top of page

Podcast Season 2, Episode 1: The year one post mortem

***New Season*** In the latest episode, iMG. Co Founders, David Coghlan & Richard Johnson talk to Greg Simpson about year 1 and their bold predictions.

Transcription S2, Episode 1: The year one post mortem

We use AI to record and transcribe our podcasts, so while we give it a whizz through to make sure there's nothing shockingly wrong, the below is our verbatim conversation so it might get a little odd to read in places...


David Coghlan, Richard Johnson and Greg Simpon

David Coghlan 0:09

Hello, everybody, and welcome to Season Two of The Inspired Marketing Group podcast. We've had a bit of a break, but we are now ready and raring to go for the second series. In our second year of business. Yes, we've made it through our first 12 months. So that was good. As always, I am joined by my co founder and business partner, Richard Johnson.

Richard Johnson 0:35


David Coghlan 0:37

How are you doing? And we thought, given that we made some sort of bold statements, some slightly outlandish assumptions and guesses when we first started this podcast last year, that we should probably sort of hold ourselves to account and invite back, Greg, who's a former journalist and PR guru to sort of ask us some questions and see what we got, right what we got wrong and how it went.

Greg Simpson 1:04

And the good thing is, guys, I have got them written down. I have the notes in front of me, so your feet are firmly to the fire, commencing torture in t minus 10.

David Coghlan 1:15

Excellent. Great to have you back, Greg. And yeah, thank you for Well, I'm just gonna say thank you. Now I'm not saying thank you at the end, but yeah, it would be good to yeah, let's do a bit of a unpack our first year. So yeah, we went to what we learned, see what was good, what was bad. And, yeah, we'll go from there.

Greg Simpson 1:33

Okay, let's start off really easy then, guys. I mean, how did it go? What have you learned? What, what have you enjoyed?

David Coghlan 1:42

Um, shall i go first Rich?

Richard Johnson 1:48

Yeah you go first.

David Coghlan 1:48

Yeah, the first year has been unbelievable. So really, really unbelievable. I think, you know, we were right time right place, I think the concept of the idea we, you know, when we started this, I think we said, you know, it's a good idea, we think is a good idea. We know, we'll work hard to 10%. good idea. 10%. Hard work and 80% dumb luck. I think that sort of equation is born out. Very true for us. So again, it's a pretty good idea. We've worked bloody hard this year. But it was pretty much right time, right place in terms of everything that happened with COVID, at the end of 2020. And the sort of changes in how businesses operate and how people work over the last sort of 12, 18 24 months, has really meant that the market has come towards our model of you know, flexible talent on demand. As things change, you need to flex and change your team. So our hypothesis that that's what sort of larger corporate businesses would need from them architectures has born out, which obviously, we're thrilled we're thrilled about. And we're now working with some amazing, you know, major, major brands, in lots of different sectors, which is brilliant, I think, Rich, we went through our, we were very conservative with our business plan, and we were sort of very cautious about how we thought growth would be we went through our five year revenue number in nine months. So it's been a good a good year. And I guess it's, I'm always reminded of Ricky Gervais, you know, because when he did the office, and it blew up, and it was amazing. And then it took ages for his second team to come out. And he stood on the stage. And so you know, that tricky second series? For us, it's always been about tricky second year, you know, the first year has been so good. How do we keep the momentum going? How do we keep that sort of drive and growth growing, going over this next 12 months? So I guess yeah, that's what we are very firmly focused on now is how we, how we keep this thing going.

Richard Johnson 3:59

I think it's worth, I think it's worth acknowledging as well, we talked about sort of financials. Whilst we whilst we did go through our revenue number quite quickly, I think it is fair to say that the revenue number was very, very, very conservative. It was based on his not actually taking money as a wage for a long time we were we using our savings to fund the business. So we were able to take sort of money out based on the performance. But I guess it's we also we also probably did refine our business model as well, quite a lot during that process. And I think we really learned what our what our target audience was and what it wasn't and who we wanted to work with and who we didn't want to work with. And I think we we have an idea that I think as you go through those conversations and those not pitches, we don't tend to pitch but those conversations with prospective clients, you really hone down into what what you want to work with. And so as an example, we talked about, you know, we need to go and target procurement managers and HR managers and, and marketing folks, and CMOS, and CEOs and all of that jazz. But actually, what we've really found is that our key target audience, is who we used to be in our old corporate life, you speak to a chief marketing officer, you speak to a marketing director or head of marketing, they instantly get what we're trying to do, and trying to help. And, you know, that's where we've focused on marketing effort over the last three or four months on social and that is to really speak to people from a element of we've been there, we've done that. And that's not an arrogant point of view. You know, we've been you, and we understand what it's like to be you. And we've got a solution, which makes your life easier. So yeah, it's been a it's been a great first year. And we've been talking to freelancers all the time, and we Dave in actually, we, yeah, it's I think it's fair to say if we're being brutally honest, this year is tougher than last year. But if you view it over a 24 month, sort of business plan, revenue flow, we would be very happy with where we are today.

