How we treat our Extended Family

Every. Single. Day. © James & Matthew

We aren’t a huge agency.

We aren’t funded by anything else than the dollars that our partners can earn, borrow, and put into the business. We don’t need seed money to keep us going, we’re 100% bootstrapped. I’m so damn proud of that fact. Maybe this harkens back to my days on the Worcester/Boston DIY hardcore/punk scene. Maybe it’s the encouragement we’ve received from other business leaders when we mention our FNF mentality (FNF=founded, not funded). Regardless of our size, I see our approach to production as one of our (many) competitive advantages. It’s an idea so simple yet it took us years to articulate: Every day we do work we love with people we love. The reality is that if you don’t LOVE it here, you just can’t fake it. Either you’ll excuse yourself from your role or someone else will call you out on it. We protect our culture here at James & Matthew, because our culture is our future. And it’s just not for everyone.

Another one of our advantages here is that our ambition outpaces our abilities, almost two to one. That doesn’t mean that we are crazy, it means that learning and trying new things is always on the table. Our wonderful clients allow us to experiment and break things, tackling new and often seemingly impossible ideas. The ambition inspires the work we produce, and the act of producing that work inspires our ambition on the next idea. What this means is that we are constantly seeking new talent to bolster our core competencies. One second we might need a motion graphics designer, but that same week we also need a talented musician to help with music beds.

There are a ton of resources to find talent online. There are platforms that help connect you with the person most likely to have the skills you are looking for. We’ve tried them all. What I’ve always found is that the people that last — the ones that keep coming back — are found and vetted through word of mouth. We aren’t a normal, cookie cutter agency, so it also stands to reason that we aren’t looking for those kinds of solutions.

Here are a few of the upgrades we are implementing this fall to help our extended family of freelance talent feel things:

  1. Making it easy. When leading freelancers, even the most resourced agencies fail on the fundamentals. We’re putting an intentional on boarding system in place to ensure that every relationship benefits from a clear understanding of our process and expectations. At the same time, it’s not all about us. Through the use of a designated area of our site, we’re making it easy for our extended family to submit invoices, schedule time with our creative leads, and access resources like brand guidelines and training materials — all in one place.
  2. Keeping everyone in the loop. We are a small agency, and our extended team outnumbers our creative leadership at an ever-increasing rate. One of the hardest parts about freelancing is feeling connected to a client when there’s downtime, and one of the hardest parts of #agencylife is staying connected as a team when the pace quickens and the stakes rise. We’re implementing monthly communication that keeps our entire extended family in the loop on what’s happening at J&M, and also features different voices from that extended group.
  3. Sharing the responsibility. Typically, project management and creative are most involved with freelance talent. When we look at the breakdown of responsibility on our internal team, we saw a gap in how we care for our extended family. Creative leadership is focused on quality. Project Management focuses on time and resources. While there is plenty of cross-over because silos are for suckers — we discovered a need for a position that focused heavily on extended family care. Luckily, our Community Advocate David is a perfect fit for the role. He’s ensuring that communication outside of project operations is on-point and helping our system constantly adapt to the needs of our family and our business. Collaboration between these three areas is allowing us to work towards the best damn experience around.

We’ve made great strides towards offering a freelance experience at James & Matthew that puts our freelancers first. We call them our extended team. But in order to get the best work we can out of the people we hire, we must nurture and build relationships that are representative of our internal culture. Our brand and our future depend on it. We make work we love with people we love, and we love everyone in our family, extended or otherwise.

Matthew Maguy is the co-founder and CEO of James & Matthew: A branding and advertising agency that makes people feel things.