Unsolicited advice for those interested in the creative industry.
Sometimes a friend will ask me to meet their acquaintance for coffee so I can share my insights on working in Marketing. I doubt I’m the most qualified person for these conversations, but I’m likely the most enthusiastic. Before I became a copywriter, I gaped through agency windows wondering what it would be like to work on the inside, to brainstorm with brilliant people and create beautiful and useful things. I still remember that feeling, and I’m happy to be a resource for someone who has questions. (Plus, I love coffee.)
If you’re just getting started in a creative field, here are three things I recommend you bring to the job:
Bring your ideas
I have seen very smart people present very bad ideas. In most cases, they knew the ideas weren’t great, but ideas are like sparks — some land and fizzle, others start a fire. Someone else might flip an idea on its head and make something compelling. As various people have said in various ways, the only thing that can’t be fixed is a blank page.
An idea doesn’t have to be perfect or clever or even complete — just toss it out and see what happens. I have had what seemed like great ideas rejected, and had a toss-away concept become a billboard headline. What I learned from both experiences is that the more ideas you bring to the table, the better chance you have of finding one the team can run with.
Bring your feelings
Sometimes when I’m struggling with a project, the headlines coming back to me for yet another try, I get so hung up on aligning to the theme or fitting the allotted space that I wind up with a string of lines that read like a marketing Mad Lib. I’ve seen other writers do the same. Deadlines loom, and we need to get things done.
When it happens to me, it’s usually because I’m working all from my head, trying to figure it out like a puzzle, rather than pulling from my heart. The goal, arguably every time, is to make an emotional connection, so when I find myself throwing words at the page, I try to step back and remember what we want people to feel when they encounter the collateral we’re creating. It’s a good path to finding your way back — and it’s an even better place to start from.
When I got my first corporate copywriting gig, I felt like I had taken the role of a copywriter in a movie but I didn’t know the script. I had no sense of what they wanted from me, so I called my brother, a lifelong marketing exec, hoping he might know. “They chose you. They didn’t hire you to be someone else, they hired you to be you.”
He was right. If you’re feeling unsure, keep this in mind: Your company saw your resume and thought you were worthy of an interview. They interviewed several people and thought you were the one for the job. Doubt will whisper some sneaky shit into your ear, but you earned your gig. They thought you were worth taking a chance on. Be yourself, work hard, and show them what a smart decision they made.
I’ve toiled at a lot of different jobs in my life, and working inside those agency windows is a lot like working on the outside. Everything has a deadline, and you sometimes have more tasks than time. When I would complain about this to a former Creative Director, he’d let me vent for a minute or two, even commiserate, but usually ended the same way: “It’s still a pretty cush job, though.” He’s right, too.
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