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Productivity Hacks for Agencies

Meeting room

Agency staff and owners often feel overwhelmed with their workload and not seldomly have to resort to working overtime in order to keep their task list at bay.

After many years of working 60+ hours per week, not only as a business owner but also as an employee in various agencies prior to starting my own company, I’ve come up with a few productivity hacks that will ensure that’ll you get your life back. At Serps we managed to reduce our overtime worked by 95%. Crazy, right? Then read on…

Avoid the early morning email & social media trap

This is a difficult one to overcome, as for many people this is part of their daily routine, after getting a coffee, check emails, then social media channels, then start the first task of the day. Many productivity gurus urge to use the morning to get on with your most important tasks, rather than to carry out tasks that don’t require a lot of brain power when you are still fresh.

Solution: Usually I would recommend to only check your email very briefly to see whether there is anything urgent, other than that wait to process your email and respond to people until later on. We give our clients a 3 hour turnaround time for email responses and I urge Serps staff to only check their email every couple of hours, so they get less disruption. You will need to educate your client well. If you always did answer every email immediately, you will have to explain to your client why there is going to be a change. Ensure that you are still available by phone for any emergencies. Also company social media channels should only be checked at set intervals in order to avoid further disruption unless you are working on social for a client.

Reduce meetings & be prepared for meetings

This is not uncommon but the more projects you are involved in, the more internal meetings you end up being part of. This is a challenge that can only be combated by being ruthless.

Solution: Really evaluate whether you need to be in all the meetings that you get invited to. Make sure that everyone who does come to the meeting is well prepared and has read all materials in advance. Ensure that there is an agenda or that you are all on the same page as to what the outcome of the meeting should be. The meeting organiser should also tell people off for digressing to unrelated topics. You can also schedule lunch meetings and provide food for staff or even take the meeting outwith your office. You will often be much more productive and more creative in a new environment.

Schedule regular catch up times

Have you ever been in the situation that you were completely in the “zone” and you were getting through your task swimmingly. Suddenly a colleague stops in front of your desk, asking you about a fairly unimportant piece of information, without urgency, but you feel compelled to stop what you’re doing and help her or him out? Then they walk off and you’re left trying to get back into your “zone”, which now seems to be the most difficult task on earth and it takes you quite a lot of effort to get back into it? Sound familiar? Yes, of course, we all have been in that situation more often than we like to.

Solution: Here at Serps we introduced regular catch up times, which take place 3 times per day. During those catch up times, which are scheduled in in 15 minute slots in the morning, after lunch and in the late afternoon, all staff members are able to approach their fellow colleagues to discuss and clarify anything they need to. This has proven really effective for us. Usually we also schedule any other internal meetings that need to take place as closely to our catch up times, to ensure the least possible disruption on a person’s day.

Are you struggling at your agency and find that everyone is working too much overtime? Most likely it’s related to inefficient processes, which can be easily combated. Want to chat about productivity issues at your agency? Why not get in touch?

You can find me on Twitter or LinkedIN or just email me! I’d love to hear from you.

Image by Breather

How to Kickstart your Digital Marketing Career – Part 3

Desk and diary by Jeff Sheldon

This will be my final post in the series ‘How to kickstart your career in digital marketing’. Part 1 and Part 2 were published a few weeks ago.  “How to kickstart your career in digital marketing Part 1” focused on the basics of your social profiles and industry specific events, whereas Part 2 focused more on specific skills and qualifications that will put you straight to the top of the pile of applicants.

In today’s post, I will focus on what to do when you weren’t asked in for an interview or what to do when you received a rejection after an interview. I’m outlining a few scenarios below specifically if you have applied for a job at a digital marketing agency but most of these tips can be also applied to the client side.

I’ve applied for a job at an agency but haven’t got a response

Agencies are always busy, continuously servicing their clients. This often slows down the recruitment process, particularly for smaller to medium sized agencies that don’t have an HR person in-house. If you haven’t heard back two weeks after your initial application, give them a call. Ask whether they’ve received your application and at what stage they are with the recruitment process. This should enable you to find out how long it might take to hear back about an interview and it also shows that you are keen, which is an added bonus.

