Change the question
Searching for ways to trim costs incrementally will lead to ideas that are incrementally scaled back, too. Instead, make the lack of a budget a creative challenge to solve. Brainstorm how you’d get the work made if you had a 10th of the budget. Or if there was no budget at all. That’ll force your team to find new ways of doing business instead of just scaling back old ones.
Great work is a direct result of caring. And while it sounds backwards, when you have a smaller budget you have to care even more. Effort can be infectious. Make a concerted effort to communicate effectively within your team and be present in conversations. And pay attention to the details, because on a smaller budget it’s important to get it right the first time.
Get the right team together
Since you won’t have endless hours to concept and execute, team chemistry is extremely important. Depending on the project, sometimes its best to sacrifice the traditional team model in order to be more efficient and focused. Start with a team of four to five cross-functional “warriors” who share the same standards of good work and energy for the challenge. Pull in additional expertise at critical junctures in the work lifecycle if needed, but make sure the core team feels ownership of the outcome.
We all have meetings, e-mails, fire drills and other duties that come with agency life. But in order to do great work, we must find time to create and guard it with ferocity. Identify your personal peak creative time and make it precious. If you’re most creative in the morning, block it off or go hide somewhere that people can’t find you. Turn off Wi-Fi, close your browser, turn off your phone and get lost in the challenge. The creative process isn’t linear, and when you’re interrupted it isn’t like pressing Pause on a movie. There’s a massive difference between two hours of true focused time versus two hours of aggregate “leftover” time scattered throughout the day.
Extend the execution
What you create doesn’t always have to be big, but it should be scalable. When possible, come up with ways to extend your idea beyond the initial ask. Video project? Capture still assets while you’re on set for social. Or squeeze in an extra 0:30 using the B-roll. Many times, by extending your ideas beyond the ask you’re also able to extend your budget. That thing clients say about “If we like it, we’ll find money”? Yeah, sometimes it’s true.
The agencies that will be successful in this new world are the ones not afraid of any challenge, budget be damned. We’re not lecturing captive audiences. We’re speaking to a world of makers itching to judge our work — or add to it. Make things that matter, and the budgets will follow.