Making the Most of University

In 2009 I started my degree in Commercial Photography at the University of Derby, I graduated from university with a 2:1 but it wasn't really the grade I cared about, it was the skills, experience and contacts I left university with that was most important to me. I was asked by one of my fantastic lecturers Mark Hall, to share some of my tips to make the most of your University Degree. 

Hey, don't take this post as a 'you must go to university' that’s for you to decide, there are huge for and against arguments, and I know plenty of very very successful creatives who didn't take any academic avenues. But if your heart is set on university these top tips may just help you make the most of it:

1.Enjoy Your Time 

I’m going to start this blog with the less ‘educational’ piece that I learned. University is a once in a lifetime experience, it’s not for everyone, but honestly I think most people can make their time at University an unforgettable one.  For the younger undergraduates, most have come straight from an academic childhood, from School into sixth form/college, sometimes with the odd gap year thrown in. From day one University lands you in a situation most of us at that age haven't experienced, you’re waving goodbye to your parents, stood in student digs with complete strangers… slightly daunting but mega exciting. Use those first few weeks to truly embrace your new freedom, meet new people, explore the new city/town you’re living and if you are like me, learn to cook! 

That enjoyment shouldn’t dry up after your first few weeks of university, sure you will have less time to party but it doesn't mean you can’t enjoy your time along with studying. Use those new friends you have made to study with, work on projects together and bounce ideas off one another. 

2. You have to be willing to do the work

Ok, now onto the serious stuff, university requires you to wear many hats and keep several people happy all at one time. You’re parents want you to listen, learn and achieve, your lecturers will give you all the skills, advice and techniques you can ask for but they won’t force you to listen and your new friends only care about how many jagerbombs you can drink on a student night. You have to be willing to balance your lifestyle and maximise the opportunity for learning that’s in front of you. 

It may sound obvious saying you have to be willing to work when you’re paying well over £3000 a year for an education, but there are a lot of distractions out there, it’s how you balance them that will really make the most of your degree. If the party lifestyle is just too appealing to you, make going out with friends and nights out rewards for completing assessments and hitting deadlines, the only person who will make you work at university is yourself. 

3. Collaborate with peers

It quickly becomes apparent that your first lecture involves you sat in a lecture theatre surrounded by 40+ other students all striving to do the same thing as you, plus a few very experienced lecturers already killing it in the market stood at the front, you’re probably all ready to quit right? Yes, one day your peers will become competition and you will more than likely end up fighting a few of them for the same job, but during university they're just a similar aged students, all sharing the same passion in your industry and striving to make awesome work.  There is nothing stopping you making friends with all your class mates, and if attempting to make friends with 40+ students sounds a little scary right now, try setting up a Facebook page for your course and year, or your lecturer may have already done it for you. 

Don’t just connect with peers on your course, one of the joys of university is that there are hundreds more students studying a hundred more subjects. Make friends with everyone you meet, us Brits seem to find talking to strangers a little uncomfortable, but at University this rule doesn't seem to exists, so benefit from this. The more people you meet, the more collaborations you can take on during your degree and you’d be surprised who you collaborate with. Take Photography for example, you could certainly work with a Graphic Design Student, Videography Student, Fashion Students, but you may even collaborate with more academic students, you just never know! Here’s 5 things that you can benefit from by befriending fellow peers: 

    •    More chance of collaborations

    •    Easy to share and borrow equipment

    •    Great contacts for when you graduate - recommendations, referrals etc

    •    Learn skills in other subjects

    •    You make new friends  

4. Appreciate Your Lecturers

The first thing I realised when I started studying at university is that the lecturers are not the teachers I was used to through school and college. Teachers have a job to teach you something, make sure you listen and make sure you pass your exams. The difference is that lecturers will teach you everything they know, but they won’t force you to listen, take notes or even turn up for their lectures. Sure they care about you passing and learning everything you can about the industry, but they won’t force you to do anything. The HUGE benefit of lecturers is that they are a professional in their industry (the industry you want to break into) and they’re usually practicing their trade, as in they’re actually creating work and lecturing at the same time. If you really want to maximise their wealth of knowledge you need to start picking their brains and asking questions both in lectures and 1 to 1 sessions.  Cram as many 1 to 1 sessions in as you can / they will let you before they say no. Ask them if you can join them whilst they’re working outside of university,  they may invite you along for experience or as an assistant. Don’t be afraid to ask, even if they say no they will see your passion and motivation for the industry! 