You have received a rejection letter or email after attending an interview

This can be a real disappointment, particularly if  the job description seemed right down your street and you felt you had great rapport with the interviewer. As tough as it might seem you need to see this as an opportunity to learn and find out more. Email the interviewer and ask whether they would be able to provide you with some feedback and what they think you could do to improve your chances in the industry for future applications. Ask whether they could either email you or whether they’d prefer you to call them and ask whether they could let you know a preferred time and day. If the interviewer agrees to give you feedback, it will probably be most likely by email. If you receive an answer, review it with an open mind and honestly take on board what has been suggested.

You have received a rejection letter or email without an interview

That’s not a great position to be in but it happens to the best of us.  In this case it’s difficult to ask for feedback, yet, I believe, you should still try and ask for it. Maybe give the prospective employer a call and try to find out why you didn’t make the cut for an interview. It will be more difficult to get specific feedback in this case but it’s still worth a try.

Stay in touch with the company

If you’ve had positive feedback but the agency may not be looking for employees with your profile at this point, it does no harm to stay in touch with them. Follow the company on Twitter , LinkedIn and connect with your interviewer on those platforms as well. Ensure that you engage with him/them on a regular basis. Follow their blog and read their company news. After a few months get back in touch and see whether any suitable roles might be in the pipeline. Staff requirements at agencies can change quickly as a company grows. Often their need for more junior staff increases as well during those phases of growth. Also find out whether the company or its staff attend or throw any local events that you could take part in. Just stay at the forefront of their mind, once they are going through their next recruitment cycle. You will be remembered a lot quicker if you keep in touch with them.

Register as an apprentice

In the UK there is an increase of Digital Marketing apprenticeships available and may enable you another way into a company. For employers there are now financial benefits as apprenticeships are government funded in the UK.

Find out more about English apprenticeships or Scottish Digital Marketing apprenticeships, where you are able to search for apprenticeships near you.

Find a mentor

There are various organisations of volunteers that focus on helping graduates and anyone else who is looking to getting their foot in the digital marketing sector.

Every year I mentor a few people and help them to further their career. Why not get in touch with me?

Final thoughts…

As frustrating as it can be, persevere and keep building up your own brand whilst you are looking for a job. Stay on top of industry news and try to further your knowledge, attend local meet ups and industry events and maybe start your own side project. If you keep at it, you will be successful eventually.

Do you need any help moving your digital career forward? Why not get in touch?

You can find me on Twitter or LinkedIN or just email me! I’d love to hear from you.

Photo credit Jeff Sheldon

How to Kickstart your Digital Marketing Career – Part 2

Sunset horizon

I’m back to mentoring three new aspiring digital marketeers and it’s been great fun so far. My last post on “How to kickstart your career in digital marketing Part 1” focused on building your own brand through social media and blogging and attending industry specific events to get to know some potential employers in person. My post today will outline some specific skills and possible qualifications that will give you a better foundation for a career in digital marketing.

Free and low cost Qualifications for everyone

There are a number of Google qualifications that you can obtain. You can get Google Adwords certified. The online study materials are free, only the cost of the exam is $50. There are also plenty of Google Analytics training materials, you can study for free for the Google Analytics Individual qualification or register for free courses that range from Mobile app to ecommerce analytics at the Google Analytics Academy. If you are looking to get into social media, why not try the Hootsuite University, which is only around $21 per month until you completed the course. Moz have tons of free resources on SEO and link building. Distilled University costs $40 per month but they have some free resources and you can try out some free modules.

Official paid for qualifications are not a must

Some employers will wildly disagree with me but I don’t think that you have to have a Masters in Digital marketing in order to get your foot in the door. You will have ended up paying thousands of pounds in order to get the qualification, just to be getting an entry level job that will not enable you to pay your debt back quickly. In this recent article on by Ben Rowland on the Digital Apprenticeship revolution, Rowland states that graduates often leave agencies just as they become useful and there is now a trend that companies move towards getting school and college leavers into digital apprenticeships in order to mould them according to their specific needs. I personally have two issues with digital marketing qualifications or with degrees that teach some digital marketing:

  1. They are generally very expensive and cause people to get into huge debt.
  2. Often the material taught, is already outdated, as our industry moves so fast, the curricula can’t keep up.