Greg Simpson 6:21

Interesting. Because you've got, you've got two audiences here as well. Haven't you essentially split up from the customer point of view, which is the marketing director, and then the HR function who might be in the counselling function, you might be worrying about how the model works. But you've also got the talent, the freelancers and, you know, how did they react to the market opportunity when he presented it to him? Because it doesn't it didn't exist? Is there scepticism? Or if this sounds a bit too good to be true? Or this sounds like a bit of too much hard work? Or I'd rather do it my way? How did the Freelancers you know, people like me, I won't speak for myself but how did everybody else go for it?

David Coghlan 6:55

Yeah. So I think I think, again, we, the first three months of our existence, we didn't do any acquisition marketing at all, we spent that first three months, basically speaking to marketers, so marketing managers, people who are freelance, because we knew if we didn't have a community, basically, we didn't have anything to give our customers or offer our customers. So yeah, the first few months, we did that, I think we got about 10 or 12, on board, off the bat. And again, they kind of lots of those folk we knew well, and they sort of like the concept like the idea. And what I guess we're willing to take a punt to join us on the journey, which will you massively appreciated. And then as things started to roll in the early part of the year, and we needed more and more people we started to, again, we kept those sorts of to marketing activities run into customers, and also for our freelance audience. And over the course of year, I think we're up to about 45 people in total now in our community. And it's been again, we had, we had a bunch of our folks on the on episode seven of our podcasts talking about, you know, how, how they found it, what they think, and the overall feedback has been amazing. And I guess it's been what we always wanted was to help those folk do more of the work they love, they don't want to do selling, they don't want to go and pitch, they don't want to, you know, do all of that sort of stuff. They just want to do content, or graphic design, or whatever it is. And that was always our ambition to help them do that. And we've been fortunate because we've grown so quickly with our with our customer base, we've actually had more opportunities than we've had people have a number of number of times. So what we've been able to do is almost onboard a freelancer and then almost the next day or even that day, say, Hey, we've got an opportunity, you know, with this client or that client, so from their perspective, it's always been on board gig straightaway, which is obviously the dream situation. So yeah, so it's been, you know, we knew it was gonna be a challenge to balance the people and the customers. And that's been true through the year.

I think, again, we understand our audience better now than we did before. In the fact that we know that there's possibly free audiences of freelancers, there's those who are brave like yourself, I'm in, I've been in it for years, I know what it's like. And I see the value of lead generation for my business, etc. There's the people who are full time and thinking about it. And I think you coined the phrase, Dave about the soft transition from full time to freelance. And then there's the people are full time and actually, they're looking for a change. But that's what they're looking for the change in a full time rol, and they like the security of a full time role. And we now know when we go out and we try and onboard freelancers into the community, you can always tell what that conversation is going to be like from within the first Five minutes of that conversation, because they'll either be in one of those three categories, categories fully on board, you know, I've got one foot in, and I just want to be pushed over the line, or this is never going to happen, because I just want a full time wage, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

Richard Johnson 9:18

That must be different for you guys. Because your client side historically, you have seen these headaches us poor folk, pitching and trying to find leads or trying to follow up or even if most people don't do the sales don't do the marketing don't, they don't do it networking. So it must be interesting for you to see that from the other side of it. But also, you've got a heck a lot of experience to say to them. Look, have you thought about this, this is how you communicate to your customers.

David Coghlan 10:44

And I think the challenge the challenge that a lot of are broken, and it's always the same, right? It's cobblers shoes. So if you are spending all your time doing marketing, lead gen acquisition for clients, you don't have any time to do lead gen marketing and acquisition for yourself. And so you always get this sort of peaks and troughs where you go, I'm crazy busy, because I've got clients and coming out my ears and really delivering for those folk. And then as they drop off, you suddenly become really quiet. And then you panic, and then you go crazy with the marketing, and then you get some more clients, and then you get really busy. So you always get these peaks and troughs. And again, when I did this previously, it was similar in terms of, you know, lead gen was absolutely everything. And then we'd get a client and we'd go crazy busy. And then we'd all be terrified if a client walked awat and it was just, you know, an emotional roller coaster and a financial relatives. But I guess what we and again, what we are trying to do is even if you don't know that today, as a sort of a new freelancer, that soft landing is all about, we can help mitigate those peaks and troughs. And, you know, we can't guarantee work for everybody all the time. That's not what we do. But if you've got one or two of your own clients, and they're doing a day or two a week, and we can fill those extra extra three or two days, then it does help take some of the pressure off. For those guys. Yeah.

Greg Simpson 12:01

You mentioned terms of pressure as well. And starting, there's a piece a blog on your website, about the runway concept. Can you outline what you mean about that?

