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Designing a more efficient agency

Written by Rob Toledo on 06 November 2012

I wouldn't be surprised if the very first caveman who picked up a piece of flint, hit it against another stone, and made fire then spent the rest of his life wondering how he could improve the process. It is, after all, human nature to want to constantly improve and learn how to do something just a little bit better. Of course, the desire to be more efficient also holds true in a design agency. Yet knowing what tools to use and resources to read to streamline efficiency can be tricky. Following are some suggestions of guides and tools that, if utilized in a design agency, can have a substantial impact on business.

Harvest

The first rule to efficiency is to know where your time is being spent. Often times, in design agencies, it can be hard to keep track of who is doing what, when, and for how long, which turns predicting future time expenditures into a guessing game. However, a software package like Harvest can help you get a handle on time management, invoicing, and business management. Its time tracking software is usable from both the desktop and mobile devices, which means you’ll always be able to pinpoint where your time and energy is being spent. It also features easy-to-use online invoicing, report writing for financials, and has add-ons to work well with other tools your agency might already utilize.

Xero

Because your agency is a business, it’s important to get paid on time. Not only do you need payments to keep the agency afloat, but also chasing down payments can take a huge bite out of productivity. Though you might know Xero better as the maker of well-designed, intuitive online accounting software, they also have contributed this whip-smart small business invoicing guide which has real-world tips on how to streamline your invoicing procedures and make certain that you get paid on time. Spend some time reading over the guide to make certain your invoicing practices are as efficient, and effectual, as possible.

Basecamp

Show me a design agency that is efficient, and I’ll show you an agency that is proficient at communicating, collaborating, and transparency. A great way to improve your agency’s efficiency is to make use of a good project management platform like Basecamp. The software is intuitive and allows design teams to easily allocate their workload, produce deliverables on time, and helps keep teams responsible and on track. This platform focuses on teamwork and idea sharing, which means it’s easy to integrate into emails, can send out daily reports to all team members detailing the progress for the day, and alerts team members when someone has posted a comment or message. It integrates seamlessly with mobile devices, which means that it’s easy to stay on top of each project.

Highrise

It’s important to always remember that an agency wouldn't exist without its client. To that end, it’s essential to make certain that their questions are answered and their calls returned, but in an agency setting, it can be easy to lose track. Highrise software helps businesses and agencies stay in contact with their clients and keep track of interactions. It helps manage all of the contact everyone in your agency has with a particular client—emails, calls, in-person meetings—and helps you keep track of what that client needs and who is following up with them.

Inline Styler

It doesn't get much simpler than cutting and pasting, which is all that is required by this handy little tool. Instead of writing out cumbersome html emails, simply copy the URL, paste it into the box, and let Inline Styler do all of the hard work. It can be used for creating mail templates as well.

Balsamiq

Finally, for optimal efficiency, it’s important to make certain that every designer is making the best use of his/her time. This means, projects don’t begin until there’s a proper road map in place, and, for designers, that means making certain that projects are fully prototyped before any of the heavy-lifting begins. This means, they need to make use of a good wireframing tool, and Balsamiq is among the best on the market. It allows users to drag-and-drop elements easily, is easy-to-use, and can makes creating mock ups less of a chore and more fun. The best part is, it only takes moments to make a fully realized mock-up. It can be used in Google Drive, as well, which makes it easy to collaborate with team members.

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