If you are set on getting an official qualification, you can find out more on the Digital Marketing Institute website. Econsultancy also offer a wide range of training courses in digtal marketing. Squared Online is the latest addition to the digital marketing qualifications, which was developed together with Google. I was told that this course is very basic and only for people who have no knowledge of digital marketing at all.

Stay on Top of Industry News

The digital marketing sector is one of the fastest moving and ever changing. It’s important to stay on top of recent changes. Follow the Google Webmaster blog, Search Engine Land, Mashable, Search Engine Roundtable, Econsultancy and follow the blogs of any prospective employers you’re interested in working for.

Get hands-on experience

Don’t just expect the experience come to you. Start a personal project i.e. create a blog and write what you’re passionate about and try to promote your blog. Get in touch with some agencies or other companies and apply for digital marketing internships. Unfortunately they are often unpaid but the experience you can gain working on real life campaigns is invaluable. If you are at university, try and get a part-time job at an agency. I’m always amazed by how little work experience graduates obtain whilst at university. Apart from digital marketing knowledge, you will learn so many more skills, such as team working, attention to detail and organisational and time management skills, which in turn can be more than useful for your studies.

Get some technical understanding

It’s important to have some technical understanding. If you are going to specialise in Search engine optimisation, you will have to have a pretty good grasp of the technical ins and outs of a website for certain. But even for other types of digital marketing roles, you will still need to be able to intelligently explain website related items to either clients or you need to be working alongside designers and developers. Here is a great article on how to communicate with your web designer. I would therefore suggest that you get a basic understanding of HTML and CSS. Check out the W3CSchools or Code academy for free. There are also some other online training courses, such as Lynda.com or Webdesign Tuts.

Additional helpful skills

Make sure you are able to use Powerpoint, Word and Excel to a very high standard. Particularly advanced Excel skills could come in handy for analysing large data sets and being able to simplify work for you in the long run. Keyboard short cuts are always real useful to know, as well as 10 finger typing. Any skills that will enable you to speed up or simplify your work will always proof beneficial to you in a fast paced work environment.

Do you need any help moving your digital career forward? Why not get in touch?

You can find me on Twitter or LinkedIN or just email me! I’d love to hear from you.

Photo credit Lee Scott

Business & Marketing Book Review #2

I’ve had planned to get this post out during the first week of October but then some business travel got in the way. During travelling I still prefer to read rather than write. I should maybe try and do something about that and get stuck into writing whilst travelling!

These are the books I managed to read in September:

1. The Science of Marketing: When to Tweet, What to Post, How to Blog, and Other Proven Strategies by Dan Zarrella

This is Dan Zarrella’s fourth book and by far the best one. I was glued to it and couldn’t put it down. The social media scientist is all about analysing data, millions of data, and his findings are very clear. Even though the Hubspot employee’s main focus is on US data, I believe that his results would have a very similar outcome in the UK and the rest of Europe.

The book is full of actionable insights, being split into the following areas

  • Content: including E-books and Webinars
  • Channels: SEO, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Blogging
  • Middle of the funnel: E-mail marketing, Lead generation
  • Analytics

It’s a small book and should be on every online marketeer’s desk, we sure have a copy of it at Serps. Definitely a great reference for anyone who needs a bit more guidance about when, what and why for their digital marketing strategy.

Dan Zarrella blogs here  or follow him on Twitter Dan Zarrella

Rating: 5 out of 5


2. Webs of Influence: The Psychology of Online Persuasion by Natalie Nahai

The book is structured in 3 parts:

  1. Know who you’re targeting
  2. Communicate persuasively
  3. Sell with integrity

I have to say, I was fascinated with the first part of the book, which focused a lot about cultural differences outlined by the Dutch psychology professor Hofstede. If you are a international digital marketer then alone for this part the book is worth getting.  Nahai outlines various cultural quirks for various countries and how best to target them online. Each section has a case study and a tips or round up section called “Make this work for you”. If in a rush, you could just read those. Chapter 2 focuses on usability, images, colours, monetisation and social media. In chapter 3 she touches on how to build trust and credibility online, increase sales and customer service.