Richard Johnson 12:12

We talked about a financial runway and again, Dave, let's be clear about this and honest. It's we've had this conversation with loads of freelancers, I respect those people are in a full time job. And they go, I'm done. I quit, and they leap and they become a freelancer. Dave and I did that. But we were going through a redundancy riddensituation. So we knew it was happening. And I think it's a lot easier to do that when you're when you don't have a choice and you don't have that income anymore to do that. So I would you know, on the table on record, those people who quit their job and go freelance huge respect, I'm not sure, I'd have the balls to do that, for one of a better word. The runway is, is we always talked about Dave and I, you know, invested in this business to start it, we knew that we wouldn't have to take it away for a certain amount of time, we knew we had to win business to make the business sustainable. And the runway pretty much is putting money in a bank account. And you know that you've got six months to make that business be sustainable. And every new client knew when you might go from five months to four months to six months, seven months, but you just met and we now work on a premise of we we like to run this business six to 12 months ahead of itself. So when we end this financial year, a success of our financial year would be that, well i need to work out the dates now, June 2023 would be fully paid for so if nothing if nothing came in, we know this business will run for six months. And that's six months gives you a chance without pressure to to take flight again, a runway.

Greg Simpson 13:50

In that case, then what are your ambitions and objectives for this year?

David Coghlan 14:00

I guess, the most important thing for me is, is sustainability. Because I think like you know, it's all well and good. And I think last year it was it was new, we were all excited, we were energised, we were you know, telling the world we were had a you know a bee on the bonnet it. And we were going hell for leather. Because, you know, we were sort of staring down the gun in terms of if we don't make this work in the next six months, we're gonna have to go get a job somewhere. And so, we've had a really successful first year and the risk with doing well. And I think Rich again, one of the good things is doing this with Richard is we hold each other to account but the real important thing for me this year, is making sure that this business is sustainable, making sure that we've got more clients coming on board you've got a broader portfolio of clients a broader portfolio of sort of areas of support that we help those clients with, and also the we continue to support our community, get them paid, get them earning the money that they deserve, get them doing the jobs that they love. And I guess one of the things that certainly I want to I want to get on record, and I've said this a number of times, we have a monthly all hands of our community. But one of the things that I'm we didn't do as well as I wanted to do last year was create our sort of, you know, the community engagement. And, you know, everybody sort of feeling like a team, because we were so busy winning new business and getting those folks working, which is what they you know, that's the number one thing they want. We didn't, frankly, didn't have enough time to do the community stuff to get people engaged, and all of that sort of stuff. So we absolutely hit our objective in terms of helping those folks earn money, work with great clients and do some of the work they love. What I really want to do is really nurture that community really make it almost like a safe space. So those are the two things for me, it's more clients and breath clients and greater engagement with the community.

Richard Johnson 16:03

I think from my point of view, I would almost say, I agree with everything David just said, my view would be almost don't go backwards. So we know what we're trying to acheive. And actually, you know, David, I have conversations all day, every day about actually we need to, we need to do a little bit more, we need to be more, and we're constantly pushing ourselves forwards. And if I'm being brutally honest, I'm not bothered about double digit, triple digit growth or triple digit, Jesus Christ that'd be amazing. But no, I'm not bothered about massive growth. I think we set a great platform. And if Dave and I could do that year after year, after year after year, what that enables is genuinely I love what I do. I've never had a work life balance like this. You know, I see my kids more than I've ever seen my kids more in my life before I work from home all the time, I've got brilliant aspect like that I earn, I earn enough money to live happy with that. And also, if we can do that not go backwards, and I can achieve those two objectives. That means that we're helping other people achieve their objectives, because clearly, they're performing the work. And they're earning, you know, what, what they want to earn. And yeah, you know, we don't negotiate on price with them. So they tell us their day rate is what their day rate is that they know their worth. That's what we get them. And it feels like we're in this relationship where everybody's winning in the fact that the freelancers are getting what they want, we're getting what we want. And we're all working remotely in an environment, which is becoming or should be becoming the norm. Now.

Greg Simpson 17:51

It's interesting, I'd love to, from a community point of view, a milestone of the fees earned by your team, not the business by your teams, to see whether you can just show what's possible.

Richard Johnson 18:05

In terms of what what they can earn from being a community member?

Greg Simpson 18:08

What they've earned, then this year, and then next year, I say, you know, it'd be.

Richard Johnson 18:12

So we talk abou, Dave talks about the all hands we talk about every single all hands. So I think the last time we calculated the average earnings per member was that 13 and a half, nearly 14,000 pounds per year. So if you think about it, you're paying 100 pounds a year to be part of our community, lead gen, and on average, you're earning 13 and a half grand. Yeah. So like Dave said, that isn't potentially sustainable as a full time job for people. But our target audience is freelancers who have their own businesses, and they're using it as a as a top up to what they're currently already got. But clearly some people are in a lot, lot more than that. Have been in roles for 6, 7, 8 months. So they're earning what could be a full time wage, and other people are just coming in to do strategic projects. But yeah, on average, 13 and a half grand for 100 pound investment. I do that day in day out.

David Coghlan 19:10

And I've just done that. I was while you were talking, I will just pull it up the deck that we presented to the all hands on seven 70% of our community are in paid work have either had or are in paid work at the moment. So yeah, that's it's pretty good. And actually the earnings per member is 16 grand, not 13.

Richard Johnson 19:33

Well, there you go

Greg Simpson 19:35

That's a heck of a runway, isn't it?

