The Simple Change that Helped Our Agency Increase Client Satisfaction and Designer Happiness

I love design.

I love being able to work with smart people to diagnose and solve problems with a dose of creativity. I love the interplay between all the core principles of design. I love constantly needing to learn new things, and put them in to practice. But let’s be honest: design isn’t perfect. Like any industry, along with design come common frustrations – often, frustrations big enough to drive many of us out of our industry.

Think of all the issues that exasperate us as designers – the things we get together and vent about over a pint. How many of us have had clients start playing art director? Delivered something that wasn’t good enough, a product we didn’t want our name on? Built something that has sat there unused? Or had a relationship go sour because of how a project turned out?

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A Month in a Design Agency by the Numbers [Infographic]

I’m a data guy. It took me a while though.

For a long time, Andy & I just operated on feel when it came to Paper Leaf, our design agency. Because it was only the two of us for the first couple of years, we could get away with that – there wasn’t much overhead, and you don’t need that many projects to keep busy when there are only two people.

As we’ve grown, though – we’re at 7 people at the time of this post – I’ve learned to track more & more data about our company. It’s not just that numbers are interesting. Having data means we can spot trends, have measurable goals for the business, and more on a month-to-month basis. There’s a lot you can learn from numbers.

So I’m going to share those numbers with you.

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False Hustle

It’s easy to be busy; it’s hard to be productive, and the two terms are different. Raise your hand if you’ve spent entire days answering “quick” email after “quick” email; spent hours in your task manager organizing your tasks for productivity; spent a half-day organizing tidying up old design files; or looked back on your week and realized you worked your ass off… but you’re not really sure what you actually accomplished.

Bad news, those with raised hands: you’re a victim of false hustle.

Don’t worry… I have been too; everyone falls into the false hustle trap at one point. It’s not intentional – after all, there’s a lot of work to do in a day – but false hustle can torpedo our business goals and ultimately our motivation at work.

Here’s what I mean by false hustle, and how to avoid it.

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Why You’re Losing Proposals

Losing proposals, and the potentially lucrative contracts that come with winning them, just plain sucks. You know you can do that job – knock it out of the park, even. But for some reason, the prospective client went in a different direction, leaving you, your proposal, and the hours that went into it in the good ol’ reject pile.


We’ve been there. I write a ton of proposals at Paper Leaf; some we win, some we lose. Over the years, though, we’ve refined our proposals and learned a lot about why we win the ones we do – and conversely, why we lose. And guess what? The reasons we lose proposals are likely the same reasons you lose yours.

Here’s what those reasons are, and how to fix them.

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What’s Your Proof?

What do messages like “We create beautiful websites that grow your business”; “We help businesses succeed online”; and “Canada’s leading digital post-secondary institution” all have in common?

All those statements are vapid and empty; there’s nothing to back them up. There’s no proof.

Standing by themselves, these messages just plain don’t work. You can find this type of communication everywhere you look, too – and there’s a good chance that your messaging is suffering from the same fate.

That’s a problem.

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