In overall I have to say that Part 2 and 3 are fairly basic for seasoned digital marketers but definitely a must-read for anyone who is starting or is still at the beginning of their digital marketing career, account managers in design agencies or client side marketers.  You can tweet here for a free download of the intro and chapter 8.
You can read Nathalie Nahai’s blog The Web psychologist or follow Nathalie Nahai on Twitter

Rating: 3.5 out of 5


3. …And death came third by Andy Lopata and Peter Roper

I originally got this book, as I had to do some public speaking, which apparently isn’t only for me rather unappealing. According to an American study the top two fears of people are walking into a room full of strangers and speaking in public. Death was only mentioned as the third fear. Interesting, isn’t it. As a business owner you will at some point have to at least attend a networking event, if not even speak in public and for either this book is a fantastic guide to overcome any anxiety. The Networking and presentation parts of the book are divided into tools and techniques sections.  They include everything from planning your networking strategy, how to make an impression to keeping in touch. The public speaking tips are also easy to follow and focus on why you are invited to speak, getting out your key message, close, open, as well as body language.

I definitely can’t recommend this book enough. Even though the contents are all common sense, it is really useful to have very clear steps and a focused approach for networking and the preparation for public speaking. This book is a fantastic reference guide; you can dip in and out of to clarify certain areas.

Read Andy Lopata’s Networking blog & Peter Roper’s blog here and follow Andy Lopata and Peter Roper on Twitter

Rating: 5 out of 5


Are you reading any interesting business or marketing books at the moment? I’m always on the look-out for new reading material.

This month I’ve been reading The Psychology of Price, Value based Fees and Rework.

You can find me on Twitter or LinkedIN or just email me! I’d love to hear from you.

How to Kickstart your Career in Digital Marketing – Part 1

Path in the sand

Recently I wrote about how to secure an interview at a digital marketing agency, which got a lot of great feedback. As I am just about to start with the next group of digital marketing mentees, who I am helping to get that dream job that they’ve been looking for, I’ve been thinking a lot about a few tips to help you kickstart your career in digital marketing.

Nowadays, for any job really, it’s really important to go that extra mile, as a lot of great job opportunities aren’t necessarily published on a company’s website or a job board any more. Also a lot of employers are looking for candidates who have already got some experience. Don’t despair, I will outline a few tips to make you a more attractive candidate, even if you haven’t had much hands on experience as of yet.

Get your social media profiles in order

I think our HR consultant would disagree to this but everyone who hires in this industry will google the new candidate and check out their social profiles. Make sure that your public profiles are up to scratch, up to date and don’t include any dubious images of you on a drunk night out. If you are serious about finding a job, try and ensure that your LinkedIn and Twitter accounts are well maintained. At this stage I would really just concentrate on those two channels. I think having your Facebook page on private is fair enough, I keep my Facebook page private too.

Use your social channels to connect

Do some research on companies that you’d like work for and follow them on their social media accounts, i.e. Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Retweet some of their tweets, even ask questions, show an interest in their company and what they share on social media. Also like and share their posts on LinkedIn. Don’t be scared to connect with potential employers on LinkedIn, if they don’t accept your request (I usually only accept requests of people I’ve met in person), follow them anyhow. Dan Schawbel wrote a pretty interesting article on 5 reasons why your online presence will replace your resume in 10 years, which is well worth a read.

Start your own blog

In many digital marketing roles it’s important to show that you are a good writer and not only 140 characters at a time. You don’t necessarily have to start a digital marketing blog. Instead choose a topic you feel passionate about i.e. Food, clothes, sports, music or any other hobby that you may have. I would recommend just to buy a domain with your own name, you may want to change tact at some point in the future and having your own name will make any transition much easier. Having your own domain will enable you to build your own brand. Set up a wordpress blog, choose a theme and off you go. It will show potential employers that you’ve gone through the effort of setting up the blog and shows that you have gone the extra mile. Then try and blog regularly, at least twice a month, more often if you can.

Attend industry specific events

There are tons of industry specific events that are free (!!) and generally anyone is allowed to attend. Sometimes these events have speakers, so you will also be able to learn something in the process. Attending these events is definitely a fantastic opportunity for you to meet potential employers and find out about any upcoming job openings.