David Coghlan 19:38

And it helps, right I mean, we're in the process actually of developing the document, which is going to be the IMG Guide to Becoming a freelancer. So what are the things you need to do you know, reduce your costs, build your runway, prepare for it, start your lead gen get, you know all of this sort of stuff that we talked about and we talked about with people you gonna publish that and get, again, it gives people a guide on what on what we wanted to really do with the communities is mean that, you know, nobody has to figure this out alone. Because we've loads a conversation with people over the year. You know, one of our members had a client that hadn't paid her. So she was like, how do I go about this? What can I do? We, you know, we shared some of our business terms and try, you know, we structured this payment upfront. And it's all of this sort of stuff, which, you know, if you don't know it, you've got 40 odd people that you can say, hey, I've got a question. Yeah. And you can bet your bottom dollar somebody there will, will no know the answer.

Richard Johnson 20:37

But there's loads of examples like that, you know, we've had it we've had somebody who was was made redundant, didn't have a job joined the community. First time I've ever been freelance brilliant guy. He's like, I don't know how to self assessment, have no idea. So we connected him with our accountant, and 70 quid for them to do something like that was just like, Well, why wouldn't It's just about making life easier for people and, and, yeah, we talk about a bit of tongue in cheek, but it's almost like as a marketeer, I've never seen an ROI on an investment like you get from The Inspired Marketing Group. It's phenomenal.

Greg Simpson 21:13

That's incredible. I mean, you're obviously enjoying it. Any regrets? What was there anything you wouldn't do again? Bet this call is recorded. Gentleman.

David Coghlan 21:27

Yeah, so I guess well, you know, there's, I mean, we did a tender, didn't we? Yeah, public sector tender. That was absolute painful. And, obviously didn't go anywhere. But it took a massive, massive time thief. So I think we've pulled that from that particular market. And maybe we go back to it, but I guess, you know, the hoops you got to jump through for that. And I mean, we're, you know, we work with corporates. So we're used to jumping through hoops and working with porcuremnt teams, but yeah, public sector, tendering processes.

Richard Johnson 22:00

I also think it's probably wider than public sector as well, David, I think that, you know, we, what, what we've experienced in a number of occasions is almost people wanting free consultancy. And I think this is the runway element of that is if you are if you are, I'm used the word desperate, if you are desperate for revenue, because you can't, you can't see how you're going to pay the mortgage at the end of the month, you probably do things that you're not comfortable with, or you don't want to do. And we've had scenarios where people have gone, you know, can you tell us how you would double your leads, blah, blah, blah, whatever it looks like, as part this so we can select the right agency to work with? And it's like, well, hang on, if I do that as part of a pitch process. And I send it to you, what, where's the value coming? Because you could just select that and give it to your internal marketing team. And, and I think we've not that we've ever sent that. But I think if we're being honest, we've written those documents, and then we've reflected on and gone. And we're literally given away the crown jewels here. And we're not, we're not there's no guarantee that there's money at the end of it. So but yeah, I know, it sounds quite blase about I'd never pitch clearly you do pitch. But I think it's about understanding the value of what you've got to offer. And actually, there's, there's value to that. And if you want, if you want The Inspired Marketing Group to come in and tell you how to double your leads, it's paid for service. It's not a pitch process. If you want to understand how we've done it in the past and have some examples, great, you can have those, but it's not. It's not about giving away the crown jewels, I've got another one as well. And it was something which somebody told me that used to be in an agency, and it's a really weird dichotomy to be in. But he was what he was saying to me was, be careful not to come across that you're too busy. And that sounds really weird. But actually, if you if you are all over social media talking about you've done this, you've done that this is what you're doing. If I'm sat, and I'm not I need to speak to somebody about doing some work. How many times do you qualify yourself out of an opportunity by not actually being part of that opportunity? Because they just perceive you won't have time for this is too small for you. It's this it's whatever. And it's almost self marketers how you're coming across, and he was saying to me, loads of conversation about Yeah, I didn't speak to about that, I thought you were too busy. And it's like, now we'd love to have done that. And it was all perception. So it's yeah,

Greg Simpson 24:47

That is a balancing act though, isn't it? Because as well, you don't seem to be too quiet because what are you not in the game anymore? I mean, I've had conversations with prospects and previous clients and previous customers and existing clients of mine who get you're everywhere right now. So no, no, to you I am. Because I'm very good at being everywhere to you. Yeah. But Joe Bloggs around the corner, they can't see me because I'm doing things that they can't see, intentionally. And is, is it is a delicate balancing act. But it's a sort of thing. If you know how many leads you need to because of your conversion rate is that's because your average fee is that because of your conversion rate is this. It all stacks up, you need to know those numbers. And that, obviously being in business and knowing what those figures are, you're talking about remote working before, I'm gonna hold your feet to the fire here, then you're saying you can go and get your Amazon delivery, you can put the washing up, I don't know if he's done the washing this morning.

David Coghlan 25:40

I have

Greg Simpson 25:40

You've done the washing. Good I've had the dogs.

David Coghlan 25:45

I'm still living the dream. Yeah,

Greg Simpson 25:47

I've heard the dogs savage each other in the background. So I'm doing that as well. So you're saying that this isn't going to change you said that people didn't want to go back to the office because they can take their kids to school. I can take my kids to school now. I can go for a run, anybody been for a run?