5. Finally, worry about what you learn and not the grade you receive

In the creative industry, people judge you on your personality and the skill set you have. It's less about the grades you have, in fact, I rarely even tell people that I have a ‘degree’ but I do speak about what I learned at University. Graduating with 1st class honours or 2nd class honours at university is a fantastic achievement & goes some way to reflecting the time and effort you put into your course. I’m not taking that away from anyone (if you’re interested I came out with a 2:1), but my own experience is to learn as much as you can, don't worry if you don’t hit top marks, as long as each assignment/project you undertake you come out with a new skill set you can take into the industry, you will succeed massively at university! 

Lastly I would just like to say a huge thanks to my lecturers during my time at Derby University, Mark Hall, Laurie Haynes and Cameron Jinks, you all gave me a great footing in the photography industry. I hope you’re all keeping well!

Yes that's really us below looking more fresh faced than we do these days and slightly chuffed that we somehow squeezed a car into the university studio.. even if it was a Vauxhall Corsa! 

If you're interested in what we got up to at Derby University here's a graduate video from what feels like a very long time ago now. A great job by videographer Michael Bell on creating this! 

Are you about to start your journey as a student, how are you going to maximise your time? Have you been there and done that, do you have any useful tips to share with current students?

Your 2016 Goal

Setting goals is always important when you're running a business, be it Daily, Weekly, Monthly or even Yearly. In 2015 I made it my goal to work on my marketing, making my website more user friendly, adding blog posts, becoming more visible on social media and getting the name 'Luke Holroyd Photography' out there. Remember never forget the core of you business and services, the things that make your business successful, for me it's creating awesome images and remembering how important each wedding day is, this will always be my priority over the goals I set.  

I achieved most things I set out to do in 2015 and I thought I would set a new target for the year ahead and share my views on why I think you should too. Here's my 5 tips to help you set your own 2016 goals: 

    1    Goals Keep Your Business Fresh. Making it your goal to achieve, change, trying or attempting something new in your business will keep your business fresh to your audience and clients. Adding a blog or video to your business marketing creates more 'noise' and people are more likely to share and spread the word about new content. 

    2    Make it Achievable. There's nothing worse than failing, write down a few ideas of what would benefit you and your business in 2016. Evaluate which are achievable and bring the most rewards, but don't make it too easy for yourself!

    3    Work on your Goal All year. Start your new venture on January 1st and end it on December 31st. A year may seem a long time to put a lot of effort into one thing, but in a years time you should be an expert in the task you took on.

    4    Share Your Progress. It's not easy to commit to something when you have the basic day to day running of a business to deal with. If you share your progress with your audience via a blog or social media, it will motivate you to keep going and your audience will always give you words of encouragement.

    5    Help Others. To tackle your 2016 goal you may turn to Youtube, Online blogs or professionals in your field for advice and knowledge. No doubt when you reach the end of your goal you will have gained so much, consider giving back to your industry by sharing your knowledge and expertise with others.

So my goal for 2016 is to produce more video, so here's the first step in my journey: WATCH IN HD

Have you decided on a 2016 Goal? Did you achieve everything you set out to do in 2015?

The End Of Year Checklist

The end of 2015 is fast approaching and 2016 is just around the corner, most small business owners start to think about what next year will bring and set goals for the new year.  Don't head into the Christmas period thinking all you will be doing for the next few months is taxes, use the opportunity to start planning your most productive and profitable year. To get a jump start here's my end of year checklist:

Follow up potential leads. There still may be business out there, make sure you follow up those emails with phone calls and try to arrange meetings. For me as a wedding photographer, I chase up any couples who enquired about a date in 2016/2017, if I don't receive a reply before the new year I can start to offer that date to other couples. 

Send a Christmas Card to your Clients. This is nothing new, a whole host of businesses send out christmas cards to their clients, but it's a great way to stand out from your competitors. Go one step further by personalising your cards with a message, think about thanking them for their custom or write a small note about something great you shared with that client this year.

Evaluate your goals from 2015. How did your business perform in 2015, did you grow as a business and most importantly did you achieve the goals you set for the year? Identifying the reasons for both your accomplishments and failures will help you assess what goals you should be setting for 2016 and areas in which you may need support in. 

