Having your insight cake and eating it!

Many of us are accustomed to making sacrifices when it comes to balancing work alongside home or hobbies. Corporate life, at least in the UK, seems out of step with how people actually want to live*. Many involved in the provision of customer insight feel this conundrum acutely.

But do we really need to fear asking for the best of all worlds?

Happily, new agency models are emerging and I’m proud to say Insight Angels is at the forefront of that trend. We established our agency a year ago because while we loved working in insight, corporate life had begun to compete uncomfortably with other important things such as being home for the kids’ bathtime, mountain-biking on empty trails on a Tuesday morning, and dare I say it, only working 3 days a week.

We were prepared to earn less than before, not have our pick of clients or freelance collaborators, work on less interesting topics, and to pack it in after 6 months if it wasn’t panning out. None of that has come to pass. We’re building our brand and committing to this for the long haul. Our clients ‘get it’ and remain interested in what we have to offer.

One of the most interesting aspects has been that many insight professionals have approached us wanting to become an ‘angel’ too. Impressive, experienced hard workers who love insight but have struggled to fit a fulfilling career into the life-slot they have available for it. We’re delighted to have worked with many of these people. We learn from them every day.

Equally, we’re proud to have won pitches against established research agencies and to have worked with well-known clients on some of their most critical business dilemmas.

The insight industry is evolving towards companies which recognise that a great workforce doesn’t need to be present all the time or work conventional hours. Larger agencies with their constricting overheads and culture of presenteeism are surely at a disadvantage in terms of retaining employees who increasingly know: it doesn’t have to be this way.

Don’t get me wrong – we work hard and make ourselves available to clients when they need us. Balancing it all doesn’t always work seamlessly and some background flexibility is helpful in terms of childcare and willingness to work the odd evening. But when it works, it really works. We pour our heart and soul into our jobs, our children and our mountain-biking. And clients tell us we’re more agile and responsive than their usual go-to market research agencies. 

One year of Insight Angels down - here’s to the next twenty.


*For an excellent read on this, I recommend Willing Slaves: how the overwork culture is ruling our lives

Barbara Langer