Richard Johnson 26:04

Started with great intentions.

Greg Simpson 26:09

But you're saying, you know, you're not commuting to work? I'm not commuting back. I'm saving on petrol and saving on life. How is that? Does that stack up?

Richard Johnson 26:15

I think 100%. So yesterday I had a conversation with somebody who wants to join the community. The question was, why do you want to join the community? And the response was, I am being told I've got to go back to the office full time. And I don't want to do that. Someone else, you know, a week before I was promised remote work, and now we're coming out of COVID I'm getting more and more pressure come back into the office and I'm almost being bullied is the wrong word. But it's almost like there's that thing of you know what, you're you're not in the office, you're not in the office, such and such is in the office. And I think there's this underlying current I think David I were talking about this morning actually, is it's becoming almost like within mainstream media now about homeworking so, you know, I was on Tik Tok the other day, and there was a sketch about a woman sat at a desk and it was like when another great coworker leaves, but HR won't remove they're not working from home policy. And that becomes almost comedy sketches, you understand that that's the real undertone in society. And I don't know, you know, the vast majority of people are working home or not working from home, I'd probably say it's probably less than 50%. At the moment, I think, that are fully remote. But those that trajectories going. And actually people want fully remote work. And you know, there's less and less people doing that commute. Now, I went down to see Dave, last month got on the motorway at rush hour, I was surprised at the quiet the motivate actually is now during those peak times, bus companies train companies axeing routes based on falling passenger numbers. That's not because there's fallen jobs, there's record numbers of jobs now. It's because people are not actually commuting into the city centre anymore to do their jobs. It's happening, it's how quickly it's going to happen.

Greg Simpson 28:21

And that's going to drive the acquisition of talent in terms of companies trying to bring somebody in house, you know it at a certain level, that conversation is going to be well, the very least I don't work Fridays, or I do not I don't work past three o'clock, or I must start work here. I need some flexibility there. And if it isn't in there, they will lose that talent to somewhere else. Either they'll go freelance or they'll go to the rival rather corner who may even be offering less money. Because it's not about the money. It's about the value.

David Coghlan 28:50

And let's you know, let's be honest here. Part of the reason for our success is the fact that companies can't hire, they cannot get the talent they need in the house. And so they're required to come to us or to, you know, people like us or to take on contractors because they cannot insource the talent that they need when they need it. And it's it's a real it's an employee's market at the moment. It really is. And it's, you know, we had one of my former colleagues Ross on Episode Eight, the last podcast talking about he's really passionate about the sort of future work and the shift. And he was talking about, you know, that it almost feels like there's a critical mass now in terms of because employees are sort of dictating what working conditions need to be and what their expectations are, that actually there has to be a change because like you said, Greg, there will not be business it will not be able to get the talent they need, they will not be able to do the things they won't be able to grow they won't be able to continue to exist. So it really feels like there's a sort of a groundswell and a movement and like you say, Richard You know, when it becomes, you know, satire, that's when you know that it's entered the wider consciousness of society. So it's kind of inevitable.

Richard Johnson 30:08

Yeah. Sorry, Greg, I was gonna say your comment, Dave, your your line advice employers market? Or employees market? Sorry, is 100%. Correct. And it's kind of like, you know, 10 years ago, you would bring somebody in and it'd be like, expect an iPhone or whatever, you know, give them a blackberry and they're like where's my iPhone. Now, exactly what you said as well, Greg, the conversations are around. So yeah, I don't work Fridays, or I want to work from home on a Friday at home on a Monday and whatever that looks like, and blah, blah, blah, is just people are? I don't think they've been demanding. I think they know what they want now. And they're not willing to compromise. And they know that there's another business around the corner who would potentially offer what they want. And, yeah,

Greg Simpson 31:00

This is, I mean, this is all assuming that you know, all of your candidates and all of your freelance communty have all been wonderful. Now, let's just have a look at the feet to the fire question. People joining the IMG community, we've interviewed enough people in our time that we can hopefully sort out some of the chances. But for most people that approaches they're credible people, and they're already doing good jobs. So kittens and

Richard Johnson 31:25

Which one of us said that?

