and digital. In other words I don’t have any favourites. All of which means I’ll point you in the direction of the things I think will work best for you, rather than the stuff I make the most margin on.
Not the bad kind though! One criticism of agencies that I still hear from time to time is that “they sent the senior team to the first meetings and then we never saw them again.” Being shunted off with a junior team and never hearing from the big guns again can make clients feel as though they aren’t really a priority. But the benefit of working with an individual like me is that you get to have lots of one on one time with a senior creative. All of that makes for better communication and better projects. Now I’m a bit biased here, but I also reckon you get a lot more bang for your buck when people take personal responsibility for things. Obviously I have a vested interest in your success because if you don’t succeed, then I don’t have a business.
In the end creativity is a simple business. You don’t need the complexity of loads of meetings or committees to analyse an idea. You don’t need 25 rounds of revisions slowing you down. Nor do you need 3 pick n mix options on every design. This classic case of too many cooks means many big projects over run, they get complicated and everyone ends up screaming at each other. What’s worse is that all of this just dilutes and compromises the idea. You go from high hopes, to just hoping you can get it over the finish line so you can pour yourself a glass of red. It’s no accident that fewer meetings, fewer stakeholders and fewer options generally results in higher quality work and less stress all round. Fortunately that comes with the territory when you choose an individual.
Creative work is hard. And it takes lots of time, attention and focus. The problem is, you’re not really going to get that when your creatives work in an open plan office. These offices are really bad places for creatives to work. They’re stressful, demotivating and distracting. That’s why I work at home. Working at home means I get to focus without any distractions at all, which means I get stuff done faster and to a higher standard. Why would you pay more to work with someone who can’t get 2 seconds to think for themselves? I also don’t have staff, offices or any of that stuff to complicate my offering, or to artificially inflate the price. So my only concern apart from making sure I can pay my rent, is creating bloody good work. Which is how it should be.
You can can get the big ideas, great design and art direction you need from an individual (if that floats your boat of course.) All you need is someone who puts all the complications to one side, and focuses on creating a work that is exciting, audacious and unforgettable. To me at least, everything else is secondary.