Creative Lives — “Don’t let inexperience hold you back; go for opportunities that excite you” – Halo’s client partner Hannah Williams

Posted 18 July 2017 Interview by Indi Davies

When Hannah Williams applied for the position of account manager at Bristol agency Halo, she had zero experience of the role. Convincing the team to give her a chance, she puts the success of her interview down to her hunger for the job, and has since evolved her position to become a client partner. With a degree in English, she’s been able to support her work with a knack for writing and clear communication, but champions being bold, on brief and on time above all else. Her most important lesson so far? Knowing when something is finished, rather than unrealistically perfect!

Hannah Williams

Job Title

Client Partner at Halo (2014–present)

Based

Bristol

Previous Employment

New Business Developer at Rubber Republic (2012–2014)

Education

English BA, Manchester Metropolitan University (2007–2010)

Inside Halo

Day-to-Day

How would you describe your job?
My role as client partner means that I am the first point of contact for any client coming to Halo. I work strategically with them, understanding their team, business, what they are trying to achieve, the markets they play in and the audiences they want to engage. From there my role becomes one of facilitation, appointing the client project teams and working closely with studio. I represent the client in the internal creative process, and work alongside the strategy team across the entire lifecycle of a project.

I am also integral to our client development and new business approach. I am part of pitching and on-boarding for new work as well as building long-term relationships with our clients, developing the account and helping clients achieve goals.

What does a typical working day look like? 
Halo’s working day is 9.30am to 6pm. The commute is enviably short, as I live a 10-minute walk or 5-minute cycle away – weather dependent!

My day starts with checking emails so that I can update my to-do list, which I write last thing every day. Finding a method that works for you to keep organised is key to being efficient with your time, as no two days are the same. Your work could need re-prioritising as requirements change throughout the day.

Our agency stand-up happens daily at 9.30am to run through the projects in studio and kick-start the day. Then I speak with the accounts team to identify any support they might need, and liaise with the client project teams to review and progress  of the projects we’re delivering. Once everyone is on track, I work through my to-do list. Every day is different and varies between being in and out of the office, speaking to current clients on projects or new objectives, speaking with potential clients, working with the team on pitches and new briefs as well as making sure clients are happy.

“Though I had no account management experience, I was confident in my interview and talked about all my transferable skills. Having a degree in English is a solid and relevant degree to any industry.”

How did you land your current job?
It was an internal promotion from my previous role at Halo as an account manager. To get there, I was first hired as an account executive two-and-a-half years ago. I’d researched Halo and everything about their output was bold. Though I had no account management experience, I was confident in my interview and talked about all my transferable skills and how hungry I was for the job, I convinced them to give me a chance!

Where does the majority of your work take place?
Approximately 60% of my work is desk-based, the remaining 40% is spent speaking with our internal teams, clients and on the road to client meetings and pitches. I can be out of the office for three days one week for client meetings or pitches and then in the office all week the next. 

How collaborative is your role?
My role is hugely collaborative, as I represent Halo and the client simultaneously. I work closely with our account, strategy, design and development teams to ensure client management and project delivery is running smoothly and that we’re all working towards client objectives efficiently, and with the best results.

What are the most and least enjoyable aspects of your job?
The least favourite part of the job, and this applies to anyone in any agency, is completing timesheets; but though tedious, they are integral to understanding the status of a project budget and informing business efficiency. As a people person, meeting our clients face-to-face and working with our team to deliver compelling solutions is the best bit. Halo’s people are also a highlight, we genuinely get on so well and actively look forward to Friday at 4pm, when the beer fridge opens, of course.

“I’ve always been encouraged to face challenges head on, and have the confidence to try things that take you out of your comfort zone.”

Hannah at work in the studio

In the studio

In the studio

What are the most and least enjoyable aspects of your job?
The least favourite part of the job, and this applies to anyone in any agency, is completing time sheets; but though tedious, they are integral to understanding the status of a project budget and informing business efficiency. As a people person, meeting our clients face-to-face and working with our team to deliver compelling solutions is the best bit. Halo’s people are also a highlight, we genuinely get on so well and actively look forward to Friday at 4pm, when the beer fridge opens, of course.

