Interview with Naeem Alvi

1. When did you realise you wanted to be a designer?

I’m not a designer. I studied journalism at Falmouth University as I’ve always had a passion for creative writing. After a few years of working as a journalist, I decided I wanted to pursue a more creative profession, which led me to applying for copywriting gigs in a few ad agencies around London. This then led me into the world of brand strategy and creative direction.

2. How did you get started and what was the biggest hurdle you overcame?

The biggest hurdle in breaking into the agency world was landing those first few gigs. I spent around a year just banging out website copy for really boring brands, before I started to win more creative work. 

3. What’s been your most successful way of getting clients?

Back when I was freelance, it was definitely about making friends with the right people and just being front of mind. Now that I run my own branding agency it’s a completely different challenge. For us the most successful ways of winning new work have come through public speaking at trusted industry events, and through referral from either existing clients or strategic partners (such as management consultants or digital agencies). 

4. How do you get clients to stay with you and use you for more work?

We always deliver. Even if it means starting from scratch or adopting a new way of working to better suit the client, we always find a way to finish the project on a high. On top of that we have a super high bar for quality and we challenge ourselves to make sure any work that leaves the studio is better than the previous project. It pushes us to always do better. 

5. Do you ever have issues with clients paying late? How do you manage that?

We’re lucky in that most of our clients are great payers but like any agency, we’ve had a few super late payers. In terms of managing this I’ve definitely learned that being aggressive isn’t the best approach. If you can build trust with the person responsible for your payment and form a genuine relationship, you can normally get late invoices processed pretty quickly. 

6. What does your typical work day look like?

Now that we’re 14 people, my job is pretty different to what it was when we set up the agency 3 years ago. Right now, I’m focusing my time on growth and business development. I’m still pretty heavily involved in our bigger projects (because I love it) but the team do a great job on delivery while I’m out speaking to potential or existing clients. 

7. Any piece of advice/wisdom that you’d like to give the readers at This Design Life?

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Someone out there has made all the mistakes you’re about to make, and the worst thing that can happen is they say no. I’ve embraced this approach since launching Notepad and it’s definitely played a big part in how we’ve grown so fast.

Connect with
Naeem Alvi

Main Website: Notepad.

Social Medial: LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

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After years of working with big businesses like RBS, Nike, Natwest and Argos to help them better define and grow their brands, Naeem founded Notepad to apply big brand experience to ambitious SMEs and growing ventures that want to build their brands effectively and affordably. He loves snowboarding, eating too much food, and reading books (preferably in that order). He’s not as good at dancing as he thinks he is, and has a laugh that sounds a lot like a dolphin mating call.

Interview published on: Jun 6, 2022

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