It’s legendarily difficult to manage “creative” types — like attempting to herd a group of particularly ornery cats after you’ve deeply insulted their mothers.
So, who can you rely on to keep your writers on track when they’re wallowing in the depths of a 3,000-word white paper? Account managers, that’s who.
Good account managers do a truly gargantuan amount of day-to-day liaising between the client and the writers. They respond to project enquiries, set up briefing calls, schedule writing time, deliver the finished copy… in fact, they pretty much do everything, short of writing the actual words.
It’s all about the service
At marketing agencies, there are generally a few in-house writers, and a horde of account managers who each handle a small number of accounts. They get really in-depth knowledge of their clients’ business, and they take an active role in selling.
As a copywriting agency, that’s not really our bag. So, at Radix, the in-depth stuff is handled by the writers (more specifically, our content leads), while our senior account managers Chloe and Sarah focus on the top-level service — the project logistics and the all-important relationships with our clients.
Because of this focus, clients know that they’re getting the best service possible — if they’ve been promised a deadline, we’ll do our darndest to meet it. Also, we don’t go in for the “hard sell” round these parts but, having worked on such a huge range of projects over the years, Sarah and Chloe have been known to come up with ideas for formats a client might not have considered.
Split the work evenly(ish)
It’s important for clients to know they’re in good, dedicated hands. At Radix, we can work across 15 brands in a single day — for us writers, that usually translates to three or four different clients, tops. The account managers, on the other hand, have to be on top of every single project that passes beneath our typing fingers.
“I’ve worked with 17 brands through one agency alone.”
Chloe Tidy, senior account manager and possible real-life Superwoman
With so many clients, it can get complicated fast. That’s why our business is split (more or less) evenly between Chloe and Sarah, with both of them managing a mix of agencies and direct clients.
Despite working with separate sets of clients, successful account management relies on how well Chloe and Sarah work together (and how absurdly well-organised they are).
“We know our direct clients’ content schedules, so we can help keep them on track and make sure their work is booked in ahead of time.”
Sarah Gray, senior account manager and holder of the Guinness World Record for unruly writer wrangling
Communication is everything
Not content with being on top of absolutely everything when they’re in the office, Chloe and Sarah also put loads of work into making sure the good ship Radix keeps sailing while they’re away. Any time they’re out of the office — even if it’s just a day — they’ll put together a handover sheet for their ongoing projects to make sure we all know exactly what we’re meant to be doing. That way, our clients get a consistent service alongside consistent copy — and that’s really important to our account managers.
“You feel like you’re an extension of your client’s business,” says Sarah. “You take on a sense of ownership for your client. When you work with direct clients, you feel like a member of the marketing team, and with agencies you feel like a member of the account team.”
Working so closely with our clients puts our account managers in an odd position — it’s a balancing act between doing what’s best for the writers and what’s best for the clients. Within Radix, Chloe and Sarah are the clients’ voice; to the clients, they’re ours.
Account managers keep us on track (someone has to)
From a completely selfish perspective, account managers save us from a problem that a lot of freelancers will be painfully familiar with: you spend most of your day talking to clients and organising projects, and end up with so little time to actually write that your evenings and weekends disappear into the ether.
With account managers in charge of booking in work and getting it out the door at the end of the day, us writers have got all the time in the world (or all the time in the diaries, anyway) to focus on turning out great copy.
If a client has a question about a project, or a new brief to send through, they’ll get a prompt, useful response from Chloe or Sarah. (The other option is a rushed reply from a deadline-pressed writer who’s had to pull themselves away from their copy in the middle of writing the single greatest pun of their career.)
herd ornery cats manage writers
This is the point where I closed out the interview by asking what it’s like to work with ten writers. I was half expecting this question to be followed by a cathartic ten-minute rant from Chloe and Sarah about our sometimes-dubious timekeeping skills and our horrible diets of “desk crisps” and Bovril (it wasn’t).
“Everyone has their own quirks,” Chloe responds, somewhat charitably. “You learn how to work with each writer. Some writers work really quickly, others take their time. Some are better suited to the really technical stuff, but others are more creative.”
“It’s about understanding the writers’ needs and limitations,” Sarah agrees.
Fundamentally, it’s about matching a writer’s skillset to a project, and making sure the client is getting the best work out of us (and, sometimes, it’s also about knowing when the writer needs a biscuit).
The secret sauce, then, is simply knowing everything. Knowing every writer, and how they work. Knowing each client, and what they need. Knowing the diary, and where we can squeeze in that emergency set of social seeds. Simple, right?
Not by a long shot, but somehow they make it look easy.
Credit: header image based on a photo by Daniel Cheung on Unsplash.