In Scotland and London there are the following events on a regular basis:

For other areas in the UK and the rest of the world check out:

It’s a great way to meet new people and connect with potential employers. In my next post I will go into more specifics about skills that come in useful for digital marketing, so watch this space.

Do you need any help moving your digital career forward? Why not get in touch?

You can find me on Twitter or LinkedIN or just email me! I’d love to hear from you.

Photo by Meredith Farmer

Call for Digital Marketing Mentees

People in front of laptop

Every year I try and find 2 or 3 digital marketing mentees who I help with one of the following:

  • We’ll figure out together what the most suitable role for you might be.
  • I will mentor you on how to get into the digital marketing scene in general or
  • How to progress within their current digital marketing career.

Do you fall into any of these three categories? Why not get in touch!

How do I help you?

I will spend some time looking at your current skills, what gaps you may have and what else you could do in order to make yourself stand out and become more attractive for a prospective employer or for that potential promotion within your current company, be it in an agency or on the client side.

What do you have to bring to the table?

Our sessions might help you to work out that digital marketing might not be the right fit for you. I will give honest advice and try and open as many doors as possible. I will expect from you to be open and honest about your aspirations and feel free to share any concerns that you may have. Everything that we discuss is under complete confidence and won’t be shared with anyone else.

If you want to get started, it’s as easy as this:

  • Send me an up to date CV
  • Email me a little bit about your background and your aspirations
  • Also include links to any of your public social media profiles, blogs etc.

If you’re already working in the digital sector but would like advice on how to best progress your career, give me some background to where you currently are and where you see yourself moving to and what challenges you are facing.

Do I have to be in Edinburgh or Gibraltar?

Location isn’t important for this, I personally split my time between Scotland and Gibraltar but the mentoring sessions can be done via email or Skype.

How long does it take?

It really depends on how much mentoring you require. It could be anything from 1-2 sessions up to 8.

How much does it cost?

It’s free! I had many excellent mentors over the years and I’ve been passing on my experience to others for a few years now. No catch, I enjoy these sessions as they also help me to further my knowledge.

Do you want to become my Digital Marketing Mentee? Get in touch! You can find me on Twitter or LinkedIN or just email me! I’d love to hear from you.

Business & Marketing Book Review #1

Books and books

It’s Friday! The weekend is looming round the corner and you might have been thinking that you’d like to get some reading done.

I’m an avid reader and also take part in the Goodreads Book Challenge for 2014. Currently I’m 13 books ahead of my reading goal of 52 books. Blimey! So I thought I’d share my views on the business and marketing books I’ve been reading lately.

  1. Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind

Volume 1 of the soon three volumes by 99u, the blog on how to make ideas happen by the guys from Behance, the show case website for designers and creatives.

This book focuses on being as productive as possible in a dynamic and specifically creative workspace. It contains advice from 20 different creative minds, such as Seth Godin and Scott Belsky and is broken down into four main sections, such as:

  • Building a rock-solid routine
  • Finding focus in a distracted world
  • Taming your tools
  • Sharpening your creative mind

I found a lot of the advice quite useful, even though it wasn’t necessarily ground breaking if you have read any other books on productivity. Still each chapter finishes with key takeaways with tons of actionable tips that will enable you to become more productive, even if you’re not in a creative role.

Read more articles on productivity on 99u’s blog or follow 99u on Twitter

Rating: 3 out of 5


    2. “Difference: The one-page method for reimagining your business and reinventing your marketing” by Bernadette Jiwa

Bernadette Jiwa takes another look at differentiating yourself from other businesses. Her stance is that you shouldn’t continuously trying to mimic your competitors or try to stay ahead but instead try to give your customers a reason to choose you? Jiwa talks you through how you can establish this through a one-page method to reinvent your marketing, which consists of the 5 Ps: principles, purpose, people, personal and perception. The focus is on developing products and services that people want and that talk to the individual rather than the mass market. Jiwa also includes a template and several case studies on various companies’ 5 Ps.

