A Little Something on the Side: The Agency Side Project
Let’s face it: There are periods of time where we all get trapped in the mundaneness of our jobs. Whether you are a creative, in account services or even a CEO, there are spans of time where you just need a little excitement, something to get behind. Enter the agency side projects.
Side projects are anything that is done by an agency that is (at least at first) done for free and is a labor of love for the agency. These projects include, but are not limited to: A blog or magazine, a web series, charity campaign, a microsite or anything else that can keep the creative juices flowing. For those of whom are asking themselves,”Why would I want to do work for free?” There are plenty of reasons why:
Add a piece to the book - Creatives tend to focus a lot on the portfolio, whether their own or the companies, and this is a great way to get a conceptual piece to show off to new clients.
Work of passion and versatility -These projects provide creative satisfaction as there are usually fewer restrictions. It gives your team the ability to create and think through different types of work, making your team and portfolio more versatile.
Keep the staff sharp - People tend to push themselves on projects that they care about, so a side project is a great way to both sharpen existing and new skills.
Gain Experience - This is a great chance for some of the younger employees to gain experience and prep them for client work.
Lets the junior staff shine - Interns and junior positions usually don’t get the most exciting work, but a side project can give them both experience and an opportunity to impress the boss.
Possible Second Income and beyond - The right idea can produce some wonderful opportunities for the agency, and even produce a project or website that supplements the company’s income.
Everyone Can Participate - Because there is no job start or budget, everyone can get involved and pitch in on a single project, making it a true team experience.
Get Some Attention - Especially for some smaller agencies and studios, a stellar side project can get you noticed. Usually it’s the agency side projects that can garner awards.
Up the Morale - You can’t buy everything good morale does for an office: teamwork, fun, passion, collaboration. A side project can produce all of the above for free.
Now that you know all the good stuff that can come from a side project, there are a few things to consider before you start.
1. What kind of side project do you want to do?
What’s great about side projects is that they are only limited by your imagination, but the easiest way to think of an idea is to think about problems that need to be solved, whether it be in your agency, community or the marketplace.
2. What are your resources?
Try to choose a side project that is appropriate for your resources. A web series might be a little too ambitious for an agency without a video or animation department.
3. Do you have the time?
Adding another project when there are tons of deadlines already could sabotage your project before it is even worked on. Make sure the staff has enough time to work on it at least once a week without it becoming a burden. The best thing about a side project is that you decide when it’s due!
4. Do you have the will?
Ask yourself if you are ready to commit to this idea, and if you have a staff that has the attitude for it. If you have a bunch of go-getters in your office, then you probably have the beginnings of a solid side project.
In conclusion, side projects are not just something to appease creatives; they are a viable resource for building a better agency. They create a sense of community and a forum for creativity, which are two indispensable ingredients in what makes agency work so tasty.
Some of my Favorite Examples of Agency Side projects:
Full Stop - United Pixelworkers
Carsonified/Think Vitamin - Team Treehouse
The Barbarian Group - Magnetosphere
BETC London and iris Worldwide - The Artistifier
What are some of your favorite agency side projects?
Currently working as an interactive art director for MediaCross in St. Louis, Missouri, James Fruth has been in the advertising industry ever since graduating with a Communications degree from Southern Illinois University (Edwardsville) in 2006. Although he began as a print designer, he soon dedicated himself to designing for the web. A self-described “Frankenstein’s Monster” of creative, Fruth has experience in everything from development and action scripting to creating storyboards, designing logos and creating mobile websites.