Nothing much needs to be said about 2020. It was a near complete collapse of just nearly everything near and dear to us. While it would be excellent to keep moving this train in the opposite direction of this 365-day long dumpster fire, a bit of reflection will help codify and contextualize how the year unfolded for our small creative agency.
Breaking It Down
We had real fears in February and March that we might be looking at a dire situation facing the studio. Once the news broke, and everyone started to realize that this illness was something very different from what we’d seen prior, projects that we were in the process of finalizing started to be put on hold—almost overnight. It was a mildly terrifying reality as we didn’t know just how deep that rabbit hole would go. February and March, as a result, were relatively lean months.
Building it Back Up
Towards the end of March, we started to see things turn around a bit. We’d discussed internally (and hoped) this might be a situation where clients realize (after the initial shock) that they still have this viable resource for marketing their services and products (read websites). Selling web work has always been a process of education—helping a potential client see a web presence differently, viewing their website as a part of their sales team, rather than an essential expense that provided no real long-term value.
It was a mildly terrifying reality as we didn’t know just how deep that rabbit hole would go. February and March, as a result, were relatively lean months.
Once we got into April, things began to pick up, and in May, they continued to pick up more, and in June, they continued to pick up even more. When we started looking into our Q1 and Q2 numbers, we realized that things had not only picked back up but were beginning to look a bit like a meteoric rise in incoming work. We put our heads back down and diligently got back to work so as not to thwart the momentum we had built.
Records Are Meant to Be Broken
Once we came out of Q3, we held our heads up and surveyed the landscape, assessing how things were progressing. To our amazement, we had already hit our pre-pandemic financial goals for the year, and Q4 would continue along the same line to end up with the most significant year our little studio has had to date. In the end, we saw sales in 2020 jump 78.8% over the previous year.
We realize that this is rare and that we are exceptionally fortunate to have seen this kind of growth. We’ve also realized that we are not the only ones seeing this type of change during this challenging year. As blog posts have slowly started to roll out and the discussions we’ve been having amongst others in the digital marketing and design fields, we hear from many of them that 2021 saw an uptick for these creative digital services providers. Perhaps we were right about our initial assessment after all??
Strategic Partnerships: A 2020 Sign of Advancement
There were a lot of things that we did right (and even more that we did wrong) in 2020, but probably the most significant thing was forming some key strategic partnerships with other agencies and lending our skillsets where possible.
Perhaps the two key partnerships we struck in 2020 were with Gravitate Design, RCCO, FPO, and Digital Uprise. Gravitate is a mid-sized digital agency that we have deep interior ties to. Two of our partners cut their teeth, so to speak, as employees of the agency in the past. Because of this, we’ve remained close to their amazingly talented team, providing support where we can. The partnership has become more profound over the years and culminated in 2020 with three high profile jobs that we worked as part of the team—bringing them to life. This strategic partnership will continue throughout 2021, and we’re happy to have it.
We realize that this type of growth is rare and that we are exceptionally fortunate to have seen this kind of growth.
RCCO (and their sub-companies, FPO and Digital Uprise) hail from Texas, and like Gravitate, we have formed deep ties with their exceptional team over the past two years. What started as doing a few small animation projects for their client, Whataburger, morphed into a tag team effort as we’ve taken on other development support roles for larger, global clients. This partnership will also continue into 2021 and beyond, and we’re glad to work with such a great team of creative professionals.
Partnerships are Forward Thinking
It may seem odd to lay out some of the specific details about inter-agency partnerships like this, but we’ve long felt that when agencies align with one another and use each other to leverage or elongate their skill chains, good work results. It also seems to us that as we move forward, the agency partnership model will continue to become a valuable resource for both large and small firms alike.
The Final Tally
So, how did we end the year that wasn’t? Well, here’s a quick breakdown:
Websites worked on: 80+
Websites launched: 13+
Logos and brands identified: 5
Hosting and maintenance clients: +38%
Overall sales: +78%
Perhaps the best way to reflect on growth and lessons learned at the end of such a tumultuous year would be to ask the people who made it happen. So, I did. Here’s a quick list of what we’ve gleaned from this pandemic induced suck fest that was 2020.
Erin Lynch, Creative Director
“Perhaps the most important thing I think I learned in the last year was how to wait and the importance of patience. We had no idea how 2020 would unfold once we could not leave our houses anymore. We discovered that we could do a solid job for our clients as a remote team and that business moves forward, even in the face of extreme adversity.”
Brian Ferdinand, Technical Director
“What can I say about 2020 that hasn’t been said so very many times already. It has been a decade crammed into a year that has seen some of the most significant changes, growth, and human resilience that I have witnessed in my lifetime. These challenges have translated across all aspects of life, including personal, business, and the world at large.
It’s hard to take the time to reflect on what has been learned with everything that has happened. It feels more like we are hanging on for dear life, and I think therein lies the lesson for all of us. If we don’t take time out for ourselves and connect with those closest to us, we are doing a massive disservice to our quality of life and possibly our very sanity.”
Jill Lynch, Illustrator
“One of the few good things to come out of 2020 for me on a personal level was learning to make myself dig deeper and grow artistically. There were several months that I felt paralyzed, where even thinking about putting pen to paper felt awful, painful even. I know myself, and when these periods arise, and I have to just ride them out.
2020 felt different. There was a heaviness that had almost taken on a life of its own, and I could feel it firmly rooted in my mind. It was not until well into the year that I felt able to start painting and working again. What I learned is that pain, sadness, and grief need time and space to exist. To be left alone for a while until they dissipate with time. I still feel this way on certain days, but I have been able to branch out, focus on, and make things that are very different from my previous work. It’s always a process, sometimes an uncomfortable one, and occasionally painful. But growth usually is.”
Chloe Anne, Project Manager / Designer
“For myself, a creature of habit, one could imagine the internal turmoil I went through when COVID hit, and suddenly we were working from home full-time. It is safe to say that adaptability was my biggest takeaway, lesson learned, and skill gained in 2020. It was also a trait I witnessed our clients and Shop partners flex as they navigated the unknown areas of state lockdowns and social distancing. Their determination provided a lot of hope during a low time.”
So, there we have it. 2020 was a lot like getting your finger cut off in a table saw and then having the doctor wrap it in a bandage filled with salt and gravel. Yet, here we are…still moving forward. We’re thankful for all the opportunities we’ve had to work this year, and with a bit of foresight, hopefully, we’ll endure for many years to come.- - -