Directors / Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind With Erin Sing, Director & Co-Founder at Modern Currency

Erin Sing is the Director & Co-Founder at Modern Currency, a global creative communications agency with offices in Melbourne, Singapore, Hong Kong and LA.

This conversation is brought to you by HelloFresh, delivering delicious ingredients and simple recipes straight to your doorstep each week. Save 40% off your first HelloFresh box with Balance The Grind.

1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I’m a Co-Founder and Director of creative communications agency, Modern Currency. We’re a specialised, super creative and integrated communications company that plays in the Public Relations, Marketing, Media Buying, Social Media and Events space.

I’ve been in the industry for more than a decade, kicking off my career in the not for profit sector with the YMCA and the Anxiety Disorders Association of Victoria, before heading into the world of corporate communications in the retail and eCommerce space. Prior to launching Modern Currency, I was managing the Global PR for online wine retailer, Vinomofo.

We launched Modern Currency just over two years ago after feeling there was a real ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality between agencies and clients, and we were seeing that there was a big disconnect between what a client needs and what agencies were delivering.

From sitting on the other side of the fence in-house, I was working with agencies and found that they just didn’t ‘get’ it. We would be presented vanity metrics instead of looking at tangible results, and were forced into doing things ‘because that is how it is done’ instead of adapting to the landscape and being innovative.

My business partner, Michelle, and I wanted to create something that was different, that understood business and the requirements of clients, that integrated like an employee and continued to shake things up. So from there, Modern Currency was born.

2) What does a typical day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

Coffee, coffee, coffee. All days have to start with coffee!

My days always start the same way – up at 6am to take my gorgeous dog for a walk, reading the news before making a green smoothie and heading into the office or onto my first meeting of the day.

Most days I’ll have two or three different meetings with clients, where we’ll go through current campaigns, current results, things that need to be actioned and plan for the coming weeks. Our approach of integrating with clients similar to an employee means as an agency we do have a lot of meetings with the brands we work with, but it’s a crucial way that we work.

After meetings, I can be back in the office proofing new business proposals, working on strategies, running team WIPs, writing press releases, deep-diving into data, setting up social media campaigns, buying ad space across different avenues, reviewing our P&L and budgets, working through resourcing, or even packing media kits for a send out.

When I finish up at the office, I’ll normally head to the gym or do a Yoga class, before heading home. For me, having that time to disconnect from work mode before heading home is really important.

As a small business, you have to be hands on across all aspects of the business, so your workload and your days are so diverse and so jam-packed, and you need to be a jack of all trades.

I often think back to what I thought running a business would be like and have to laugh, as I had absolutely no idea! When you go into business you often have a preconceived idea of what it will be like, and once you’re in there, it is almost always a polar opposite of what you thought!

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

One of the greatest perks about running your own business is that it can provide a level of flexibility not normally offered. It also, though, comes with many more long days, lots of sleepless nights and stress like you couldn’t imagine, but the flexibility of choosing how your work day pans out is something I absolutely love, and something we’re so passionate about as a business.

Our industry is one that never sleeps, so it’s so important to us that our team has flexible working options so that they can prioritise and most importantly enjoy things outside of work, and rest and recharge after super busy periods with events and late nights in the office.

Mental health and wellbeing is something that I’m incredibly passionate about, so I really value the importance of having a fluid approach to work/life balance and doing what works for you, as we’re all different.

Some people struggle in the mornings but are on fire towards the end of the day, so that’s the kind of working day we give them. Others have to commute so they come in early and leave early to avoid the traffic. Some work from home once or twice a week to give them more balance.

I’m a big believer of working from wherever suits you.

For me, I’m completely brain fried by 6pm – so I’ll always leave the office around this time and hit the gym, take a yoga class or take my dog for a walk. It’s a super simple thing, but it provides me so much clarity and a chance to switch off. If I need to jump online again later that day, I will, but I’ve had a chance to reset my mind and do something that is good for me.

4) Do you have any tips, tricks or shortcuts to help you manage your workload and schedule?

Organisation is key.

Every evening, I plan my day ahead – writing down the absolute key things that I have to achieve so I’ve got a clear plan of attack for the day. I find that having a very clear, short list of things that I must achieve before I switch off for the day is absolutely crucial.