David Coghlan 31:26

Yeah, that feels very wishy washy, that feels like me. Yeah, so I get Yeah, so when when we started the business, we had very clear idea that we would go into sort of have a very rigorous control of our community and who we accepted into it, and we didn't. And that, you know, we've done our best to do that. So a lot of people we either know, personally have worked with us, or have been recommended to us by the people that we know and have worked with. So almost two degrees of separation. And we've really tried to be rigorous to that. The challenge that we had last year was that it went so crazy, so fast. We like I said earlier, we have more opportunities on the table than we have people to build buildings. So brilliant situation to be in. And as a result, we had to go and we had to go and find hunt for people, hey, it's an employee's market, right, we needed to go and find some talent. And, again, we met a load of brilliant people. But, you know, radical honesty, one of our values, some of those people were less than brilliant, and they didn't work out. But I guess the, the reason that our clients choose us is that we offer them flexibility. So for people that you know, and you know, we're in the people business, right, they interviewed brilliant, they on pape looked excellent, they talk the talk, and then you drop them in front of the challenge that they need to deliver with a client. And, you know, it's clear that either, you know, they're exaggerating their expertise, or, or it just wasn't, wasn't, you know, wasn't their thing. But, again, we, if it's, if it doesn't work out for clients, the client just lets us know, we replace that person or, you know, we can help mentor and help guide and if there's, if there's real issue, we can just cancel the contract and wrap it up. And we've done that a couple of times. And again, yes, it's, it's painful for us. It's painful for our freelancer, and it's painful for our client, but have to remember, it's a hell of a lot less painful than hiring somebody full time, having gone through a three to six month hiring process, onboard that person, given them a laptop, gotten them in the building, and then either exited them in probation, which is pain, and then you got to go through that so or they've gone through probation, and then you've got to go through performance management thing. So the, you know, yeah, we haven't got it right 100% of the time, but when we haven't got it, right, we fixed it quickly for our clients. And again, it's it's our challenge to fix that. And it makes our clients problem. We basically want to make our clients problems go away.

Richard Johnson 34:23

And you're right, basically, they give us a call. Say that's not working to help them and that's that's the only thing they really need to do apart from have a look at the next person we put into that role. But let's be honest, we Yeah, you know, we we've we've had some mistakes. That has been down to, like Dave said in terms of what you say and what you do, but also I think there's been there's been a couple of times where there's real kind of adaptation to working from home and I think what you see is that some people have never really done that before. And not that they are not doing anything, I think you have to work a lot harder with visibility. So, you know, when you're sat in an office, I can tell whether you're working on Greg's, I just lift my head off, but I can see you've got your head down, you're working. When you're working from home, you almost have to over index that kind of communication for the better word. And I think so it's a lot harder to build trust and rapport remotely. And it's a lot easier to destroy it as well, I think. So, yeah. But you know, if we're within really, really honest, we were over 100 contracts last year, single figure percentages, were cancelled down. And I think a lot of that can be down with the fact that we were, we were running at a really fast pace. And we had lots and lots of people, we had to onboard because of opportunities. And in any recruitment, I challenge any manager who's ever recruited to sit there and go, I've never got it wrong.

David Coghlan 36:02

And I think what it's just reminded me, actually, it's been both ways. So you often find it technically capable, can do the job. But cultural fit, and sort of, you know, personality, fit is a real big thing, obviously, with with your staff is absolutely critical. And not everybody gets on with everybody else. And not everybody, you know, likes every everyone else's working style. And again, we had, we had a situation where one of our people, they were basically they weren't renewed, the feedback was, you know, not great, it was okay, but not great. But when we put that same person in with another client, absolutely flew. And the way that the the other client operated the how, you know, that person had greater autonomy and was able to sort of lead and direct and advise the client absolutely flew. So again, it's about matching people up and what what a lot of what Richard and I do is matching people, not just on skill set, but on, you know, experience and personality with, with the clients and what they need. And I think that's been a really interesting learning, because obviously, it's it's not binary, it's not, you know, we're not just putting...

Richard Johnson 37:17

And that that comes of experience. As we get to learn our client, we have daily conversations about, Oh, got this opportunity. What about that person, technically, could absolutely smashed that job, that we know the business or the team they're going into, and actually, from a cultural point of view, they'd get eaten alive? And so we understand that, but you only get that through experience and time to understand that business. And like Dave said, in a full time environment, you could bring that person in, you only know when they gel with the team, when they are placed in that team. And the key thing from my point of view, when I get what I get comfort from, if we were to switch somebody out because of the cultural fit, though, it didn't quite work. If there's any brand reputational damage is on us as The Inspired Marketing Group with the Freelancer not on the business, getting rid of that person, if that makes sense. Yeah. Whereas if it was a full time employee, the any negative feeling is employee versus company, we kind of sit in the middle and shroud everybody from that and take on the chin.

Greg Simpson 38:26

Yes, you're not gonna have to deal with a glass door review moment. So I mean, you referenced, you know, over 100 contracts, you're doing well, with business you. You didn't mention tenders. So let's have a quick look at your comment regarding new business with him. We've made the decision really early on that we're not going to chase proposals. We're not going to get into negotiating on price, because actually, it means the client or prospect doesn't see the value in what we provide, and if so will the right people. How's that?

David Coghlan 39:00

So I think when we spoke to you, Greg, it was in the first podcast, it was probably April time wasn't it? was April. Yeah, but it was sort of we'd had a couple of months or a few months sort of doing our early business development. We had, like Rich said, we've done a few proposals for people. They were not our target audience or what not what we would say I talked about it right now. But again, it was early days for us and it was new business opportunity. So again, we had a shorter runway, we needed to get some deals over the line. And we probably over indexed on a few proposals for businesses that we just shouldn't have bother with. And that was probably the reason why we made we made that statement. Because where we succeed and where we've got experiences in that coporate space, you know, it's helping existing Marketing teams, I think early days, we spent a bit too much time trying to sell the dream in terms of we will come in and own your marketing function. And we can drop a whole team in there, which obviously is for a smaller business, you know, looking for some help with marketing, getting a significant proposal for a team of 2, 3, 4 people is way, potentially way different to what they were expecting, and obviously a bit sort of intimidating, whereas I guess, speaking to a larger business with an existing marketing function, it's more a case of I've got this challenge. Can you help me? Yes, we can. There you go. So, we've Yeah, we've now settled into that sort of, we don't need to negotiate on price because it is what it is, if you want the talent. And the the fortunate thing for us right now is that businesses do not have enough talent and can't access that talent. And yeah, tendering and pitching, I mean, it's pretty straightforward. And again, it goes back to what Richard mentioned earlier about us knowing our audience. When we speak to a marketing director, it takes 10 minutes, five minutes, explain what we do, talk about our experience, and how we can help them and they're just like, brilliant, I want this. And I want that. And so, yeah,

