Big or Small Creative Shops?

Joe Weinlick
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Most large businesses start out as small companies or a number of small companies. In the advertising sector, growth seems inevitable—the standard, even. You establish a small creative shop and expand the business over time. As the company develops, its growing brilliance attracts the attention of big-name clients who commission lavish advertising schemes and make you the toast of the design world. But what if you don't want to dominate the industry—what if you'd rather keep your small creative shop the way it is? Can you still land major clients?

The advantages of large creative shops are clear: they have an extensive resource pool and enough capital to hire an eclectic staff, and they usually offer a wide range of different services—some at the drop of a hat. Sizeable creative shops and advertising agencies also have considerable expenses, so they can be quite expensive to hire. However, they do have the manpower to finish large projects in record time.

Generally speaking, overhead costs are lower for smaller ad boutiques, so they are often much cheaper to work with. Clients also know exactly who to look for if they have questions. At larger advertising agencies, tasks may be delegated several times before they are tackled. Big creative shops typically don't guarantee that your favorite designers will complete commissions by themselves rather than assigning them to other staff members or iWhen clients choose smaller creative shops, they regularly get to know entire teams by name.

Huge agencies have an edge because they're often well known and well publicized. Consequently, smaller agencies end up feeling like little fish in a very big bowl. Still, if the name of your business isn't emblazoned all over a billboard, don't worry: you can still land an impressive contract. Your company has qualities the big fish simply can't compete with.

For one, small creative shops are notoriously innovative. Here's why: they haven't yet fallen victim to the corporate mentality. Rather than being bound by a company image, designers are still allowed to spread their artistic wings and come up with truly original ideas. Many iconic and very successful advertising concepts produced at smaller agencies would never have been allowed to flourish at larger creative shops.

Most CEOs and company executives enjoy innovation and encourage vision, and you're exactly that type of pioneer. You're not a small fry—you're a stealthy, cutting-edge design machine, and you have what it takes to get the job done. With all that in mind, don't be afraid to approach your dream client the next time you're at a business function. You'll probably end up with a business card in your top pocket.

The evidence is in. You don't have to set up a big agency to gain a big client; you just have to be able to provide big clients with the professional expertise they require to stay ahead of the competition. It's a case of quality versus quantity—larger teams don't necessarily produce better work. On the other hand, too many crafty cooks don't necessarily spoil the conceptual broth, either. When a lot of work needs to be done in a short amount of time, bigger creative shops do possess the edge—particularly from a staffing perspective.

(Photo courtesy of khunaspix /


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