Four meetings and dozens of doubts later, we finally decided to write down the first words of this, our first article.
The reason it took us so long to write on this platform is because we felt like imposters. Seriously, we are an audiovisual communication agency with zero credentials in journalism and sociology, how could our presence on a writing platform possibly be legitimate. After some thought, we realized that this feeling has been haunting us since we started the company.
What is the imposter syndrome?
During one of our meetings, we asked each person present to give their definition of the syndrome:
To sum up all our thoughts, to us the imposter syndrome comes down to a fear of receiving undeserved recognition and then being exposed as a fraud.
Our first big contract
In 2014, 23bis was made up of two people, Gabriel and Nathan. At the time, they were still working out of their bedroom at their parent’s place and were waiting to hear back from a client on a daring bid they’d submitted for a project worth several thousands of Swiss francs: an interactive summer and winter tourism video in two languages.
Nathan received an email.
Their bid had been accepted.
The two brothers jumped for joy at the idea of winning their biggest project to date.
Then the realization of what they were in for, hit home: “Damn, how are we going to do this?”
The actual difficulty with a daring idea is seeing it through. Selling it makes you proud. Making it happen is a nightmare.
A feeling of inadequacy took hold. They had never made an interactive video nor written a scenario from A to Z. At that precise moment, they had no idea whether the project was going to be a total success or a total flop.
In short, they lacked experience.
But they dug in, broke everything down into different scenarios and an interactive blueprint. The large scope of the project pushed them to surround themselves with other professionals, many of whom still work with, or for, the company today.
Months of filming later, the video was finished, published and publicly acclaimed. Their daring had paid off, won them several prizes and accelerated growth. They were able to move into their first office space and unveil Messieurs.ch as a company capable of tackling subjects from a different angle.
Their feeling of being imposters disappeared…up until the next project.
The sinuous path of the pitch
Clients expect us, as creatives, to understand their business, up to a point in any case. They want us to present them with new angles, not simply a rehash of their product that they know inside out. If we’re lucky we have a week, maybe two, to understand their goals, philosophy, product or service, then find, formulate and present a great idea. Ridiculous, but that’s how it works.
But with only a few days, it’s not always easy. Sometimes we walk into a presentation with an idea we think has enormous creative potential and at the same time has us in doubt because we can never 100% guarantee that it is the best idea and that it is going to work.
Apart from having to be super fast, at the next stage of the game we feel additional pressure due to our age.
We founded our company 5 years ago. Today the average age of our employees, founders included, is 26. With everything moving so fast, we made some quick decisions and set up the company; something that had never been a part of our initial plan.
In 2015, Gabriel goes to meet a client to defend an offer.
When he walks into the room, he finds himself in front of a dozen managers seated at a long conference table, all in suit and tie. He’s wearing a t-shirt and baggies. The true cliché of a meeting taken straight out of an American movie.
Slightly uncomfortable with the formal atmosphere, he presents the offer to the group. After a couple of minutes, the Managing Director cuts him off: “Excuse me but… exactly how old are you?”
Surprised by the question, Gabriel answers: “The average age at our company is pretty low. People often contact us to get the fresh, original perspective and vision that youth can bring.” The Managing Director nodded. At the end of the presentation we won the contract for a 5 year partnership.
Who says young says lack of experience. Who says lack of experience says lack of confidence.
All clients have their doubts when faced with someone with little experience. Would we feel confident if we were scheduled to be operated by a surgeon that had never operated before? Probably not.
And yet, there is a first time for everyone.
23bis was founded on sheer instinct. Overwhelmed by the demand, we set up our business without market research and without a business plan. Luckily for us, our intuition paid off.
In spite of everything, we feel the enormous contrast when we meet clients covered in university degrees, acknowledged experts in their domains. It’s difficult to believe in our own credibility and legitimacy in comparison.
Today, we believe that our strength lies in our diversity. We have worked on projects of all topics and styles for both small and large companies. This diversity of content helps us improve and forges our experience day in and day out. To keep doing our best, we have to remember our strengths and how to leverage them.
“Fake it till you make it”
This expression insinuates that by imitating confidence, competence and adopting an optimistic outlook you will eventually live up to what you project. Today, this phrase is regarded with suspicion, but it was originally perceived as an encouragement to face stressful situations with confidence, in particular in the workplace.
The reality of creative professions is being able to come up with concepts and adapt to every environment we promote quickly. So at first, not knowing exactly where we are going and not having extensive knowledge on the subject at hand is the norm for the creative process. We learn about the subject, how to treat it and what message to convey as we move forward through the project. It is an on-going learning experience. In any case, it’s the final results that matter, not how we got there. Clients contact a creative because they like his/her portfolio, not because of how it was made.
All the same, we are careful not to make promises we can’t keep. This brings to mind the poor Fyre festival goers who probably still regret having bought their tickets today.
There is a limit to the skills any one person can possess
Lack of experience in a domain can add value. In fact, if we start promoting a product we know little about, the absence of knowledge actually opens the door to a multitude of possibilities. Not knowing the traditional codes of the milieu helps us bring a new perspective.
Over time, we’ve also learned that diving headlong into the deep can prove complicated. That’s why we make sure to surround ourselves with specialists that help us navigate safely through uncharted waters; journalists, copywriters, photographers, technicians, fashion stylists and other consultants. By taking this route, we know we have everything to gain through collaboration.
Today we are happy to look on every new project as if it were a playground.
Nobody makes it by accident
Feeling you aren’t in your rightful place is unfounded. Regardless of whether you are self-taught, have a degree, have changed professions, are passionate or not; everyone’s work is legitimate.
So if we finally decided to enter a domain outside our own by writing this article, it is simply because we have things to say that can’t be said elsewhere.
We just want to share our experience with you.