Richard Johnson 41:15

I think that we, so there's two pricing models here. So there's one, there's one in terms of what a freelancer wants to get paid. I don't think we do negotiate on that they know their worth. They tell us what their number is, it goes into our CRM system. That's what we that's what we get them. And I think a couple of occasions, we probably had a conversation about that. And it's only really gone down due to longevity of contract is almost like actually, we know what it's going to take to win this business. And, you know, that's very few and far between, we don't really negotiate on that whatsoever. I think in terms of in terms of how we speak to our clients, to corporate customers, we recruit or we put people in based on our own recruitment and what we employ them, etc. And the conversation we generally have. So we normally, we normally present a couple of options to people. And we've been through this conversation many times where it's like, this seems this might seem quite expensive, but this person is completely autonomous can do it, or blah, blah, blah, you literally just give him a four line brief, they'll produce all of this content for you. That's the price, we could get you somebody more junior, and here's whoever that may be, they're half the price, but you're gonna have to put a lot of effort in there and actually, you know, almost like guide and get them through there depends how much you know, your time's worth, that's the hidden cost. So we don't negotiate on price, because we offer two different solutions. And where we inevitably get to now is, is that if there's ever a discussion on price, where it's like, I really like that person, but I just don't have the budget, the conversation we always have is we don't have them five days a week, then the and I don't think we need them five days a week, I think that person can deliver what you want in three days a week or four days a week, which means you're paying more on a day rate that is actually within your budget. And actually, that works. That's never failed. I don't think anyone's ever come back to us and said, I've had this person three days a week, and I need more time. You know, the feedback we get from those people is just like, amazing, I can't believe all of this has been produced, blah, blah, blah. So it's about it. Generally, we talk like this all the time. It's about breaking these preexisting stereotypes of Monday to Friday, 9 to 5, 37 and a half hours a week, actually, this is what our model is about. You don't need potentially a conversion rate optimisation specialist five days a week, you know, we place some people in a bricks and mortar business who are going more towards digital. They're working half a day. Sorry, half a day, each day a week. So really working three and a half days. But actually, they actually we work a full day on a Monday, but they're working three, three and a half days, but they're getting the value of a full time employee. But they're not paying for those water cooler moments or those, you know, lunches out on a Tuesday or it's just is really breaking down 50 years of how we used to work.

Greg Simpson 44:29

When you said as well, that somebody that says include this with some predictions then you said on the business world in general, this the one undeniable truth about 2021 is changes coming. We might not know how it's going to shake out the world is going to be very different this time next year than it is today and how it was last year. So let's accept that fact that how you operate today isn't going to behave operate next year. That's pretty much you're saying that you feel that's a fair comment. Is it going to get is it going to change further do you think?

David Coghlan 44:58

Yeah, I think I mean, that was a pretty sweeping statement, and I guess, the world world is 100% different. I think it's, it's really interesting now because we're almost in a bit of a flux period because the pre, you know, during co COVID It was 100% work from home, you know, shops are shuttered, the whole world is sort of shut. Now, you know, for all intensive purposes, COVID is over. You know, so it's kind of get on with get on with your life and you know, this stuff doing the rounds now on about government, the Home Secretary, you know, home office, Jacob Rees-Mogg, doing a roll call for people not being in the office. So it's, and then and then we get back to the point that we were talking earlier about, you know, I'm not gonna work there, if I have to go to the office. So we're in this sort of flux period about, okay. We were used to work in the office. Now, we were told we've all got to work from home. Now we've got an option, what where do we land on that continuum? And I think, yeah, businesses are still trying to shake out where they're going to sit a lot of businesses, we're seeing our clients operate, you know, operate in a hybrid model, because, you know, they've got very expensive office buildings located around the UK and around the world. They need those assets to be utilised. But I think, again, another sort of prediction, I think what we're going to see over over time, and it may be the next 2, 3, 4, 5 years or longer is real rationalisation of these sort of big office headquarters. And again, Ross on Episode 8, was talking about sort of community co working, so having, you know, office or satellite offices in suburbs, in the residential areas that people live, rather than having these monolithic offices with 1000s and 1000s people in and I think there's some, you know, there's some sort of absolute merit in that sort of structure, how it will come about, I'm not quite sure, but that feels like that may be the way to go. And I guess, you know, what, when I went to London last summer, and did the whole bus tour thing, and it went up past bank in through the city. And obviously, all the offices will shut, everyone's still working from home and the economy underneath that. And so underneath all of these office buildings, there's cafes, restaurants shut, like, there's, there's a shift in how these because it doesn't just impact like the office block, it's that all the associated industries, it's sort of markets that happen around it, there's going to be a shift and the you know, you can argue about wider the changes in city structures and you know, do you need to live in cities and what sort of amenities are going to be in cities, you know, shops are shut in. I mean, you extrapolated out and who knwos what the world's gonna look like,

