FROM freelance to agency

Blog_July2021

When I first set up Spokes Education, I didn’t intend to create an agency. It wasn’t even my plan to freelance, or in fact to specialise in digital learning at all.  

Things just happened though and it’s now been around 5 years since my first freelance project and 2 ½ years since I employed our first member of the team. Since then we have grown organically and today we have a team of 11 (currently looking for a 12th), and we are on course to turnover more than £500k this year. I hadn’t really stopped and thought about how or why it happened, but we’ve just written a new business plan, so recently I’ve been considering the things we have and haven’t done well.  

A few people ask me for some tips as they are interested in establishing their own agency, so I figured I would put my thoughts together and create a series of videos on a range of topics which I’ve summarised below: 

1. Building a team 

Surrounding yourself with good people is the single most important thing you can do. This starts long before you even think about “employing” someone and I’ll cover the importance of having a good relationship with other professionals and trusted freelancers. I’ll then talk about how, why and when we’ve recruited permanent staff, and the profile of the individuals we look for. Finally, I’ll go over people management, roles and responsibilities and staff development.  

2. Budgets (what costs do you need to factor in) 

I’ll be sharing our finances over the last 3 years, showing what we’ve spent money on and how/where expenditure increases as the business grows. There’s loads to cover here. Should you spend money on marketing? Is it important to have an accountant? How much does an employee actually cost? Should you register for VAT, and if so is flat rate better? (I’ll try and separate content on taxes and UK centric topics). 

3. Establishing a brand/identity and creating an offering 

This is the area that I’ve probably struggled the most with over the years, and the one I feel the least qualified for. We’ve rebranded 3 times and are constantly refining our offering based on what we think people need, but they’ve also changed as our capabilities have grown. Although I feel much better about where we are now, I’m still not sure if we are doing things right here but I’ll be sure to explain the decisions we’ve made and let you know where we’ve gone wrong in the past. 

4. Finding the opportunities 

I think this is the area that I hear most people struggle with. I was lucky in that my first few jobs came about from referrals, but they were gained from relationships I had built in my previous roles. If you are good at what you do, and people have enjoyed working with you, you’ve got yourself a good head-start. If you don’t have the contacts, then you’ll have to work a bit harder, but I’ll go through the various channels you can explore.  

5. Taking the opportunities

A lot of our business is repeat and referred, which is satisfying – knowing that people have liked working with you enough to do it all again, or to recommend you to someone else. Winning a competitive tender is equally satisfying, but in a different way. And it’s something we’re good at. Since 2018, we’ve won more than 1/3 of the opportunities we’ve bid for and now regularly win 6 figure contracts. It’s never too soon to tender either (I beat a number of other agencies to a project with BMW and got the final 2 of a £360k contract – both when I was technically the only employee). I might share some of our secrets… but not too many.  

I might add more topics as I go, if I think of anything else, or if any questions arise. It’s worth noting that I’m not an expert – I’ve learned on the job, applying previous experience and skills from roles in project management, people management, learning and development and customer/client service. My only qualification is that I’ve done it, but hopefully that shows you can do it too!  

Videos will be released on our social media channels, starting in July. If you have any questions you’d like to ask Phil, or if there are any topics you’d like him to cover, get in touch via our contact page or via social media. 

ADDRESS

1ST FLOOR, 40 Kent Road,

St Crispin Local Centre,

Northampton, NN5 4DR

WORK INQUIRIES

INFO@SPOKESEDUCATION.COM 

+44 (0) 3003 03 07 08

LEKSHMI ANIL

Lekshmi loves listening to music and spending time with her family and friends when away from work. She enjoys dancing and is a pretty good cook!

 

Kyle homer

I spend most of my spare time listening to music and usually plan my weekends around watching live music! I am also a huge Arsenal fan and try to go to games as often as possible, if not I watch them whilst hiding behind the sofa.

I have just finished my MA in Modern History and can often be found with a dull-looking book in hand! When I get the opportunity I enjoy travelling and experiencing new cultures and especially food!

DANIEL MENDONÇA

Daniel has a degree in Advertising and Publishing. He moved to the UK from Brazil to pursue new creative challenges.

Daniel is a DIY enthusiast. He is often painting, wallpapering, changing furniture or just turning his place upside down. He also loves cooking and you are likely to find him looking after the BBQ at a party. 

HAZEL SEPPINGS

Hazel has always been fascinated with creating things in her free time, and you’ll find her working on a painting or creating something from clay.

While waiting for those to dry, she’s either watching her latest tv obsession, exploring the local area, or going to gigs and exhibitions.

Hazel Profile

vicky stafford

Vicky is happiest when spending time with her family, especially when exploring the outside!

She is also an avid theatre-goer (especially musicals!), loves a family film night on the sofa, and cosying up with a good book.