I think that the book certainly has helped me to rethink how we market and build our brand but I believe it only captures a part of the overall brand building exercise.
You can read Bernadette Jiwa’s blog The Story of Telling or follow Bernadette Jiwa on Twitter

Rating: 3 out of 5


3. “How to be a Productivity Ninja. Forget Time Management: How to Get Things Done in the Age of Information Overload” by Graham Allcott of Think Productive

I’m personally a productivity addict and have also written a post on the Top Productivity Tips for Agency & Business owners earlier this year. Although I did originally read this book in May, I keep picking it up every so often to actually practice what Allcott preaches. The book is packed with actionable exercises and I keep returning and refining my own processes. Without a doubt the best read this year for me so far. Once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down. Apart from it being written in a very accessible way, each chapter contains exercises and clear instructions on how to implement the theory in real life. I wouldn’t say that all of his suggestions are a must but the book covers all areas in office life that might require some ‘ninja productivity’ from how to bring your inbox to zero (which I managed from around 3500 emails!) to how to structure your day and how best to manage meetings. It’s an absolute must-read for anyone who is in dire need of getting organised and more productive.
Read the Think Productive’s blog here and follow them on Twitter

Rating: 5 out of 5

Are you reading any interesting business or marketing books at the moment? I’m always on the look-out for new reading material.

You can find me on Twitter or LinkedIN or just email me! I’d love to hear from you.

Image credit Kara Harms

My Reflections on our First Year as a 4-day Agency

4 day work week

It’s been just over a year since we announced Serps Invaders being the first agency in Scotland to introduce an official 4-day week. Last week I saw this article discussing the 4-day week on the Social media Week blog and I thought it might be time to reflect on the past year. We discussed the opportunity internally but didn’t really need to think about it too long! Since 1st September 2013 we have now officially traded as a 4-day agency, operating Monday to Thursday from 7.30am until 7pm every day.

Compressing the 37.5 hour week, means that usually there isn’t much need for any overtime, as it is the norm during tight deadline periods in busy agencies, as everyone is in the office for 9.5 hours per day. All staff have the option to work flexible working hours, which means, the “early birds” start at 7.30am, whereas our “night owls” prefer to start around 9am.

But what about your clients?
When we initially spoke to our clients about trialling the 4-day week, we didn’t expect the positive reactions that we got across the board. No-one objected to the idea and the majority of clients were tempted to suggest the 4 day week in their own companies.

What about client emergencies?
All clients know that one member of staff is on call in case of emergencies. During the full year, we had only one request very late on Thursday when everyone had left the office and once on a Friday. Both of them we dealt with on the Friday morning swiftly and without disrupting anyone’s day off too much.

Were there any issues working longer hours?
I’ve regularly checked in with all staff members on a weekly, then monthly basis to find out how they were coping with the new longer almost 10 hour work days. Everyone opted to only take a 30 minute lunch break which I wasn’t initially happy with but it seems to work for everyone. I believe the first few weeks were a bit tough but having the 3 day weekend quickly helped everyone get into the swing of things. Some staff also mentioned that coming home late from work made it a bit more difficult preparing bigger meals in the evening.

What do staff think about the 3 day weekend?
I’ve asked everyone what their getting up to on their long weekend, every weekend…

Here are some of the top items that Serps staff love about the 4 day week:

They have the opportunity to

  • travel more
  • read more
  • spend time on crafts and other hobbies
  • do more sports
  • do their weekly shopping and other chores on Friday when all shops are quiet as everyone else is at work
  • are able to still work full-time as a parent, whilst spending plenty of time with their kids, taking them to extracurricular activities and get involved with their school life
  • properly switch off and relax, it feels like a much better work-life balance
  • do their housework on Fridays and have the rest of the weekend to enjoy

Overall they all confirmed that they feel less stressed and have more energy and the fact that there is rarely the need for any overtime.
One thing I am especially proud of is that one member of staff has finally found the time to run and is planning on taking on her first 10k in the next few months!

What were the benefits as an employer?
Staff are much more relaxed, motivated and even happy to be back at work. Over the course of the week I didn’t notice performance fluctuations as much as before. Staff performance is more constant. In general I feel the motivation and productivity level is much higher since we introduced the 4 day week. Staff also often schedule doctors’ appointments and anything else they need to sort out on Fridays, so there isn’t really as much disruption from that perspective. Staff also find time to take on freelance projects that they work on at the weekend. I support this as often this gives them an opportunity to gain experience in sectors that we don’t usually work in, which I am as an employer also benefit from. Staff retention was higher and we’ve been able to attract talent that we might not have got as a smaller agency. I still work on Fridays and love the peace and quiet I get to do proper thinking time without getting interrupted by clients or employees.

