compared to even the best agency life
For some, aspects of the industry grind is too much and such frustrations are being played out in our new series «Why I Left Advertising», which has featured the likes of Chris Maples and Jonathan Durden. For others, like Jess and Charlie , the opportunity to travel is just too appealing and, while careers in advertising have helped spur on a creative take on travel, it’s not a way of making money.
While large agencies are breaking apart business models, trying to be agile and facilitate modern client demands, people like Rosie and Faris Yakob have realised they could fill this need while living the ultimate «agile» life nomadic. After five years in NYC Faris had the option to sell his equity in the digital agency he co founded and decided to take it, proposed to me, and suggested we sell our stuff and travel for a bit.
Faris: While traveling, we started to get email enquiries about consulting work or requests and so it began.
Rosie: We didn’t plan to run our own business, honestly. We thought we’d find a place we love and live abroad for a few years, at an agency in a different country. But, we love traveling. And we didn’t realize, until we were on the road, that it was possible to take on clients while traveling.
How do you organise yourselves and ensure that you have work coming in?
Rosie: I act as the managing director, and generally run the business operations, while also handling a lot of the client services side of things. I’m more behind the scenes. So negotiating contracts, working with our business managers, hiring and paying our contractors I manage all of that. I also love design and am the art director when it comes to our website, branding, presentation design, etc.
Faris leads on the thought leadership front, conceptually and in practice.
We collaborate on strategic client deliverables: Usually we will decide on the direction together. Faris will build the arc of the story, the framework and we’ll divide and conquer on the specific sections within.
Our admin extraordinaire Elea helps with all kinds of logistics, from support booking travel, to billing clients, to scheduling, to production support.
Faris: We’ve been incredibly lucky to rely entirely on emails coming in to drive our business, from day one.
As for keeping those emails flowing, we just do what we’ve always done share. We write and post regularly, and have a bi weekly [annoying word since it means two different things, but twice a week] newsletter we send out with updates on where we will be and inspiration to help you have better ideas.
Rosie: And being nice doesn’t hurt. It’s one of core values and beliefs. One of the things I’m most proud of his how many of our clients have become our friends. In January, we headed to Vancouver and rented an Airbnb with one of our clients from New Zealand and her family. I can’t think of any clients from my NYC days that were ever friends. There’s usually this weird us vs. them mentality when it comes to clients, which is just silly.
How does the work life balance compare to what you were both doing before?
Faris: It’s mostly much, much better. We get what we need to do done and then go exploring we don’t have to sit in an office and clock hours. Partially that’s because of our business model we don’t sell time, we sell products, and how long they take to create is on us.
So, it fluctuates. Some weeks we block out time to just travel and then just do brand and business «maintenance» work emails, writing, some regular writing deadlines we have, keeping things moving.
Some projects we sprint and work all day with a client at their office, all evening on our own, all weekend writing things up. Again, it’s part of our business model we can be very agile and fast because we work on project basis and can offer clients exclusivity for a project period if desired.
Rosie: Weekends are less relevant for us as we control our own time. We often work in sprints, so as Faris said, some weekends we work, and some Mondays we don’t. But compared to even the best experience of agency life, it’s a dream.
Do you think the culture of our industry is healthy? Should businesses be allowing people more flexibility to adapt working styles?
Rosie: There’s no doubt in my mind that businesses that allow for more flexibility with their employees will do better. You have to treat people as people, not cogs. That means understanding that some people will do better by getting a few extra hours of sleep in the morning, and working later in the evening. It’s crazy that that idea is perceived as so radical.
People often think culture is worse at bigger places, but I don’t think it’s fair to generalize like that. I was fortunate enough to work at 360i, where they constantly reference this idea of productivity over presence. And it worked on this «innocent until proven guilty» way. Meaning, you were afforded flexibility until/unless you didn’t get your work done. The culture there was phenomenal: People felt the trust the leadership put within them.
I worked at a smaller shop where it didn’t matter if you had worked until 2am the night before, you were expected to be at your desk by 9am. That’s a great way to ensure that your employees aren’t going to be doing their best work not just because they’re tired, but because it’s easy to see the leadership didn’t have their best interests at heart.
Faris: Agreed. And flexibility is key to keeping more parents [especially women, because the burden of childcare still disproportionally falls on them, which isn’t they way it should be, but that’s another story] in the industry. Since parents and families are the core target for such a large number of brands and products, this is something we sorely need.
Where has it taken you so far?
Faris: Well, in rough chronological order, ignoring repeat visits: [many states of the] USA, UK, Germany, Croatia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, Mexico, Canada, France, Spain, Burning Man, Coachella, Summit at Sea, SXSW, Singapore, Myanmar, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, New Zealand, Uruguay, Chile, Cyprus, Greece, and we’re currently in India.
Rosie: It’s a little deceiving when you do the whole list of countries though, because take Chile for example. We spent several weeks there, but in only two cities. The country is massive. It’s basically the entire length of South America. We don’t have this sense of having «done» a city, much less a country. We lived in NYC for 5 years and I don’t think it’s possible to have «done» NYC, even spending a lifetime there.