Q&A with James Crawford about Starting a Coworking Space within an Agency Office

It’s been a while since I did an interview on SEOno – the last one was with Emma Barnes about selling her blog (you can see all past interviews here). However I recently discovered that James Crawford (@jamescrawford) of PR Agency One had started his own coworking space within his agency’s office and – given that I’m a bit fanatical about coworking(!) – I thought it’d make for a good interview.

In addition to being a fellow State of Digital author, I met James when we were sat at the same table during a UK Search Awards event a few years back. I was chuffed that he was happy to answer my questions about how it was going with his agency’s new coworking space.


Steve Morgan: Hi James! To start things off, tell us about PR Agency One.

James Crawford photoJames Crawford: PR Agency One (pragencyone.co.uk) is an award-winning consultancy that has specialist teams focusing on communications, reputation and digital. We like to measure what we do, be that sales, brand or reputation and we believe that we have an industry leading suite of measurement tools designed to attribute even the most complex mix of marketing. Founded in 2011, the agency is currently the CIPR PR consultancy of the year and has a turnover of £1.5m.

Steve: You recently launched a coworking space within your office. What was the inspiration for this?

James: I wanted to give something back and support people who – like me back in 2011 – want to start and grow a business. Secondarily, the reason for the coworking space is ‘innovation’. By bringing in specialists in their field who are both accountable for themselves and to us, we can ensure we have the highest standard of consultant support, all under one roof. We’ve all seen agencies hire full-time staff in non-core services and often this cost-centre quickly falls behind the industry and stagnates. We wanted to avoid that and always remain at the forefront by working with with and nurturing best-of-breed experts.

Steve: How many people can you accommodate?

James: At the moment just four, but we have plans to extend the office still further.

Steve: What perks do you offer beyond the usual stuff (the desk, the coffee and the WiFi)? E.g. Do you offer meeting room use? Anything else?

James: The main perk is being around one of the UK’s fastest growing, award-winning PR agencies. As a business, the ability to knowledge share is important.

We are also looking for a particular set of skills. Ideally people with a grasp of branding, analytics and website development would be favourable. In return they will win projects from the team here as we are asked for these types of services all the time.

Apart from that we offer the usual: free coffee, water and WiFi.

Oh and did I mention our sun terrace complete with BBQ…

PR Agency One's coworking space photo
Steve: What type of ‘membership’ do you offer? Is it a pay-as-you-go/drop-in-for-the-day type arrangement, or more of an on-going monthly fee? Or both?

James: We offer a monthly £150 per-desk rental. Anything more informal than that is difficult to manage and raises issues on security and health and safety.

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The Share Button on Facebook is Broken on Mobile

Facebook Share issue banner image
This post is 50% rant, 50% a heads-up to the Facebook devs, and 50% mathematical enigma…

For a while now I’ve shared other people’s Facebook posts on my personal profile and noticed that some of them would show up as expected, while others would show up… differently. And by “differently” I mean incorrectly and therefore badly. I’ve just discovered why and how it happens: the issue is with sharing via mobile in particular.

Sharing on Facebook desktop vs Facebook mobile

When you share someone’s post, if they have written some text while sharing a link and you hit the ‘Share Now (Friends)’ option, you expect the whole lot to be shared: the text, the link, and it should say “Steve Morgan shared [original poster]’s post.” Like this:

Facebook Share issue image 1
This is how it works – on desktop. On mobile, Facebook strips the text and the “Steve Morgan shared…” bit, and only shares the link. Completely devoid of context. Here I am tapping ‘Share Now (Friends)’ on mobile…

Facebook Share issue image 2
…and here’s the end result:

Facebook Share issue image 3
Bleugh.

I’m using an iPhone 7, currently on iOS 10.3.2, and the version of the Facebook iOS app is 132.0. Not that I think any of that matters, given that it’s been happening for a while (so I don’t think it’s iOS or app version specific).

It’s not just bog-standard posts that’s affected

At first I thought it was only normal post-sharing functionality that was affected. But I discovered the issue when I tried sharing an ‘On this Day’ post.

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Blow Your Goddamn Trumpet

Trumpet image
A few weeks ago I received an interesting enquiry from a local designer, who does a lot of design work for musicians. Given that I’m a proper music fanatic, I was really excited at the opportunity to potentially work with him and his clients. He asked me for my hourly/day rate, and although I stressed to him that I quote on a per-project basis depending on what I think is required to do the job, I gave him a rough idea of how much I usually charge. We discussed a potential small one-off project (which sadly fell through shortly after discussions began, as his client backtracked on wanting SEO work done), and then he suggested that I work on a pet project of his instead. However when he brought up the latter project, he explained that when he told his team about me, they “freaked out slightly when [he] mentioned [my] rates!” Hmm.

I replied saying something about how we could price it based on their budget rather than my fee, if that was easier – and I left it at that. It was quite a weak and timid response, looking back at it now. I’ve yet to hear back.

Ever since I sent that last email, I’ve been kicking myself.