Here’s to another productive, less stressful and happy year!

Are you an agency owner who wants to try out the 4 day week but isn’t sure how best to go about it? Or are you working at an agency and you want to persuade your boss? Why not get in touch with me and I am happy to give you some pointers as to how best go about it.

You can find me on Twitter or LinkedIN.

Image credit http://blog.teamtreehouse.com/

How to Secure an Interview at a Digital Marketing Agency

Make it simple but significant_DonDraper

I realise there are so many blog posts and sites out there that offer career, application and interview advice but I’m still always astounded how poor the level of applicants appears to be or at least how poor their abilities are represented in their CV or in their covering letter.

The following tips are specifically for people who want to kick start their digital career or to progress their career within a digital agency environment.

Spend Time on Devising a Covering Letter

Let’s start with the covering letter. We always request a covering letter, as I believe it really offers you a chance to show how eager and determined you are and why you are the right person for job.

90% of the time, I only receive applications with a short email intro, saying: “Hi there, please find attached my CV. Best regards, John Doe.” Really? Is that all you can muster up? Even if a covering letter isn’t explicitly asked for, you should always submit one. This is your chance to stand out from the crowd and bring a bit of personality to your application.

Recently I had an applicant who had just finished a 8 year stint of studying law but fancied a digital marketing role. Please enlighten me! No explanation makes me think you might only be interested in digital marketing because it sounds cool.  Use your covering letter (and your personal statement in your CV) to explain why.

When we were recruiting for our Head of Online Marketing, I received an application that was addressed to Mr Finkelstein. I mean, who the hell is Mr Finkelstein? Sometimes you also get applications that mention another agency’s name. “I would very much like to work at XYZ agency.” Well, why are you applying for a job at Serps? Attention to detail is for me one of the most important requirements a candidate has to bring to the table. Double check what you submit, it’ll go a long way of getting that interview!

Make your CV Stand out from the Crowd

As Don Draper in Mad Men states “Make it simple but significant.”.

I personally don’t care whether you manage to fit your CV on two A4 pages as everyone preaches. My CV doesn’t fit on two A4 pages, how can I ask anyone else to squeeze their CV into such constraints? Your CV is your ticket to get asked in for an interview. When I recruit I often have to look through 30+ CVs for very specialised jobs where certain language skills are required and more than that for graduate and senior roles. Here are some of the most uninspiring CV mistakes that I have encountered over the past year that make me cringe.

  1. No chronological order: I often see CVs that either show their first work experience first or even all over the place. This is confusing, bring your educational history and work experience into chronological order – simple!
  2. Spelling mistakes: No excuse- use your spell checker, print the CV and proof read it again (on screen spelling mistakes are easily overlooked) and get someone else who is a native speaker in the language your CV is written in.
  3. No clear dates: add when you went to university, not just what you studied, also add exact duration for each job you had. Don’t be vague; it will make an employer suspicious.
  4. No formatting and design: I’ve had plenty of great designed CVs where candidates went all out on their Photoshop skills but this is not absolutely necessary. Word provides a whole bunch of free templates that look professional and a bit different and give a little bit of colour to your CV. It’s really dire for a recruiter to look at a badly formatted Times New Roman.
  5. No personal statement: This is where you can highlight your why your passionate about digital, show that you’ve dabbled a bit, that you blog, that you have tried a bit of HTML
  6. Your social media channels are not up to scratch: A recruiter will check out your social media channels. I know legally that’s not meant to be allowed but digital agencies will take a look at your social media channels. So make sure that if you don’t want anyone to see how drunk you were last weekend, to make your Facebook profile private and ensure that you have a LinkedIn profile and that its details match up with your CV! Also make sure if your Twitter profile is public (which I’d recommend) make sure it puts you in a good light.

It’s really not all that difficult to create a good first impression when sending in your CV and cover letter. But it’s well worth spending a little bit of time on preparation, research and a bit of care and attention to detail; you can secure that initial interview and be on your way to kick start that exciting digital career.