Vicky Profile

MIA ABRAHAM

Mia enjoys attending gigs and festivals, and snowboarding in her spare time.

When she’s looking for something more chilled, you’ll often find her mooching around a good charity shop.

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EMMA EYTON-JONES

Emma loves exploring the UK and Europe in her campervan and having adventures with her dog Skip.

When she is not away, she can be found playing tennis (badly) or watching a good film.

Emma_Profile

DANIELLE MARCH

Danielle loves spending time with her family and enjoys day trips to the beach, watching a new crime drama with a good cuppa and baking for her friends and family.

When time allows, Danielle also loves to explore a new country but believes there are too many great places to go back twice (unless it’s the Maldives!).

Danielle_Profile

Zoe Barnes

Zoe is a PGCE-qualified English teacher, with experience of teaching in secondary schools both in the UK and internationally. During her teaching career, she particularly enjoyed delivering CPD sessions on good teaching and learning practices, and mentoring trainee and newly-qualified teachers. She now applies these skills to learning design and developing our courses.

Zoe loves to travel and see the world, and has lived in The Netherlands, New Zealand, and Portugal. She enjoys weekly Parkrun 5ks, and the occasional 10k race. She continues to create and share teaching resources with the online English teaching community.

Zoe_Profile

Emily HARDY

Emily has always had a passion for animation and digital media. After getting her masters degree back in 2013, she’s spent seven years in the industry, collecting knowledge and honing her skills. 

Her time animating professionally has given her a wide range of knowledge in everything from 3D to stop motion!

When she’s not at work, she’ll be at home chilling out and watching a film with her partner, dog, and two cats. Weekends are reserved for pub trips and beer-making!

Emily_Profile

Hannah Webster

Hannah is responsible for social media and communications, and will likely be the first person you speak to if you get in touch with us.

Hannah has recently completed a degree in Business and Management at the University of Sussex. She manages our social media accounts and email inboxes, as well as helping out on development projects.

Outside of work, Hannah enjoys socialising with her friends and going out walking. You’ll find her happiest with a large cup of tea and a packet of biscuits.

PHIL HALSON

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AMBER MILLER

Amber is a talented graphic designer and an expert on accessibility. She can put her skills to anything creative, working with the Adobe suite to make courses, materials and collateral look attractive and professional.
 
Amber is involved with the local Autism Strategy and creating the local autism resource website. In her free time, Amber trains her rescue dog, Scout and she also enjoys learning Spanish and coding.
 

GARY FITZHUGH

With 20 years of creative experience, Gary brings a wealth of knowledge and skills in everything design, from print to video and 3D to web. As our motion graphics lead, he brings content to life through attractive and engaging videos and animations.

When he’s not busying himself at work, Gary enjoys long walks with his dog, running, snowboarding and watching an unhealthy amount of YouTube.
 

KAYLEIGH MESSINGER

Kayleigh is formerly a physiotherapist with a background in digital media. This means she is extremely versatile and can also use her Learning Design, Articulate and Adobe skills to work across all areas of the business.

Kayleigh is an English Kiwi, who loves travel and adventure. When she isn’t out and about with her friends and family, she can be found chilling at home with her partner and her cat, Pickles, where she enjoys creating art, reading and baking.

MATT GARVEY

Matt has an extensive background in the service industry enabling him to work across all areas of our business. He works primarily with the development team on Storyline projects, but he also leads our audio/visual work, managing our voiceover roster and producing our AV assets.
 
Matt is an avid reader, who loves queuing up the next thing to enrich his mind. He is also a gamer with his own YouTube channel, where he reviews retro-inspired video-games, as well as being a keen runner and keep-fit enthusiast.
 

CHARLOTTE SIDDALL

Charlotte brings a background in media production and content creation. She is another versatile member of our team, able to apply her skills and experience to an array of tasks, including storyboarding and course development.

Charlotte enjoys watching horror films (despite being terrified half the time), scenic walks around National Parks, yoga and reading whatever she can get her hands on.

CLAUDINO MONTEIRO

Claudino has 8 years of experience as a digital media designer and is an expert in Articulate Storyline. Heading up our development team, Claudino ensures all of our courses are interactive, accessible and functional. He is also a skilled designer and illustrator, so substance is always with style.
 
As a new dad, Claudino spends a lot of his spare time playing with his son. When not doing that, he enjoys cooking (he’s a major foodie) and playing video games.
 

RACHEL MURRAY

Rachel is a former teacher with a wide range of talents. She specialises in learning design and development in Articulate 360. She was our first employee so knows the business inside out and will be able to help with anything you need!

Rachel is at her happiest when spending time with family, reading her kindle, singing badly to loud music or drawing up pretty things on her iPad.