Make subtle changes to your branding. Consistency is key with branding, but making subtle changes can help to keep your business looking fresh. If your business is heavily based online and social media, adding new content can keep your returning followers and customers engaged.

Make a personal set of goals. Planning & setting goals for the business is very important but also consider planning personal goals, investing time in yourself can make growing your business even easier. If you struggle with writing or public speaking for example, you could consider taking a course in that area to help develop your own skills. If you keep telling yourself that you’re going to start eating healthy or plan to get fit, don't be afraid to make that one of your goals, it can change the way you look at your business. 

Get your Finances in Order. If your business has struggled financially in 2015, consider seeking financial help to make those important informed decisions for the year ahead. If you’ve hit your financial targets or even had better than expected growth still take the opportunity to plan your finances in 2016. It involves so much more than accounting, see how you can save money on all areas of the business, what service can be tweaked to be more profitable and how much your time is worth.

Strategically Plan Your Approach to Social Media. With social media you never know what is around the corner, which platforms may become less popular or grow, but you can certainly have a plan in place. If you were overwhelmed with marketing and social media in 2015 you may want to consider using apps and websites that allow you to plan ahead with your social media posts and updates. Examine which system would benefit you and the business the most and implement this into your 2016 plan. Research which platforms your competitors are using and make sure you have your own presence. Keep an eye out for social media platforms that are set to explode in 2016, Periscope is certainly going to be a big player in the field next year. 

With all the work involved with a small business, it's easy to overlook forward planning, use these tips to make sure you and your business enter 2016 in a positive position. 

What's your biggest end of year task? Do you have any tips on how to end 2015 organised? 

Getting it Right For Your Clients & Customers | Warren Parratt

This week Warren Parratt, the Company Director of Positive People Recruitment, has kindly offered to share his advice & tips on 'Getting it Right for Your Clients & Customers'. Some fantastic advice which I have already started to implement into my own business, make sure you take a read: 

We’ve all heard the customer service adage of under promise and over deliver. Imagine that you are your client for a moment. Would you rather get what you briefed the company you’ve assigned a job for, and what you agreed to, or be under promised? Would you rather get what you expect in order to satisfy your business need, or be over delivered?

Neither under-promising, nor over-delivering, are particularly sensible ways of conducting business, and neither are required in order to deliver great customer service and satisfaction.

Here’s a typical under-promise over-delivery scenario. It’s Monday morning and you have been given an urgent and unexpected job that needs to be completed by Wednesday. You tell your client that things are really busy, and it’s going to be tough to make the deadline. It may be that you will need to complete by Thursday morning instead of Wednesday (the under promise), but that you will do what you can. In the back of your mind you know that you can probably juggle the work you have on to squeeze in your client. You may also need to work late to finish the work, but you’re quietly confident the deadline can be achieved.

You end up delivering the work on the Tuesday afternoon (the over deliver). Your client says, “Hey, that’s fantastic, I really appreciate it!”. However, did you really need to (a) give your client cause for concern that the job may not be ready in time, or (b) deliver early? Early delivery is fantastic if you can do it without putting you or your team under any undue pressure, but does your client really care all that much? What they wanted was the job delivered by Wednesday and if you had delivered on Wednesday they still would have appreciated all your time and effort.

What do you think your client really wants from a business transaction with you? They want their work delivered on time, on budget, as briefed and without hassle. They want service with a smile, excellent communication, the job done and your expertise. Also if you do it once they may expect it the next time. If you can maintain fantastic customer care and service each and every time, you won’t need to over deliver. Retaining customers and keeping them happy is a relatively simple task as long as the basics are maintained.

There will be certain times when over-delivering can be advantageous. If, as a result of over-delivering, you can give your client more time, money or power, then by all means go ahead! If there is obvious material gain to be made by your client, then your above and beyond service will be seen in a completely different light.

As for under-promising… well, that’s over to you and the given situation. In some cases it’s not a particularly honest method of doing business. I prefer to use the word transparency. If you are open and honest with a client, and educate them on the realities of your business and what you do, then under-promising shouldn’t be required. By being transparent and honest your client will grow to trust you. Trust leads to increased business, which in turn leads to increased profit. Taking this type of high ground isn’t always easy or convenient, but it works. Here at Positive People we always aim to deliver on our promises. 

If you would like to learn more about Warren and Positive People Requirement, head over to

What are your experiences of under promising and/or over delivering?