Sure, the “your prices are high” reveal could just be a ruse to try and get me to lower my prices. Or it could be the case that his team doesn’t value or ‘get’ the cost of SEO. I don’t think I charge exceptionally high prices (I know a few SEOs with less experience who charge about the same), and given that he’s a designer – and probably gets people raising their eyebrows at his prices – I’m surprised he’s surprised (if that makes any sense)!

Whatever the case, I later realised that I didn’t give him any reason to realise why I charge that rate, whether it’s perceivably high or not. I just said “oh I can probably match your budget if you let me know how much that is.” What a mistake. I could’ve/should’ve used it as an opportunity to sell myself a bit more…

I could’ve told him that I’ve been doing SEO full-time for over 8½ years (since early 2009). And that I’ve worked at two agencies locally as well as for Confused.com as part of their in-house team. And that I’ve been blogging for over 5 years and that this humble SEO blog has been a finalist in the Wales Blog Awards as well as the UK Blog Awards for three years running. And that I’ve written guest posts for Moz’s blog, which is widely considered to be one of the best SEO resources in the world. And that one of my campaigns – which I spearheaded single-handedly – was a finalist in the UK Search Awards 2015 for two awards (and that I believe I was the only solo consultant/freelancer to get shortlisted that year). And that I have a bunch of very happy clients on MOM’s testimonials page, many of whom are also on my Linkedin profile as recommendations, meaning that they’re genuine and not simply made up. And that I’ve spoken at one of the biggest SEO conferences in the UK – not just once, but twice – and have a bunch of other speaking gigs under my belt as well.

To be fair, I hate to brag – and the paragraph above feeling like one full-on braggy braggathon. Ych a fi!

…But I could’ve left it with him to think about. Did he think my rates were too high because he didn’t know too much about me? Would he still think they’re too high now that he knows all of the above? I guess I may never know – but next time I’m gonna try this approach instead.

The moral of this story? Don’t be afraid to blow your trumpet once in a while. The next time I get chance, I’m gonna blast the hell out of the damn thing.

[Image credit – Tom Mrazek]

Working Tue to Sat: Pros & Cons of an Alternative 9-to-5

“What a way to make a livin’…”

A few months ago, I changed up the days that I worked in order to try and achieve a better work-life balance. Instead of the traditional Monday to Friday, I dropped the Monday in favour of working on a Saturday. So still five days a week, but different days.

I wasn’t going to bother blogging about it (honestly because I didn’t think anyone would care, haha!), but I told Lee Sharma (@startuplee) about it and he found it really interesting. I’ve also chatted to couple of other people about it as well (including someone just the other day). This got me thinking that it might be worth writing about after all, as there’s some pretty unexpected pros and cons with the whole thing.

MOM desk Prisma image

The habits we all fall into…

I’ve discovered a weird sort of irony in that a fair few freelancers I know went into freelancing so that they could have more freedom and flexibility in their working hours… and yet they’ve gravitated towards continuing to work the traditional Monday-to-Friday 9am-to-5pm routine you get in the employment world.

And I’d done exactly the same thing.

Even though I had the option to work whenever I wanted, it still felt like a weird alien shift in mentality to work evenings and/or weekends instead of weekdays. I guess that’s how much it’s become engrained as the ‘norm’ in our society (non-office work notwithstanding). Heck, I even remember reading a blog post by Dom Hodgson (@TheHodge) – which I can’t find now sadly – where he talked about his freelancing style and that he often worked an 8pm to 4am shift, and I thought to myself how utterly weird that sounded. But hey, if that worked for him, it worked for him – we certainly shouldn’t knock it.

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4 (Unusual) Alternative Image Ideas for Blog Posts

Ahh, the age-old question: what image should I use to accompany a blog post? A stock image? A screenshot? Any old thing you find from Google Image Search…? (No, definitely don’t do that last one.)

When people ask me, I usually send them down the Flickr Creative Commons route, as I hate stock imagery and Flickr images often feel more genuine. But sometimes there are some good alternatives you can use that you mightn’t have thought of…

Let’s start with the really obvious one, and work our way to the more… odd.

1) Take your own photo

Ok ok, so this one’s not that unusual (going by the title of this post), but with Google Image Search, Flickr, etc. being so ingrained in our minds as the go-to resources for images, it’s easy to forget that you can always just do it yourself…

Even if you’re not a professional photographer (and if you’ve ever seen any photo I’ve ever taken, you’ll definitely know that I’m not a professional photographer), with smartphones it’s easy to take a good, high quality photo by yourself that can be decent enough to go with a blog post. The question however: what do you take a photo of?

I’ve gone down this route when Flickr Creative Commons – and other avenues – have come up short. Obviously it’s topic-dependent, but I’ve often found something lying around on my desk that I can turn into a half-decent image. When I struggled to find a good photo to go with a post talking about my thoughts on DA (Domain Authority) for example, I grabbed my Roger Mozbot bobblehead figure and artfully positioned it in front of a computer monitor displaying Open Site Explorer data.

Roger Mozbot (before Prisma) photo
…Meh

Of course, that photo looks dreadful, so I took it one step further…

2) Take your own photo (and run it through Prisma)

Prisma examples
The iPhone app Prisma ‘artifies’ photos. I’ve blogged about it before and used it a stupid amount of times on this blog:

And even guest posts:

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