Richard Johnson 47:51

You know, I got to day when you're talking about that feels like we're in a sort of a Mexican standoff situation. It's almost like is who's going to go first people, people aren't necessarily speaking up and saying, I don't want to go back full time to the office. Some businesses are trying to make it happen. Some businesses implement rules, which then annoy co workers within that. It feels like at the moment, there are, let's be clear, there are some very, very brave businesses, both wayd who go your committee office full time now or whatever that rule may be, and they put tehir head above the parapet and they're either having acceptance or losing talent. There's other businesses who are going we're only working four days a week now. So there's one girl I get to work with. She runs an agency They've just announced four a week now, they don't work Fridays. You've got companies like Deloitte closing offices in London, you know, announcing remote working I think Experian have announced complete hybrid working now and rationalise their buildings back down to Sir John Peace, there's there are people making some big bold decisions, but I think the majority are probably standing back and seeing which way it's gonna go before they actually implement the strategy. And I think Ross again, we could go back to Ross's podcast, but I think Ross talked about it, we might need to see a change or a natural attrition of leaders or CEOs to enable that to happen because if I, if I ran a big corporate business, I would implement remote working. If I again, I'm making a generalisation a sweeping statement, but if I was a white 56 year old male who would only ever worked in that environment, I might be a bit more sort of clinging on to what I know. And actually we might need to wait for that evolution of seniority before we get a full hybrid kind of working environment.

Greg Simpson 49:51

But from the the brand potential brand damage and also brand win point of view from at some point I'm going to get to brief for my clients and or soon to be client saying, we put this policy in place, and it's not come down very well. And it's all over the press that we're forcing people to come in Monday to Friday, what do we do? And I think people are very aware of that. If we jump, and we get panned for it, it's really going to hurt us. The other people are very aware of the fact that if we talk about how wonderful we are to work with as a company's culture, and how we look after our staff, the customers will follow. Because we have a great place to work. It's why people enter a great place to work kinds of awards and things like that. Because if you look after your staff, you will probably look after your customers and have that kind of feel. So is it that I totally agree this standoff idea. There will also be a lot of people out there who go you know what we're going to hoover up, we were going for the ones who say, No, you come in, and there's enough people out there who prefer that working, some will, people will say I can't concentrate at home, I don't want to do the opposite delivery, I don't want to put the washing machine on, I want to go to work nine to five, because it works for me. And it always has done and I love it. And I'd like to be in the city. And I like to see mamates after work for a drink

Richard Johnson 51:05

Make that decision and make that a policy and just go. I don't know who someone announced that I can't remember who it was. And it was basically your choice. However you want to do it. If you want to be full time remote company office full time, work, 50/50, whatever it looks like you can work how best fits for you

David Coghlan 51:28

It's Experian i think. It's work and they call it you work your way or something. And basically they've got an office or hot desking. And basically, if you want my new book that's gonna go in, and if you want to work from home and work from home where you want to work from anyway, anyway, I think it's that's a really, it's bold, and I think but that's the way that it's going to be I think if you ultimately what it comes down to is about, it's a change in the relationship. And it's probably we're getting towards it at the moment because it's an employee's market. But there's almost got to be a adult adult relationship between the employer and the employee, rather than the parent child, which historically been in terms of come in and stand by your machine and make a million widgets today. You know, the the world shifted, and it has to be that there has to be trust both ways, I think. And I think until we can get to that point, and it may be like it's a Rich, a generational change. Then, then, yeah, there's gonna be this sort of unease i guess.

Greg Simpson 52:28

Yeah, it's all about offering flexibility, isn't it really, and that's exactly what you guys are offering to the market. So Right Place Right Time, as you said at the start. In that case, I'll give you on your mark. So I think I'll give you a high B.

David Coghlan 52:42

High B. A B Plus

Greg Simpson 52:45

Yes, yes.

Richard Johnson 52:47

That's the best mark i've ever had Greg to be fair.

David Coghlan 52:48

I'll take a B plus. Yeah, great. Brilliant. Well, yeah. Thanks for that, Greg. Appreciate it. Yeah. isn't quite as bad as potentially could have been. So yeah, thank you for that. And yeah, thanks for listening. Yeah, so we would love to hear from you. If you'd like to work with us in terms of how we can help your marketing team and how we can help your marketing fucntion grow with some flexible talent. Then get in touch visit and drop us a note. Similarly, if you are a kickass, marketing superstar, you want to go freelance for the first time or you're already a feelancer and want to join us. Then again, visit the website,, and join us and you can have a chat for Rich and I and we can see if we're a good fit. Thanks for your time. Thanks for watching, and we'll catch you all in the next one. Take care. Bye.


bottom of page