Interview: Creatives who made their own way
Meet Sy and Simeon, copywriters who did not go to portfolio school and worked on their books on their own.
Sy: To be honest, I didn't even know there was such a thing until I saw all the other folks on the team paste up ideas after a long weekend brainstorm. How in the hell did they get the balls to do that? All those concepts and presentation skills. It was completely alien to me. Then someone said they learned it in school. Sneaky.
Sy started in proofing department at Arnold in Boston and is now an award-winning ACD-level freelance integrated copywriter. Simeon also a copywriter, is a student competition winner and recent graduate currently looking for work.
Q: How did you know you wanted to be a creative?
Sy: Grammar is lovely, but I had too many opinions to be a proofer.
Simeon: I remember picking up a magazine ad and showing my [high school] guidance counselor. "I want to do something like this," I said. He told me that I should study graphic design. Hated it. Sucked at it. I discovered copywriting eight years later. Loved it.
Q: Why didn’t you go to portfolio school?
Simeon: My decision to not go to portfolio school was based on the amount of opportunities I had to develop spec campaigns under the guidance of the people who I wanted to impress and would eventually hire me.
Q: How did you get to where you are?
Sy: I can say I was extremely lucky in my career evolution. As I was working on my first book I weaseled my way into a writing job on the Interactive team for Volkswagen and I never had to show it.
Simeon: A true creative finds solutions to problems and that's what I did. I went to a nearby school and I built my major around creative advertising. It's been stressful working full-time and going to school full-time while working on my book.
- That there are a million people doing what you do, but only one who's you.
- There's a delicate balance between confidence and arrogance.
- Be your own best editor.
- Write it again, but better this time.
Q: What have you learned?
Simeon: Patience. I know I'm not alone when I say I suffer from Creative A.D.D.. My attention span is short and I expect everything to happen within that window. I've learned that you have to wait to do great things like quit the job you hate to do the one you love. Stress has humbled me and has given me a new outlook on life - good things come to those that use their waiting time wisely.
Q: Any advice for someone trying to decide if they should work on their book alone vs going to portfolio school?
Sy: No one can teach you how to think of ideas, and that's the real trick.
Simeon: Your 3 a.m. brain is not as smart as you think it is - I learned that working on my book alone. You need another set of eyes. You need someone to call you on your BS.