When and why did you start A Thousand Monkeys?
I started A Thousand Monkeys about 10 years ago. As an individual, it’s very difficult to cope with the boom and bust of freelance life. But by building a business, I’ve surrounded myself with support, talent and people who share an obsession with good writing.
That allows us to take on bigger and better projects – and more of them.
What do you wish you’d known back then that you know now?
Spend more on training and marketing from day one. Don’t hold back.
How would you describe your team?
Terrible. They’re all younger, more attractive and more talented than me. So I resent them all bitterly. They’ll all go on to have successful writing/agency careers once they’ve sucked me dry of everything I know.
What does your average day look like?
Busy! I spend a lot of time discussing copy with the writers (I try not to write so much these days). I’ll discuss business strategy with Jo our head of client relationships. And I’m probably putting a workshop together to train a marketing team somewhere.
What kind of clients do you work with – and how do you help them?
Varied. We collectively decided not to be specialists in any one area. Specialising is useful in the respect that you become an expert, but the danger is you become blind to the faults of the sector.
Having said that., we do a lot for universities and professional services (consultancies and lawyers) – both sectors that need to sound more human and less waffly.
We’ll help them with tone of voice programmes, we’ll turn those into training programmes for their staff, and we’ll obviously write scintillating content for them.
This week we’re working for a private hospital, several universities, a fine art investment advisor and a pasta sauce.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
Problem-solving: what do we need to say that would help this business solve their challenge. I’m not a great writing geek, I’m not that good at it, and I loathe writery sniping at grammar faux pas.
But I love the way a well-turned phrase or thought can cut to the heart of the problem. And training – I get a fantastic buzz from a room full of people who all feel inspired to go out and write better (betterer?).
What do you enjoy least?
Writing. That’s why I get other people to do it!
What project are you most proud of?
Oooh. Tricky. We wrote a 1000 pages of content in three months as a team, which was pretty impressive – and sent Bournemouth Council to the top of the sitemorse rankings.
The tone of voice work we did with Essex University was very satisfying too and resulted in a great sounding (and looking) site.
What advice would you give people moving from working alone to starting an agency?
It’s all about sales. Invest in a CRM programme like Highrise, build your contacts, and develop a simple strategy to keep in touch with them on a regular basis.
Do you hire freelancers? If so, describe your ideal freelance copywriter (what skills do they have, what do they do well and what do they avoid doing?)
We do use freelancers. Ideally, they do more than just write – they think about the problem and question the brief, or bring more to the writing than just a nicely honed phrase (although we like those too).
Why do you find ProCopywriters membership useful?
We love being part of a community of writers. We particularly like the webinars where we get insights into different aspects of copywriting.
We can claim to have had a hand in the origins of the conference too – we ran a couple of early conferences here in Bournemouth which sowed the seed for the ProCopywriters event.