Why our studio just outside of Manchester works for us

  • Dec 06, 2017

I started my web career 13 years ago as a freelancer, whilst at University. I produced work for individuals, small businesses, friends, family and for graphic / web design agencies. These were all located in the North West of England, but the majority of the agencies were in Manchester city centre.

Within this blog post, I’d like to cover some positives and negatives of my experiences surrounding working in such a busy city as Manchester is. And why those experiences has led MadeByShape to having a studio just 15 minutes away from the hustle and bustle.

As a Freelancer, I either spent full days in agency offices, went to University, or worked from home. My days were split and this lifestyle was great for a few reasons…

  • I was young, enthusiastic and wanted to work all hours to get my name out there. I soaked up every bit of advice and wanted to impress people (probably too much).
  • I wasn’t travelling into the city centre every day, so this commute was acceptable. My days were broken up and my production flow was good. Emails in the morning, design work or university in the day, development and research in the evenings.
  • There wasn’t as many agencies in Manchester as there is now.
  • I never had to do client meetings for agencies, I simply turned up for work at 9am and left at 5pm. Giving me a full days work to get on with.

If I skip a few years too the point were Myself and Jason decided to create an agency ourselves, MadeByShape, our thought process was different. We had to create awareness of our new brand to bigger companies and attract new clients. We could no longer rely on my network connections to give constant work for a growing agency. We’d been working from our separate homes for a few years as 2 freelancers working together. Now that we wanted to create an agency, that changed our thought process to the following:

  • We need a studio where we can work, and where clients can come too meet us.
  • It needs to be in Manchester, so we can connect with our businesses in the city, and people can walk past and see our studio.
  • We need a space we can grow into when we hire more staff.
  • A studio makes us look bigger, better and more professional.

Which out of the above do you think caused us problems? I bet you can guess, especially with the title of this blog post. Yes, it’s the fact that we ‘thought’ we needed to be in Manchester city centre. When in fact, we didn’t, and we still don’t.

Some people could argue for the benefits, and I understand some of them. But for us as a company, and how we operate - it simply doesn’t work. For starters, the commute wastes at least 3 hours of my time each day. I was getting into work feeling stressed before I’d even opened my computer. So as we grew and hired staff, I didn’t want to be stressed, and I didn’t want my staff to be stressed. So now that we are in a convenient location - all my staff drive away from traffic and feel fresh on arrival at work.

Another point was that I had to go and meet clients as well as them visiting me, and these clients are all over the country (the world in fact). So me getting in my car (after paying for car parking) and going to visit them, sitting in traffic just to get out of the city, do a meeting and drive back, was wasting a full day of my time. It just wasn’t working at all.

After 12 months we decided that it was enough and that we’d like to move back to our hometown. Atherton is just 15/20 minutes away from Manchester and it’s were myself and Jason’s parents lived. We found a space and over the years have gradually increased the size and spent money on interior design. The space now looks fantastic but it has slowly improved as our businesses grew. We’re in a very convenient location, near 2 train stations, a motorway, and the east lancashire road.

When we lose client pitches, I always ask why. And nobody has ever said that we lost a pitch because we weren’t in the city centre of Manchester. And as we have grown over the years, we have clients all over the world. From clients in Australia, China, Miami, London, Dublin, Paris, Manchester, Cheshire etc. and most of the communication is done via email or phone.

So that’s our short story about why we aren’t in the city. Do you have a story of your own you can share?

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