Why I’ll probably never work in an agency again

The word probably

The most used word in this brain dump is going to be ‘probably‘, I can tell you that right now. That’s even before I’ve fully thought how this is going to pan out. It’s something I’ve wanted to talk about for a while and obviously more about the reasons behind it.

I currently work at Codeworks, and don’t get me wrong it is brilliant. Working on such projects as Thinking Digital and the DIBI Web Conference is crazy good. I wake up every morning stoked that I have the opportunity to do it. It is hard work, my weeks feel more like days and there is always a to-do list but it’s exciting. I’m doing everything I want to do and then some. I’ll probably be doing this for some time as I do enjoy it that much.

Natural progression in my head stated that when I was freelance a few years ago I needed agency experience to see ‘the other side’. That agency was small in size and big in ambition and there were some great times but at the end of the day the agency wasn’t mine. My views and my way of doing things would never have been implemented and I would never have seen the outcome of how everything in my head would have worked live within an agency.

The opportunity to work within the agency on various projects was great but I never had the opportunity to run the agency like I would have liked to.

In an agency there are always more people involved in the company than you and certainly more than the thoughts going round inside of your head. When you’re freelance or working for yourself, every decision you make is down to you, you in essence are the control freak running everything. You don’t have to rely on other people, you don’t have to carry people and you don’t have to wait for things to be implemented. Everything happens right there and then as soon as you think of it when working for yourself. If you are working within an agency you probably never have the opportunity to implement things that you’d like, unless you’re the MD/CEO.

I now feel after having the experience of both sides of the coin that I need more control in that scenario. I probably need to relax somewhat but when you’re putting your working reputation on the line you certainly don’t want to have to rely on other people. If I was to work within an agency again, it would be small and it would be my own. I’d keep it very small working with people I’d trust my life with with the same amount of ambition and love for their work as I do, but again this may probably never happen as I’m enjoying myself far too much.

I wonder how many other people who have both been freelancer and agency employee think about this? Your thoughts would be great on the subject. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter, 600+ other people do…

Designers should stand firm


I wasn’t exactly sure on how to title this blog post. ‘Standing firm’ seemed quite apt to suit the point I’m going to try and put across.

Over the last 4 years I’ve worked on a range exciting projects for all kinds of different clients, some of which have been fantastic! I think every designer in the land has come across issues with client contact and clients not understanding the way we choose to represent their business or their ideas.

You quickly find yourself receiving sketches in the post, ideas of “websites” via email or even mocked up designs fresh out of MS Word. One of my all time greats was a client who though it would be fantastic to write some copy in MS Word, put it into a small typeface, cut it out and place it over one of his business cards and secure in place with pritt-stick to make sure I knew how he’d want the card design. I’ve seen it all, some you can laugh at, some you can cry at and usually the favorite is to simply starting pulling hair or banging your head on the nearest wall. When you can’t bang your head and have to reply in a meeting. Some have pained me just replying to emails.


Going through the worst of client confrontations means that you can learn a lot from the whole process. I recently went through a scenario of thinking a client I knew of was compeltely crackers/barmy/mad. They put over the impression they were causing someone some serious issues, so much so you could see the stress in the face of the worknig person. My understanding is that clients are not mad, they’re not stupid or barmy. They, on occasion are simply misunderstood and it’s the simple fact that we move so fast through our own understanding of our industry that we fail to realise they are not as quick. Clients need objectives explaining and interpreting into their own way of thinking. Explain to them why things won’t work or will work and in what context.


Paul Boag recently talked about ‘Educating clients to say yes’ in depth at Future of Web Design, NYC, Paul has been in the Industry enough to know how to work with clients rather than manage.

My view is ‘managing clients’ sounds more like they’re a problem rather than a part of the job you’re working on. We designers have to realise that they infact know more about their business than we do, we certainly do not know their target audience until we ask, we do not know how much of what product they sell the most of at any one time.


It’s not that difficult. We need to realise, as I said above that clients are not crazier than a dog chasing its tail. The fact is they do not understand a bloogy thing we’re going on about that they react differently than if we approached them saying why their idea may be a problem. This is only a lesson I have learned over the past 3 or so weeks, and oddly Paul Boag talked about it at FOWD, NYC a few days after it happened to me.

Clients love direct contact yet they need to understand that contact with you can have different outcomes. If you’re busy working on their project and are interrupted you can lose focus completely. Every client I have worked with has two numbers for me, my land line work phone and my mobile. The clients I’ve given my mobile to know not to use it at randomly however if/when I work from home they know how to contact me and I am more than happy to answer their calls.

The management of a phonecall can pay dividends. A lot of clients will think that a simple phone call will not disrupt your focus. How wrong they are. Explain to them about urgency, the scales of urgency. Explain the ensuing result of a random phonecall with little point can achieve little else than failure because of the way they’ve approached you.

One thing which works well is a spare office desk with Internet connection that is the client desk. This is a place where they can come in and work around you. It builds relationships, it helps them realise just what happens within our workplaces and how we work best. Meetings can be called on a moments notice and results can be achieved with great accuracy and focus.


I believe we should stand firm, I believe that clients should listen to us and take what we’re saying on board. Don’t be obnoxious about it, help them, guide them. Designers and clients can work together to bring tremendous results as long as we give them a chance to do so.