By: Nermine Amer and Fatima Arafa, Founding Partners of IRIS
Starting a creative firm is not easy unless you have the backbone for it, and by backbone we mean the ability to work 24-7 without flinching, and while grinning like the Joker at both friend and foe because, hey, that’s also part of your job (If you have to paint that grin on, do it).
If you have a life (cos we’ve been hearing of those), put it on hold because PR is your life now. It’s your baby. And like all babies, nurturing one and helping it grow, comes with compromises, tears, sleepless nights, puffy eyes, a ridiculous amount of caffeine, the occasional breakdown and mornings and nights that seem to blend together into one endless To-do-list on which you’re expected to deliver a million tasks while keeping your ideas fresh, your brain sharp, and your make-up, hair and attire on point – because you’re always representing (yourself or your client or both).
But the hard work and keeping it together? That’s the easy part.
The hard part is not getting adrift or investing your time and money in the wrong venues. We’ve been in the market for longer than our boutique PR and creative firm is, and here’s what we’ve learned so far:
– Don’t bite off more than you can chew: We’ve seen companies lose touch or falter because they overreached or got greedy with accounts. So whatever you do, do not take on more than your team can handle. Challenges are good, and the job is already demanding. Spreading yourself thin is not. Delivering half-assed results definitely isn’t either.
– Don’t compromise your integrity: Not for money. Money comes and goes. It really, really does.
– Don’t get too competitive: Don’t grit your teeth and obsess over competition. Know your strengths and flaunt them left and right. But also, know that there are plenty of businesses and clients to go around. Everyone can be happy, you know. It’s not a myth.
– Invest in your team: Your team is everything. Executives, photographers, videographers, models, art directors, project managers and graphic designers are the flesh and blood of any agency. If they lose steam, your entire company will fall to its knees. Talk, listen, bounce ideas off each other and include team members in the process. Make them feel like business owners too.
– Bad bosses will tell you everyone is disposable: They’re really not. Don’t make any of your team members feel replaceable; it’s not a feeling that inspires anyone. If they’re lazy, gently let them go. If they work hard, reward them, don’t “milk them” for more.
– Don’t oversell: Remember that you’re aiming for the long play. You want the audience to believe you now and forever. Immediate gains are only momentarily satisfying. And you do build rapport not just with clients, but with their audience too. Nurture trust in your brand.
– Love the brands you represent or leave them: Love them with all your heart, get inspired by them, and let them inspire you or you’ve already failed at your job.
– Never forget you’re, after all, in the business of storytelling: You’re a story and your brands are stories too. So always tell good stories, magnificent ones.
– When on social media … tweet, post and Snapchat like your audience numbers are in the millions, even if, in actuality, you have 29 followers. This is how you amass a loyal following.
– Understand that doing business with people is a complex affair: It has its highs and its lows, and it can be amazing at times, but it can also get gritty. In fact, it can get ugly. There will be times when you’ll breeze through tasks and projects, and other times where you’ll completely white knuckle it.
– Don’t sweat the small stuff: Because there will be a lot of small stuff, believe us.
Now, there will come times when you feel insecure. A client or a competitor or even a friend or acquaintance might come along and try to belittle your work, or throw a harsh word (or ten) at you. An ambitious task may suddenly appear daunting or you may feel dwarfed by bigger, more established agencies. Well, we have friends here and there, including in said big agencies, and we can assure you, these feelings happen to the best of us, to every single entrepreneur, even the happy-go-lucky ones and even the ones who flaunt a tough exterior.
Fear and insecurity are part of the equation, and sometimes they can be crippling. But just like you’re the boss of your small or big enterprise, it’s your job to boss around your fears too. Go through them, live them, learn from them, give them a deadline and move on.
If you can do all this, and keep your head up, you’ll have lots and lots of fun despite all the inevitable hiccups.
Starting a creative firm is not easy, but it’s sure as heck worth it.