Most career advisors counsel against narrowing your options. Yet, at least as it pertains to entering the advertising and marketing field as a creative writer, I believe you’ve really only got one egg to work with — your talent. So, to succeed, you have to maintain, in a sense, a single-minded obsession to stick with it in both good times and bad. Carrying the analogy forward, the basket you place your “egg” in merely represents the organization you happen to find yourself working for during any given period.
The first cracks begin to show. It takes a great deal of determination to develop the thick skin you’ll need to both learn from and deflect the criticism that is guaranteed to come your way. The most accomplished writers continuously push themselves to improve, even during periods when financial improvement is anything but continuous. If you can keep your outer shell together long enough, you’ll eventually see your potential hatch into fully formed shape. More importantly, you will gain a certain amount of job security within yourself that no one can take away.
Now in my 20th year in the industry, I can look back on a career that’s given me the opportunity to take my talents from northwest Ohio to my own south beach of sorts here in St. Petersburg, Florida. Life as a copywriter hasn’t always been easy, either as a member of an agency or as the owner of a freelance business; but today, it has given me two important rewards: I am truly at ease with who I am and possess a deep, personal conviction in the quality of what I do.
- You’ve got to break a few eggs. In the last year, I’ve done work for one organization undercut by character deficiency, and another devalued by contemptible posturing. As I listened to senior leaders at both companies trade superfluous euphemisms, my efforts to bring substance to the discussion only stirred dissention. No one can build consensus by walking on eggshells. Yet, it’s a risk the writer has to take. I did. The yolk was on me.
- There is no Teflon-coating for copy. As a writer, you can produce a perfectly concise, thematically engaging and contextually appropriate document, yet still find darts of every description puncturing holes in every corner of your work. Sometimes your best writing, even if it’s better than anything that may have preceded it, just isn’t good enough. Or, rather, it just doesn’t pass muster with the reader in judgment. Unfortunately, there’s no way to scratch-guard your copy. Every writer has been panned. Try not to take it personally.
- The perfect career omelet in the making. Remaining viable and valuable takes painstaking effort in strengthening the singular skill that butters the bread, but writers should generally strive for diversification — to become “jacks-of-all-trades” rather than masters of one. If you can write healthcare copy, you should be equally adept at technology content, vice versa, and beyond. The number of menu options you offer should only increase with experience. Over time, your portfolio should overflow with proof of your good taste in creative text.
I’ve got only one egg, so it makes sense that I can only put it in one basket at a time.
For that simple privilege alone, I wouldn’t change a word
Originally from Toledo, Ohio, Gerald Northup has written professionally in the fields of advertising, marketing, social media, and corporate communications since the early ’90s. For a look at his blog posts and social media articles, as well as TV, radio, print, and website samples from his online portfolio, visit gnorthup1979.wix.com/44words.
Jerry is also a talented guitarist, an avid tennis player, and a lifelong student of linguistics.