Tell me about your experiences when applying for jobs in the digital arena. I’m also a mentor for graduates who want to start a career in a digital environment, get in touch if you need some help! In the next few weeks I will be giving some tips on how to best kick start your digital marketing career.

Top Productivity Tips for Agency & Business Owners


For an agency owner, in fact, for any business owner, there are never enough hours in the day. When I first started out, I easily worked 80 hours per week, until I burnt out, ended up extremely exhausted and wasn’t really any fun to be around when I wasn’t working, as I was too exhausted. I knew something needed to change. One of the biggest revelations for me was that being busy and being productive are two very different things!

Certainly we could all work 24 hours a day and still not complete everything that we’d like to or need to accomplish. Therefore we need to utilise the time that we do have available, and the resources around us, as best as we can. Particularly in an agency or start-up setting due to its ever so dynamic environment, it can be sometimes too easy to lose focus. Over the years I’ve learnt a few tricks that have helped me to find more focus and also to enjoy a life outside from work.

Avoid social media sites and e-mails first thing in the morning

Don’t spend your first hour in the office on social media and checking your email.

“What? Are you mad?” you’re probably thinking. I have to admit, about a year ago I would have completely agreed with you. It is just such a morning routine for everyone. You arrive at the office, make a cup of coffee, have a quick chat with your staff and then check all your email accounts and social media. Once you’ve sorted all the junk, yes, most of it will have been junk, you most likely will have not received any correspondence that couldn’t have waited until later in the day. When you check the clock and you suddenly realise that you’ve already been in the office for more than an hour and still haven’t completed anything of real value yet. Now you proceed to plan your day- or what it’s left of it and before you know it, it’s 11am.

Tip: Only scan can your work email very briefly to look whether there is anything that requires your immediate attention. Don’t spend any great length of time to process any of the emails. Instead get on with your first task of the day. I am planning a post on how to get your inbox to 0 over the next few weeks.

Plan you day

I know that sounds pretty basic, right? I used to do the daily planning either before, during or after my morning social media and email marathon. But you end up using up the time when you’re fresh and alert for something that you don’t really require to be in top form for.

I used to have a never ending to do list (and I still keep a master list) but now I only use a small piece of paper that has 6, maximum 8 items on it.

Tip: Prepare your short to do list of 6-8 items at the end of the day and leave it at your desk, waiting for you in the morning, so you can dive straight into the first task, without wasting any of your active brain time.

Start with the biggest (and ugliest) task first

It’s natural that you choose a task that you like doing over one that you don’t really look forward to. This could be the best way for you to keep pushing back and delaying a task that might make a huge difference to your business. I used to always begin with easier projects that I enjoyed doing, just in order to justify moving a more important task back.

As Brian Tracy, author of the book Eat that Frog explains, “Take action! Resolve today to select the most important task or project that you could complete and then launch into it immediately”.

Tip: Choose the biggest task or one that you least likely want to be doing and discipline yourself to complete it. Surprisingly those tasks never take as long as one anticipates and the completion will provide you with a great natural boost, as you’ve truly accomplished something of value.

Don’t make yourself available all the time

I am most productive during the morning, therefore when I’m in Edinburgh, I work from home in the morning or when I’m in the Gibraltar office I don’t come online until after 10am. If there is anything important happening, my staff know that they can call me. Other than that I get to use the time when I’m being the most productive, for the high importance tasks. Obviously this isn’t always possible, due to client or other project commitments, but it’s been working pretty well for us.

Tip: Evaluate when you feel freshest and active and block this time out in your calendar. Ask everyone who works with you that you are not being disturbed – that also includes client phone calls! Remember, no-one can be or needs to be available all the time.


Most of my suggestions are very simple and you are probably already carrying out some of them. Sometimes it’s just worthwhile reviewing your work habits and see what you could tweak to improve your overall performance at work, so you can enjoy more time outside the office.

Always remember running a business is fun, as long as the business isn’t running you! I hope my recommendations have given you some food for thought how to increase your productivity as an agency/business owner.

What works for you? Why don’t you share your experience with me?

photo credit: gothick_matt via photopin cc