A day in the life of an agency owner

Have you ever wondered what it’s really like to run a copywriting agency? We asked RH&Co founder Rin to give us an insight into a typical day, with all its ups, downs and unexpected turns, plus what she does to try and keep it all on track.

One of the things I crave most in my life is variety. That’s why I started my career as a journalist. I loved arriving at my desk each morning, not knowing whether I was going to be interviewing a celebrity, covering a local court case or heading down the motorway to cover the opening of a new arts centre.

My job isn’t quite as exciting these days but there’s still a fun mix of activities in any given week as an agency owner. Here’s what life usually looks like for me on an average day – whatever one of those is!

Getting prepared for the day

My alarm usually goes off anywhere between 6:30 and 7am, depending on how much quiet time I want before the kids get up. If I’m being good, I’ll choose the earlier option and make sure to get some journaling, reading or meditation time in before everyone else is awake.

Then it’s time for the madness that is getting everyone fed and dressed and ready for the day. If you’ve ever had to watch a six-year-old eat a bowl of dry Cheerios one at a time when you’re on the clock, you’ll understand why meditation is such a good idea.

By 8:30am my children have headed off to school with my partner – I am inordinately grateful for his flexible freelance schedule, which means he can do more than his fair share of childcare and home management while I work full time.

This first half hour at my desk is dedicated to checking my emails and getting my tasks sorted out for the day. I use Trello to organise my to-do list and have a Default Diary spreadsheet that allows me to view my whole month in one go. It’s colour coded so I can instantly see what proportion of each week is dedicated to strategy, meetings, client delivery and so on.

If this all sounds very organised, don’t be fooled. I’m naturally very creative and reactive and not at all organised, so I’ve had to work incredibly hard to create systems that keep me efficient and effective.

Internal meetings and looking after the team

In 2021, the RH&Co team grew from 5 to 9 people. As a result – and because we’re still operating remotely for the moment – it became necessary for us to put some sort of structure in place that would allow me to catch up with everyone regularly. 

We’ve always had a weekly team meeting on a Monday but we now also have various departmental meetings on a weekly, monthly or quarterly basis, depending on what’s needed. This means I always know what’s happening with our finances, our client projects, our own marketing and our writers, even if I’m not directly involved with those things myself.

My fellow director Liz and I also use 15 minute ‘LIONs’ meetings (something we learned from Action Coach) to keep in touch with individual team members each week. As well as going through what happened Last week, any Issues, Opportunities and what they’re up to Next week, it’s good to just have that bit of face to face time and connect as human beings.

Client delivery – working in the business

The holy grail for business owners is to step out of ‘doing the do’ and focus entirely on strategy and leadership. I’ve certainly been shifting the balance over the last couple of years but it’s not quite time for me to down tools just yet.

My role still includes a fair amount of consultancy and training work, covering brand voice and messaging as well as content strategy. I’m also RH&Co’s floating jack of all trades, so at any given time I might get called in to take a briefing if an account manager is ill, for example, or edit a piece of work if our senior copywriter and editor has too much on his plate.

At the moment I’m working on creating a training programme for one of our clients, to help around 60 individuals in their marketing and commissioning teams improve their persuasive writing skills. It’s always tricky trying to work out what level to pitch things at, as there will be a range of experience levels and I want to ensure everyone stays engaged throughout.

Taking a break – the importance of lunch time

I’ll admit, I’m not always very good at taking a proper lunch break. If it weren’t for my other half very kindly making me something to eat, I’d probably forget half the time. But my schedule has an hour blocked out for lunch from 12:30 to 1:30pm – 30 minutes to relax and eat, and 30 minutes to learn something.

I’ve doubled down on my efforts to stick to this schedule recently because I know how beneficial it is to inject some rest and inspiration into the middle of my day. Whether I’m reading a personal or professional development book, watching a Ted talk or listening to a podcast (one of my favourites is 2Bobs with David C Baker and Blair Enns), I always find I start my afternoon feeling genuinely refreshed.

I’ve just finished reading The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel, am almost done with Agencynomics by Spencer Gallagher & Pete Hoole and am just starting The Future Starts Here: An Optimistic Guide to What Comes Next by John Higgs. If you have any recommendations, hit me up on LinkedIn.

Sales and strategy afternoons

Afternoons are usually set aside for dealing with two of my most important tasks as an agency owner: Sales and Strategy. 

I still find it quite strange to describe myself as a sales person, because I’m really not at all what you’d typically expect if you watch something like The Apprentice (or Only Fools And Horses!). 

The way I look at it, we offer a service that many businesses genuinely need. During a sales call, my job is to find out what their challenge is and whether we can help them within their timeframe and budget. It’s not about trying to convince anyone to spend money on something they don’t need.

Strategy is my catch all phrase for all of the ‘on the business’ work I do, and it’s probably the bit I find most challenging and most fun, depending on how it’s going. It can cover anything from reviewing our marketing or pricing strategy to putting together ideas for how to develop our client management team or expand our writing team.

Recently I spent several days creating the RH&Co ‘blogging playbook’, a 7,500 word document that brings together everything I have learned about blogging over my years as a journalist and copywriter. Right now it’s an internal tool but I suspect it will end up becoming part of a book one day.

When it all goes wrong

Of course, my Default Diary can only ever be a goal to aim for. Inevitably things come up that threaten to derail my carefully constructed plans and sometimes there’s no way around them. If a big new client wants to talk about a lucrative new contract at a moment’s notice, I’m hardly going to refuse. Likewise if one of the team has a problem, I’ll always make myself available to talk.

And let’s not pretend that I’m always as self disciplined as I should be. The worst days are usually the ones where I let the ‘urgent’ jobs get in the way of the important ones, or when social media, email and general faffing about keeps me from doing what I actually need to do.

I can be a terrible procrastinator, especially when a job feels a bit scary or I don’t quite know where to start, and my big goal for this year is to get better at ‘eating the frogs’ and prioritising ‘deep work’ (if you haven’t read them, I highly recommend Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy and Deep Work by Cal Newport).

Shutting off for the day

When I first started my business I was a single mum with 9-month-old twins working part time in whatever blocks of time I could find – when I had childcare, when the babies napped or in the evenings – pretty much seven days a week.

Today I work full time but am very strict about finishing at 5pm so that, even though I can’t pick them up from school, I can sit with my girls while they have their dinner and find out how their day went and then get them ready for bed.

I try to finish up any meetings by 4:30pm so I have that final half hour to check any last emails and tie up loose ends. When I do, I find I can switch off more easily and I’m far less likely to wake up in the night thinking, “Did I actually do X?”

Being an agency owner is something that happened almost by accident, without me really knowing what I was getting into. But I have to admit, I really enjoy it. Every day is different and, although it’s not without its stress, it is satisfying to be in charge of my own destiny.

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