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We Ship Better Work for Less
How garden3d studios are uniquely positioned to build through economic downturn
More than 97,000 technology workers were laid off in 2022, and regardless of whether our economy is under the technical definition of a recession, we’re seeing customer and client behaviors change as though we are. As fear, uncertainty, and doubt set in, potential clients are bringing caution to our conversations.
At garden3d, we understand that building through an economic downturn is a rare opportunity to create new revenue streams (and bolster existing ones), so that as the FUD lifts, our clients will be leagues ahead of their competition, set up and ready to take immediate advantage of receding customer hesitation when the market starts booming again.
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Herein, I discuss why XXIX, Manhattan Hydraulics, Sanctuary Computer and Seaborne are uniquely positioned in the agency landscape to support our clients through this economic downturn, so that we can weather the storm together, and set our partners up for greater success as the economy bounces back.
We’re lower risk
In our dedication to technical hospitality, our contracts are noncommittal, without binding lock-ins or a minimum commitment. We only bill for hours worked (in arrears, after the work is done).
While our hourly rate ($175 — $225 p/hr, but subject to our sustainability rebate, see more below) costs more than hiring internally, we tend to work more quickly through our hyper-focus (more below). If economic factors force our clients to suddenly shift course, there is no downside (or contractual obligation) preventing pausing work with us.
TLDR: While we’re a little more expensive in the upfront, there’s no lock-in to working with us, limiting the risk that comes with hiring.
We’re laser focused
Since 2015, we’ve been competitive in the market because we execute the highest quality work — on time and on budget — for our clients.
We’ve gotten very good at understanding what makes a brand project or product special, prioritizing “nice-to-haves” and carving away feature drift (more below), executing in lockstep until the project is live, stable, and generating new revenue & growth.
Time and time again, we’ve been employed by big tech and startup companies alike (all with highly capable creatives on staff) because they’re struggling to ship work fast enough to meet the growth needs of the marketing team.
It’s easy to understand why that happens: in-house creatives are spread thin: pulled into a slew of meetings and workshops and flooded with tasks from different departments, making it difficult for them to find deep focus. After the layoffs of 2022, these problems are further exacerbated.
Enter garden3d. We’re a hired gun, on the clock burning precious hours to build the best possible work within a strict constraints, and only charging for what we use.
TLDR: Our existence literally depends on our ability to ship excellent work quickly.
Our teams are lean and efficient
Early on, we made an intentional choice: garden3d does not have (traditional) project managers. Building a project management apparatus into a company adds a tremendous amount of bureaucracy, overhead and politics; and (most importantly for our clients), financial bloat.
Instead, we like to say that “managing things is a maker skill.”
Our creative teams are made up of confident and highly capable leaders, self-organizers and communicators, and we pass those savings onto our customers. Our clients only ever pay for a creative’s hour — never footing the bill for dedicated managers or account directors.
This results in far fewer communication breakdowns between the client and our team, allowing us to work with greater precision. We feel direct ownership and responsibility; and we do our best work for these reasons.
TLDR: Our clients don’t foot a project management bill. Steve said it best →
Our studios stay intentionally small
Our studios are small. You can count our team on your hands (although you’ll also need some of your toes for Sanctuary Computer).
Staying small has meant that we haven’t needed to hire an HR department. We don’t have a dedicated Sales team. We don’t have Account Managers. We don’t have Project Managers. Our team is remote, so we’re not leasing office space (and we hire the best talent globally). These traditional expenses are all non-billable “overhead” that clients are paying for when they work with a larger agency.
TLDR: We don’t bake bloated, traditional, organizational expenses into our billable rate, passing those savings onto our clients.
Shaping prevents feature drift
We start all of our engagements with some type of strategy phase (we call this Shaping). This might mean a mix of technical blueprinting, product strategy, or brand alignment exercises.
We like to say that “we hate computer code with a fiery passion.” That’s because we’ve been on the receiving end of too many insanely oversized and unmaintainable projects that today, the worst thing we could do for our clients (and our reputation) is to overcomplicate. Conor (technical lead at Sanctuary) is so passionate about simplifying software projects that he wrote about his logic in When to Software.
Instead, we’ve been told consistently that this (light and fun!) ~4–6 week phase has created important alignments for client teams, while stripping back (literally) hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of required work to achieve necessary product requirements and go to market.
TLDR: Our shaping phase builds internal alignment, so we can use our expertise to simplify and find efficiencies, saving significant time and money.