What has been the most exciting project of the last twelve months?
This would be the project for DF Concerts (part of Live Nation) where we designed and built the T in the Park, Gigs in Scotland and King Tut’s websites. T in the Park was the highlight: working with the marketing and design team at the DF Concerts’ offices in Glasgow to define the brand and digital approach for 2016; building great relationships with them throughout the project; getting to go to the launch party with them and attend the festival itself VIP was a welcomed ‘thank you’ from a happy client. 

What skills are essential to your job?
To be successful in client services you need to be: organised, an effective communicator (on e-mail, on the phone and in person), confident to negotiate, commercially focused, strategic, efficient, personable, calm.

What tools do you use most for your work?
A Macbook Pro, Gmail, Studiometry (for project numbers, tracking and time sheets), Smartsheet (for timing plans), Paymo for (web development project management, ticketing and tracking), Slack (for online comms with the teams), Zoom (for video conferencing, great for oversees clients), Google Drive (for documentation creation requiring multiple editors – PID’s, Ways of Working).

Halo's work for T in the Park

Halo's work for T in the Park

Halo's work for T in the Park

How I Got Here

What did you want to be growing up?
I didn’t have a clear career path in mind when I was growing up, but I liked the idea of being an athlete, a journalist or a teacher. My upbringing has certainly shaped my attitude and work ethic in a really positive way. I’ve always been encouraged to face challenges head on, and have the confidence to try things that take you out of your comfort zone to learn and grow personally and professionally.

How (if at all) is the subject you studied useful to your current role?
Having a degree in English is a solid and relevant degree to any industry. In my role, comprehension and writing skills are required every day for client comms. Thanks to my degree I can add value with my ability to copy edit, proof and copy write, which is important when creative brief and proposal writing.

What were your first jobs?
My first job at an agency was as a new business developer at Rubber Republic, a social video agency. I worked there for two and a half years until I made my next career move into account management, joining Halo as an account executive.

Was there anything in particular that helped you at the start of your career? 
The most important move I made was from new business to account management. Though I enjoyed new business, account management encompassed what I enjoyed most about working at an agency, and would grow my skill set. It allowed me to remain client facing and winning work but also to be integral to the work itself – from planning to realisation.

“I had a preconception that my role would largely be administrative rather than creative, but I quickly learnt how integral I was to the creative process.”

Hannah at work

Was there a particular project you worked on that helped your development?
Working on the delivery of Live Nation’s festival websites very early on in my role at Halo was formative to digital acumen and my career now. It allowed me to prove my abilities early on and develop strong digital project and account management skills that grow into the lead digital account manager role.

What skills have you learnt along the way?
The key skills I’ve learnt are handling clients, delegation, commercial awareness and, as a result, having a more strategic approach to account handling.

What’s been your biggest challenge?
Having grown from an account manager to a client partner, I’d say it’s been the shift in responsibilities this has required – both internally and with the clients whose projects I’ve been managing.   

Is your job what you thought it would be?
My job is a lot more than I imagined. I had a preconception that it would largely be administrative rather than creative, but I quickly learnt how integral I was to the creative process, bringing the client and team into conversations at key and relevant points to deliver great work. 

Inside the studio

In the studio

At work

Future

What would you like to do next?
I’d like to get some experience in people management, as that’s one area I haven’t really developed in agency life. Personally, I’m looking to book a couple of exotic holidays in the next year to abate my itchy feet!

Could you do this job forever?
In principle, yes. I look forward to going to work every day and that’s largely down to great colleagues and clients. Realistically, probably not as life happens and goals change and what matters to me now might change in five years.

What do you feel is the natural career progression for someone in your current position?
From my role, I think the next step would be to become a client services director.

Words of Wisdom

What advice would you give to a young creative wanting to become a client partner?
Don’t let inexperience hold you back; go for opportunities that excite and challenge you. If you’re hungry enough to prove why a company should give you a chance – and can adapt your core skill set to their requirements – this speaks volumes in an interview. To quote a colleague of mine, “There’s a difference between perfect and done,” which is something I live by now. The need to make things perfect can be crippling and can make you miss deadlines, or not bother at all. Perfect isn’t realistic but being bold, on brief and on time are invaluable.

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