A Week in My Life: Andy Golpys, Co-founder of MadeByShape
Andy Golpys co-founded MadeByShape, a Manchester-based web design agency who has worked with the likes of the NHS, the BBC, multiple universities and 20th Century Fox. Today, he shares what his working life is really like.
Thankfully, I love my job, I love my business, and what we’ve created – I certainly don’t get Monday morning blues! I wake at 7am each morning and immediately filter junk out of mine and the MadeByShape enquiry inboxes.
I get my daughter ready for her day at school and arrive at the office just after 8am. We have managed to create a home from home - the studio is a relaxed environment with people making breakfast, talking about the weekend and easing into our official start at 8:30am.
At this point, I prioritise my emails, replying immediately to important ones and then write a simple to-do list for the day. This includes a TextEdit file with bullet points and a post-it note on my desk as a reminder. This simplicity really works for me – I certainly don’t feel the need for a high-tech app at this stage.
We then meet with individual team members to discuss their work for the day as well as their long-haul tasks. As we don’t have a studio manager, our staff have autonomy over their work and do a great job of ensuring our many varied clients are happy and deadlines are met.
As our studio is based just 20 minutes from Manchester city centre, I set out to meet one of our clients at 10am to beat the morning commute. This meeting proves to be a great success - the client's happy with the direction we are taking and additional budget set aside for further work. I’m back at the studio for 12pm and enjoy lunch with the team where I get a quick update on projects and specific client feedback.
My afternoon consists of creating exciting pitch proposals for a number of new enquiries we’ve received. I also check on our MadeByShape SEO.
I leave work at 4:30pm, have a quick beer with an old friend, spend some quality time with my daughter, watch a bit of TV and go to bed. An important factor here is that I don’t mention work. Yes, I do reply to emails throughout the night - it’s my job as co-founder and project manager to look after clients. But I don’t do any ‘actual work’. This wasn’t always the case – a few years ago I was working 24/7 however, I knew this needed to change.
I wanted to be more productive in the day so that I can relax my mind in the evening. Work-life balance is a huge factor in my opinion, and can seriously affect someone’s mental health if they are constantly working with no downtime.
A rare, full day in the studio that consists of clients visiting our space at MadeByShape. We have spent a lot of time and effort on the interiors, and it’s always a nice feeling to welcome clients into our environment and receive positive feedback. It’s not just a space for us to work, but also a space for clients to instantly feel welcome and part of the furniture - even if they’ve never met us before.
My morning meeting is with a fashion brand. The conversation begins informally over some hot drinks. I think it’s really important to get to know somebody - I want to know who they are, how they got to this point, what makes them tick, and hear their vision for the business. If we understand the person behind the brand, we can represent that brand better. In this case, we literally talked about dogs for half an hour.
After discussing the project, the brief, specific features and timescales, I provide ballpark figures and ask how they would like to take it from here. I’ve found it’s good to be flexible here - some people are literally looking for guide prices, so there’s little point in me spending several hours creating a full proposal, while others need a proposal to see how we present ourselves in comparison to rival agencies. Often, we’ll be invited to a next phase pitch process, which happened last week and saw us present our ideas face-to-face alongside our team members to a client in the hospitality sector. I’m happy to say we won that business!
On this occasion, however, the chat was enough to win us the project, so over the next few days, I’ll be focusing on the feature scope, deposit invoice and contract signature.
My afternoon meeting was the complete opposite - a highly commercial and corporate tech agency. As such, I altered my approach and led the meeting, first describing my journey to where I am now, explaining the business and what we can offer. I then handed over to them to describe their business and explain what they felt they needed from a web design agency. I think it’s important to get a feel for an individual and make them feel comfortable - if I went into that meeting cracking jokes and sharing banter, I doubt they would have decided to work with MadeByShape.
In between these meetings, I checked emails, checked in on the studio and had various calls with our clients.
Tonight, I enjoy my weekly game of football. For that one hour, I literally forget about everything else in the world and just concentrate on the game. I love it!
We work with clients all over the world, partly down to reputation and recommendation but also because we are very good at SEO. Today I visited an existing client in Dublin. If clients want face-to-face meetings, we make it happen. If people are happy to Skype, do phone calls, and emails - that’s also fine.
The morning is a rush - I need to check emails, make sure the team is on track and get to the airport with enough time to spare. Along the journey, I continue to read my emails and communicate with clients. On arrival at the airport, a beer is welcome… after all, ‘technically’ I’m on holiday.
Dublin is a very easy commute; a quick flight from Manchester and a taxi directly into the centre where the client is happy to meet me in a local restaurant. We have food and discuss the project, though we don’t open a laptop or discuss the design until 40 minutes into the meeting. We call this ‘client relations’ - being relaxed, having a laugh and feeling comfortable.
We finish around 6pm and I’m free to enjoy some downtime. I’m in Dublin which can only mean one thing, enjoy a drink in an Irish Pub and some live Irish music before heading back to the hotel.
After travelling back from Dublin, I go straight to the studio and update clients with the latest designs, feedback to my designers with the amends I’d like them to make and provide quotes to new enquiries.
Quite a relaxed day overall, but only because it’s been planned well in advance given the Dublin trip was in the diary.
More travel. This time it’s Cheshire but I only need to set off at 1pm. So that gives me time to check emails, create a design direction guide for an exciting new digital project and meet with the team to discuss the week’s successes and the priorities for the following week. And of course, plans for the weekend over a McDonalds breakfast (sorry, yes, I’m a bad lad).
The Cheshire journey is fine, it takes around 40 minutes but it’s a nice drive. We have a direct meeting with a very successful Architecture firm who are looking for a complete overhaul of the business image, including Branding, New Website, SEO, Art Direction and Photography.
Another successful meeting and I’m away before I know it. As it’s Friday and the M6 the traffic is bad so I decide to go straight home and check emails from my laptop.
I’m now ready for the weekend which consists of baby ballet, football, nice food, family and friends. Perfect!