We’re full service & highly competent
Across XXIX, Manhattan Hydraulics, Sanctuary Computer & Seaborne, we’ve worked on everything from high reach brand activations to technical documentation, full stack cross-platform apps and even IoT & operating systems. We’re fluent in bleeding edge, AI-assisted tooling, we write over 15+ programming languages (fluently), managing fleets of servers on complex infrastructure like AWS.
That means — we rarely need to “piecemeal” a team of (expensive) expert contractors together, or burn hours trying to make everyone play nice together. Instead, our clients get a highly competent & efficiency “team in a box” that all use the same project management tools, collaboration software, and speak the same language from day one.
TLDR: All of our time goes to building, not learning to work together, or sourcing expensive contractors.
We design for action
Hulking full-service agencies sell bloated brand strategy decks to justify their massive (fixed) price tag. They separate brand and product thinking in the name of specialism so they can add twice as many people to the project team, and bill accordingly.
The output is rigid and dated. Strategy decks that no one uses (or thinks to update). Brand guidelines that aren’t helpful in designing real websites. Product work that lacks spirit. We’re often tasked with fixing these issues. A decade of experience has taught us not to make the same mistakes.
Instead, we deliver our design work as practical outputs and immediately useful mediums (like Figma components, code snippets, and living style-guides), intended to be bent and broken as the business evolves in real time.
TLDR: We deliver practical outputs that can be used immediately, growing and evolving with the needs of the business. No more stale PDFs that no one ever opens.
Our developers grok design
Across all of our studios, there’s a common thread. Everyone who works at garden3d hails from some background in design, art, music, fashion or food. Even our most technical people have music projects, build furniture, and join art residencies.
This is intentional — love enters through the eyes, so for our products to be adored, they must look and feel incredible. Regardless of the role, we’ve always hired technical people with a design eye and an inherent sense of taste.
Without the need for a dedicated QA team, or laborious visual / interactive feedback cycles, we’re able to save our customers numerous internal hours (or even a dedicated QA hire), instead executing on the visual presence and ultimate quality of the work autonomously.
TLDR: We nail gorgeous & highly interactive work the first time (without prolonged feedback cycles), saving our clients time and money.
Only pay for what you use
Recently, I wrote that We're not a "Traditional Agency™". That’s because we bill hourly and work in waves of iteration. Negotiation, fixed-fee deliverables and rigid SOWs make for poor product thinking, cut corners, inflated pricing, and a toxic work culture.
Simple, hourly pricing and direct contact with creatives better aligns incentives around producing excellent work. The decisions around what we build are made collectively, carefully balancing product needs, bells n’ whistles, timelines, and budgetary constraints.
We’re all incentivized to simplify things — remember, “we hate computer code with a fiery passion” 😉 — and making mid-project pivots (or even pausing work!) as client needs change in realtime is no big deal under our contractual structure.
TLDR: Clients only pay us for real work done (no overpriced fixed fees), and shifting, pivoting, or even pausing work is all a part of the product journey.
We offer a 10% sustainability rebate
There are many reasons why our clients stand to benefit from a sustainability initiative, even during a financial downturn. From IBM’s Institute for Business Value report on Balancing sustainability and profitability (2022) →
49% of consumers say they’ve paid a premium for products branded as sustainable or socially responsible in the last 12 months
Research found that 3 out of 4 consumers (77%) say they want to make more sustainable choices at home
On average, 3 in 5 (64%) consumers say products branded environmentally sustainable or socially responsible made up at least half of their last purchase
All of the above bolsters existing revenue during an economic downturn.
We believe so much in helping our clients with sustainability that we founded Seaborne (a small team of environmental scientists and strategists), to help our clients implement Substantive Sustainability projects at their organization.
Substantive Sustainability projects tend to cost the same amount as a small scale photoshoot (approximately 80 — 120 hours per discrete product line, billed at $130 p/hour, or $10,400 — $15,600). Further — when clients work with Seaborne, we offer a 10% rebate on all other garden3d services for a full year.
That means: if our clients work with garden3d design or development teams for roughly 100 hours (~2.5 weeks), the sustainability work was free, and continuing creative work (for up to a year) is 10% cheaper.
TLDR: A sustainability initiative helps our clients sell more product at a higher price point, and if they work with garden3d for design & development, it’s probably cheaper that not doing it! 🤪
Let’s build together
If you’re looking to build quality work for less through the 2023 financial downturn with a team of highly transparent, communicative and focused creative people, please reach out. We’re standing by, ready to be as helpful as possible and get through this tough time as loyal and caring partners, together.
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