Don’t Be Pushed by Problems, Be Led by Solutions
Often, problems are just guidelines to future success. Identifying and resolving them leads to a better, stronger future. This is true of both people and companies. When you are running an illustration company, you will face the usual problems of corporate variety, as well as problems specific to the creative field. But the first step is always understanding and defining the issues that are holding your company back and this is the most important part of problem-solving.
Finding your Niche
Being busy is easy; staying busy is what takes work. An illustration company needs to find something that they are real, really good at and ensure that all potential clientele is aware of it. Playing to your strengths is always a smart idea and possibly the best way for a company to find a profitable niche for itself.
Sometimes customers may magically appear at your doorstep but mostly, you have to market the company effectively if you want to be able to pay the bills. No matter how good the artists at your agency are, a company needs to carve out a specific niche in the marketplace. Being a jack of all trades is not going to help a company stand out from the crowd, especially in a competitive market like the creative business. No client ever goes to a company because they can do everything. Unless a company is known and recognized, unless it earns a brand name, it cannot hope for long-term success.
Doing the Math
Tardy payments by clients are the bane of almost every illustration company in existence and the problem isn’t always delinquency of the customers. The non-payment is quite often due to financial neglect by the illustration firm which could include simple things like forgetting to submit an invoice or inadequate information on forms submitted to clients. Most illustration companies are headed and staffed by artists who are more interested in hitting the creative side than in counting pennies. But someone in the company has to ensure that all the mundane stuff is done including insurance and accounting.
However, sometimes the problem is getting the accounts department of the customer to pay up and at times like this there is poor follow-up of the payment due by the illustration agency. RussellHrachovec of Compound Eye is quite clear about what has to be done, “Friendly emails and phone calls do the trick 98 percent of the time. If that doesn’t work, get your lawyer friend on their ass!” An illustration company should have a foolproof financial strategy in mind to avoid going under due to money problems.
Building the Dream Team
Team building isn’t just a set of lame activities that companies occasionally thrust upon their employees; it is an important investment that a company makes keeping long-term success in mind. In a creative space, it is even more critical to company performance. So, for an illustration company to reach its dream destination, it is important to kick-start that process by building up the dream team first. But very often, illustration companies neglect this aspect, just like they neglect many other basics of business since they are so focused on getting the creative aspects right. But eventually, an illustration company is still a business and it cannot wish away the fact that a great team at the workplace has a huge payoff in terms of increased creativity and better productivity. In an illustration agency that is built on mutual respect and trust, team members are secure and empowered to think differently and create new opportunities for themselves and for the company.
Collaboration is impossible if the employees at an illustration company are not aware of the strengths and weaknesses of their peers and without collaboration, project execution is unlikely to satisfy the clients. To quote Henry Ford, ‘Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is the success.’
Keeping the Faith
The hardest part of running an illustration company is probably sticking with it even when the going gets tough. There is no easy fix for success and it is particularly hard on illustrators, who are it for the creative high, to deal with the time-consuming nitty-gritty of running a business over a period of time. So, when doubts start creeping in, it is tempting for illustration agencies to fold up and head for the hills. But success comes to those who understand that they are competing in a marathon, not a hundred meters dash. Award-winning illustrator Jerry Pinkney says that if he could offer one keyword about his life to others, it would be “perseverance.”
While there are myriad problems associated with running an illustration agency, there are innumerable rewards for those who make it to the finish line and eventually that makes all the sacrifices worthwhile.