Joyce Cowles: Co-founder of Late Night Agency

Joyce Cowles, Co-founder of Late Night Agency

Name: Joyce Cowles.

Job title: Co-Founder of Late Night Agency. Late Night Agency creates digital content (from album artwork, to social media assets, to Snapchat and Instagram lenses, to YouTube visualisers and websites) for recording artists, music producers, DJs, record labels and festivals. They work with the likes of Sony, Apple Music, Netflix, AEI and Ministry of Sound.

Career path: I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do until maybe my last year at university. 

I was studying Events Management with Arts & Entertainment at Sheffield Hallam; I didn’t find a year-in-industry position and so I had to complete a number of hours “in-industry” alongside my final year. This requirement is the real catalyst for where I am today; after working on a few projects around social media in events, I sought out a few internships (a mix of paid and unpaid) and part time jobs in social media management (a new role that was just emerging) which then really showed me how much I was interested in it. 

The internships and short stints of work meant I got to work on a huge range of industries and opportunities with low risk; from community management of a feminist travel blog, to managing social media accounts for law firms to swing bands, and creating a social media strategy for an art gallery, I also got to work with my partner making videos for social media content for an Olympics 2012 sponsor, and music videos for grime artists in the north. Dan and I also decided to launch a (short lived) music label, we had merch and t-shirts made, and threw successful club nights. We were really taking every single opportunity as it came and gave it 100% every time.

I was hired as a social media exec. at a PR firm in Harrogate (2 hours each way commute from Sheffield, but I was so excited to be full-time employed!) and then moved to be an account exec at HMA in Barnsley – I was immensely lucky to have two great bosses there, Nicola Tiffany and Emma Casimir, who inspired me that account management was definitely a career I wanted; they showed me a career roadmap and taught some invaluable lessons about account management and working in digital agencies. 

Dan and I moved to Leeds, we worked at other digital agencies, and worked together on projects – we started to slowly build a picture of what we wanted to achieve together, we learnt a lot! Living in the north meant that we were able to cover the bills with just one pay cheque if we had to, and when we were ready, Dan set out to work full-time on Late Night Agency.  I was named co-founder right away, working in the evenings and weekends to make sure jobs were invoiced, project managed where I could and helped prioritise work coming in, all whilst still being at Elementary Digital; Gyles Seward and Andy Holland (managing partners) were incredibly supportive from the get-go, they gave me trust, opportunities for career and personal growth, and some sage business advice when I was ready to go full-time at Late Night Agency.

Ideas & Planning: I am an ideas person, but I struggle getting ideas completed. If you’re like me, my advice here is to lean into your strengths and find someone who can do the completion parts of your ideas for/with you (whether it’s outsourcing, or partner-up with them like I did!). When I do have to complete my ideas myself I have to break down every little task into little tickets in a trello board so I don’t get overwhelmed by huge day-long tasks and means I get that dopamine hit when I can move that task into a DONE column. 

Creativity and curiosity are both muscles that need to be worked out every day. Practicing your creativity and learning about new things regularly means you can flex these muscles when you least feel like it (in a project you’re not feeling, or when you’re staying up late to meet a deadline or surprise first-thing-on-monday client calls etc). My new creative output du jour is “analog” collage – it’s off the screen and gives me instant creativity gratification. If I don’t do an actual creative activity, then I’ll start my day thinking of 10 ideas for a client (this bank of ideas has saved my ass more than once when I’ve been stuck!).

Resting is not counter-productive to getting work done. It’s taken me 30 years but I figured out recently that to get the best out of my work I need to eat right, get some fresh air and have nine (!) hours of sleep; this shouldn’t be shameful and it’s nice to see the change of tide against Grind Culture. If I’m a sleep deprived zombie then this impacts not only my business, but also everything outside of work!

Finance: Both my partner and I are making more money now working for ourselves than when we were working for other agencies. I was surprised by this initially, but I guess that’s the whole point of going at it on your own, the freedom of not being tied to salary and seeing where every hour I spend goes to and what it’s making me. We’ve worked hard to get a mix of retained, project and ad-hoc clients to ensure good cashflow.

We’ve had our fair share of unexpected fees! No one mentions employers insurance; or how specialised creative-industry-focused insurance can be.  The one that’s hurt the most so far this year is paying nearly a grand to get a hard drive fixed! All I can say is: BACK UP YOUR HARD DRIVE.

Networking: We were really lucky when based in Manchester, we were at Un.titled Studios near Media City, there are a ton of great creatives there. It’s been so good to be able to say to clients “actually we don’t do that, but we know someone who can – let me intro you”. We’re all just out here trying and I really feel that the creative community on the whole are happy to help and to see other people succeed!

Meeting other people who do what you do is such an essential part of being a business owner for me – not only is it a support group, I get so much more from that than any podcast or business book.

Quote to live by: Always back up your hard drive! Haha no it’s: “Everything is figure-out-able” (thank you, Marie Forleo!).

Graphics by Hannah McCreath


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