Summary: After freelancing for a couple of years, I knew it was time to move to a more traditional creative environment. I felt it was necessary for my development as a writer. If you are new to the media, marketing and advertising industry, I’ve made a list of things that should guide you as you step out on this journey.
Reading Time: 4 Minutes
The media advertising and communications industry is not a piece of cake, neither is it for the faint-hearted. When compared to other industries, the marketing and communication industry can be as fast as they come. One of the easiest ways to learn this is to look at the turnover in a typical marketing and advertising agency. Those who are not up to the task are constantly chewed up and thrown out.
As a young writer looking to sharpen the edges of your creative skill, this particular industry can be a double-edged sword. While it can refine the edges of your writing skill and put you on a pedestal to become a better writer, it can chew you up and spit you out like an expensive piece of garbage.
That notwithstanding, with the right mindset and the right approach, this could potentially be the best decision of your life. The short few months or years that you spent can entirely set you up for the rest of your writing career. These are 10 things that I have gleaned in my short stay as a creative copywriter in the industry.
Things Are Not Always as They Seem
Welcome to a world of briefs, briefs and more briefs. You don’t call the shot, and every single instruction has multiple layers of information to explore. It is your job to ask questions (not stupid ones though) to uncover them. If you don’t ask the right questions, be ready for multiple back and forths when you eventually turn in your task. The work must be done, just the way the client intended.
The English Language Will Embarrass You
When we manage to string together a good sentence, you think you have arrived. When you write the regular stuff you are used to, you feel like you have mastered the English language. However, as soon as you step into the world of Media, Marketing and Advertising, you will soon realise that you’ve played yourself. Even the words you think you knew would show themselves in a new and more nuanced way.
Something can sound perfect in your head but look like a fatal mistake once you put it down on a blank document. Always keep the dictionary beside you. Today, many tools exist that can help with your grammatical structure and construction and the earlier you embrace these tools, the better for you. One word of caution; it can make you lazy and dependent on them if you are not careful with the usage.
The Cost of Not Reading is a Dead Craft
A writing career without an equally matched reading ability is going to land you in the serious waters. The longer you stay in and the deeper you delve into the media, advertising and marketing communication process, you will discover that the previous method you already know has become stale, laboured and ineffective. They are no longer acceptable. As a result, if you are not exposing your mind to new ways of writing and word construction, you will find out that the pieces of content or copies you create are always returning with question marks from whoever is reviewing them.
Discard Editors at Your Own Peril
Recently, editors have taken a lot of stick in the writing community. But in the copywriting world, editors are underrated. Because the industry is fast-paced, you don’t have the luxury of time to create and wait a while so that you can have a fresh train of thought to review your work. That’s where editors come in. Not because your ideas are bad, but they can fine-tune your copy and make it better, reflecting the real communication you intended.
It’s true that with time, you can write better copies on the go but no matter how good you get, having a fellow copywriter or Editor look over what you have done allows you to put your best foot forward. What if you are a freelancer? Well, there are a few things you can do. You can freelance partner, buy more time when negotiating your job and creating a buffer. You can change the fonts of your copies to allow you to view them differently.
Protect Your Mind at all Cost
The thing about fast-paced environments where your work originates from your head/mind is that you have no idea when burnout sets in. If you don’t have a system of living that protects your mind, you discover one day that everything loses meaning, and your mind is fatigued.
Most people think that creative work will always be interesting, that’s not always true. Something that started as interesting can assume a routine, the fun flies out of the window, and all you are left with is a boring drudgery that gnaws away at your mind and sense of adventure. Creative work is not always fun and high energy. Because your mind is a tool that can be fragile at times, you have to craft a system that allows you to renew it and declutter the pressure that has built up.
From simple day to day activities like shutting down work for a few minutes and doing something entirely different, to periodic breaks and rest where you just sit still and maintain quietness or recharge in the best way you know how to. You have to plan it and make sure to follow the plan.
Rest is Bliss
Sometimes, I close work very late, and I should get into my house around an hour from when I leave the office. What I do at work is only a part of my creative responsibilities so when I get home, I’m in a fix whether I should get a rest or resume other forms of creative work. Sometimes I do, but I always remind myself that I should relax and rest. The times I’ve not taken that advice, I find myself inept of doing creative work and end up wasting time.
By the time I turn up at work the next day, I’m a creative wreck, uninspired and unable to create. I figure it is so for most creative people. You only get fresh, bodily and mentally, when you rest. If you are not feeling refreshed, you’ll be cranky and mentally unable to put in your best work, irrespective of your level of experience. Remember to prioritize your rest.
Forced Writing Will Produce Garbage
As a creative, one of the worst things that can happen to you is to experience a dry spell at work. The moment your creative juices fly out the window. The way your workplace is run has a big role to play in deciding how you react to it. That said, you always have deliverables and if you force the writing or development of creative work at this stage, whatever you produce will be pedestrian at best.
Like I have already mentioned, your workspace can provide the necessary support to help you develop creative work even if you are off zone. Is communication open, are you allowed to communicate to your team lead that you are not grasping anything reasonable? Or you are in a place where it is taboo? In an environment where communication is open, support can be rallied around you such that one of two things happen.
You are permitted some time to restart, or you are paired with those who will be your creative feelers and allow you to create beautiful work even when you don’t feel it. But if you have none of this and proceed to go ahead when there is a clear indication that you are forcing it, don’t be surprised when your client turns is back. One more thing though, with time, however, you get better at navigating this issue. In the end, creative work is not based on feeling, and you will learn how to turn your creativity on for longer and how to write through pain without ‘forcing’ it.
If You Think It’s Not Good enough, It Probably Isn’t
Sometimes, in the heat of the moment, you can write beautiful nonsense. The moment you put the final full stop, something inside you lets you know that you have dropped absolute garbage. Most times, it is true. As long as you are not self-critical to a fault, most of the time when you think you have written something that doesn’t make any sense, it’s because you have. Don’t let another eye see it before you make the necessary adjustment.
How You End is as Important as How You Begin.
With time, you will improve your entry and the flow of your paragraphs that they become impeccable. However, if you do not spend as much time on developing your closings, your works will be one-sided. Make sure you can pack a punch both at the beginning and end of your work. Don’t start on a burst and end on a wimp. You will undo great work and that doesn’t do your craft any good.
Feedbacks are Part of the Job. Accept Them Gracefully
Feedbacks in one of the fastest-paced environments in the world can be brutal and devastating, especially if you take it personally. Most of the time, feedback will be creative, however, the pace of the environment can mean that the giver will mistakenly forget to lace it with all the caution you need to stomach it. Always remember that no one is out to hunt you. If you are getting more negative feedback than you expect, it might be time to take a good look at your skill and put extra effort to develop it. On the other hand, don’t forget to address an issue if you think you are getting unfair criticism or being witch-hunted in the professional environment.
By way of conclusion, life as a copywriter will test your patience and put your skill under the intense fire of criticism. But in the end, what you have is a writing craft that is polished like fine gold, and able to withstand the pressure of a professional writing career. Don’t let the unforgiving world of marketing chew you up and spit you out.