Working overtime? “Costing jobs is paramount before you even pick up a pencil”

Ben White, CEO, Bloom

“There’s no question that working late is nobody’s favourite pastime. However, it does happen and we’ve all pulled some late nights in our careers.  At Bloom, we try to minimise the pain by getting stuck in together, ordering in the Deliveroo, ramping up the tunes and cracking on. Those not scheduled on the particular job at hand tend to stay and help if they can and we never take people’s efforts for granted.

We also try to understand why it has happened – and if it’s a particular client, we have been known to let them go. We try to make up for these times in other ways too, with people having time off each week to take as they choose (late Friday mornings are popular) and an annual company holiday. I don’t think we’ll ever get rid of the odd late night in our industry, but we should focus on making them bearable.”


Emily Penny, independent brand consultant, Colourful

“From what I can tell, the Design Business Association (DBA)’s report looks at the hours the studio doesn’t get paid for, not the hours the employee doesn’t get paid for – big difference. Overtime (as in working late) is perhaps a more important issue. It doesn’t tend to be paid in our industry, which means it’s very lucrative for design studios, and often it’s a culture rather than a necessity. It might seem fun – pizzas, beers, camaraderie.

But just like unpaid internships, unpaid overtime needs calling out. When it becomes sustained, it can be detrimental to health, wellbeing and family life. And worryingly, it seems to be on the increase. I may well be one of the only people asked this question who is neither an employee nor an employer, so I can really tell it how it is – and it’s not good! Yes, I’m all for dedication and hard work. But as a consultant, at least I get paid for all of it, even if it’s 10pm or a Sunday.”


Alan Dye, director, NB Studio

“I’ve never had to slog it out at work – slogging, in this case, is the wrong word. 100% of designers I know are in this profession because they love what they do, and costing jobs and getting things signed off is paramount before you even pick up a pencil. If we have to do overtime, it’s because we enjoy doing it – we need to and want to, and our account manager is charging for it (mostly). Plus, most designers at NB Studio are wrapping up their days at 5.55pm, because we plan our time properly. What pisses me off is design studios that slog it out for free, creative pitches. Now, that’s a waste of money and it’s also unprofessional in my view. Could you imagine doctors, plumbers and lawyers doing what they do for free just to get work?”


Fredrik Öst, founder and creative director, Snask © Jussi-Hellsten

“Well, the worst is spec (speculative) work of course – we have always hated it. Otherwise, it’s been remaking work when you know there’s no need for a change and there’s no logic to it but you still have to work overtime to fix it or risk ‘not delivering what was promised’ in the eyes of the client. It’s hard to claim that someone is wrong when it comes to visual form but experience has been our way forward. The more wrinkles we have and the bigger our bellies, the more we’ve grown in confidence and boldness when it comes to fighting for our ideas. We don’t have to do this much anymore but I still remember the hardship from our early years.”


Dave Dunlop, creative director and partner, Else

“I can honestly say I’ve never done the ‘all-nighter’ that you hear about so much in our industry. But then I’ve never really worked in advertising. I’ve managed, through sheer luck, to avoid this situation mostly.

However, quite a few years ago I worked for a studio that had managed to agree to a deadline of 22 December for a campaign site. Campaign activity was due to start in the new year for the client, so we had to make sure everything was done pre-Christmas. We ran into trouble, and 22 December became the 23rd, then the 24th…

We finally got things live late on Christmas Eve, taking ‘never launch on a Friday’ to new stress-filled heights compounded by a rather unreasonable client.

I remember at a different design studio we had a change at the top, a new creative director. I remember him telling us: “If you’re working late, you’re either not very good, or you’re great and you’re on a badly-run project.” Overnight, the culture changed and, as a designer, that’s how you survive – work somewhere where the culture isn’t about working you to the point of breaking.”


Max Ottignon, co-founder, Ragged Edge

“Some projects are just too good to pass up. Despite insane deadlines, we jumped at the chance to rebrand a global drinks company. It was tough: an ever-expanding project scope creeping up on us; real time feedback from multiple stakeholders, markets and disciplines; conference calls very late on Friday nights. We pretty much had a 10pm standing order with Pizza Pilgrims across the road (I recommend the Aubergine Parmigiana). It was saved by a client who saw us as true partners. They were as determined as we were to create something that really made an impact, so we never felt taken advantage of. And crucially, we were incredibly proud of the result.”


Have you had to burn the midnight oil and work beyond what you were paid for? Let us know in the comments section below.

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