Of course, other things always pop up – that’s the nature of the industry we’re in – but I find this approach is really productive for me. And who doesn’t get satisfaction from ticking an item off a list!

My days are always full of meetings – from client meetings, team meetings, meetings with our sister agency in Singapore, travelling interstate and overseas, so it can be hard to find time to focus on what needs to get done.

So each week, I block out at least one day where I have no external meetings – it’s an absolute blessing in manic weeks, as I can focus on delivering work to clients, have some space to think creatively and work on strategy.

5) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

Work-life balance is different for absolutely everyone, and I’ve found there isn’t one simple way of achieving it. I used to constantly chase this idea of what ‘work-life’ balance was and would stress if I was working late, or stress if I left the office early, or stress if I was relaxing on a holiday and my emails are piling up, or stress if I was unwell and a client was trying to contact me.

I found it was a vicious cycle that actually gave me more stress and anxiety than anything! But now I approach work-life balance as more of a feeling; if I feel good, if I feel nurtured, if I feel valued and supported, if I feel connected with those around me, then I’m in a good place.

So for me, this is now what I seek and work towards – often this is providing myself with time to exercise, time to clear my mind and meditate, time to just hang with friends and family, time to try new things and time to appreciate all the small things around me.

I know gratitude is very ‘in’ at the moment, but I do believe this mindset and taking time to be present and take in all that is around you, is a powerful tool to boost the balance in your life.

6) What do you think are some of the best habits you’ve developed over the years to help you strive for success and balance?

Success is a funny one for me – the notion of being successful almost seems like it is a destination or an end game, rather than something that is ongoing, constantly evolving and changing based on where you’re at in your life. I think it’s so important to not compare your success to anyone else’s, or to try to live up to someone else’s idea of success.

Success and balance for me are basically one in the same; to live a life that I love.

This is constantly what I draw my energy and my focus back to and it has helped to really create balance and a feeling of success that is constantly changing shape – success in business, success with my team, success in my home life to me is instead being happy and challenged in business, smashing goals with my team, and being content, loved and fulfilled at home.

The very best habit for me is to do more of what makes me happy – from walking my dog, going hiking, travelling, creating meaningful change for my clients, mentoring my team, supporting other women in business, being with my family – these are all things that make my heart warm and give me energy and purpose.

So I prioritise these things; I constantly try to view things in a positive way, and remember the truly important things in life.

Each day, I write down in a journal of things that I’m grateful for, I prioritise moving my body every day for my health, I take a moment each and every morning to appreciate my achievements and all the good things in my life, and I find this is what sets up each day to be a positive one that feels really balanced and fulfilled.

7) Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?

First We Make The Beast Beautiful by Sarah Wilson is fantastic at talking about anxiety and stress in a way that is relatable and that challenges the stigma.

All of Lisa Messenger’s books are so open and honest, and amazing for anyone in business. The way that she writes enables her to share so much – from practical tips, to complete life lessons – with those who are reading her work.

Dr Libby’s Exhausted to Energized is a great read for those experiencing burn out (like so many of us are!) and the practical changes you can make to really change the way your body operates and responds to stress and anxiety.

I operate best when I have both inspiration and evidence in my corner – I’m a control freak, so when I can have scientific based research and evidence backing what I’m doing, then I’m completely in my element.

8) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?

Attitude is absolutely key. Some days are crazy – you may have back to back meetings, no time for lunch, a mountain of work to get through, and an inbox that is overflowing, but if you approach it with the right attitude, then you’re on the right path from the get go.

From there, organisation is key. And not being afraid to say no!

When in an agency environment, we can often fall into the trap of always saying yes to everything, but it’s counterproductive as you end up being overstretched, and not on your A-game. Prioritise the things you need to do and say no to the things you don’t.

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Find yourself a great mentor – someone who has achieved more than you, has had so many different experiences than you, and who isn’t afraid to tell you like it is. Some of the best advice and the best support I’ve had in my career have come from my mentors.

You’re never too young, or too inexperienced to have a mentor – it will be one of the best thing you can do for your career, trust me.

If you’d like to support Balance the Grind’s mission to promote health work-life balance to a global audience, you can join our Patreon membership for as little as $1 a month.

About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.