I’ve spent the better part of the last three years trying to make it in advertising, and and the better part of ten years trying to escape the “production designer” label that recruiters have slapped on me and stubbornly won’t peel off. I’ve been on literally hundreds of “informational interviews” where people tell me I’ve got great work, and they’d love to work with me someday…then promptly stop answering emails and phone calls.
I’ve done everything anyone has ever asked me to do to improve my work:
“You need more conceptual stuff.” Done. And won an award for it.
“You need more web stuff in here.” Done.
“You need more mobile stuff in here.” Working on it-and actually in the early stages of designing my own iPhone app as we speak.
“You need more work that you’ve art directed start to finish.” Done.
“You need more spec ads.”
This one always bugged me. I’m eleven years into my career, and have created a wide spectrum of well-received work, and can eloquently speak to my career experiences over the last decade. But somehow making up fake condom ads is going to REALLY show you what I’m capable of? Don’t get me wrong-that’s definitely important for students and recent graduates, so I’m not putting the practice down. But I’m a senior-level creative, and I think and carry myself as such. So I’m not doing it anymore.
Instead of working on fake ads for products I don’t care about, I’m going to make my own real creative projects that energize me. I’ve always wanted to design my own mobile apps-so I’m going to do it. I’ve always been interested in the process of filmmaking-so I’m going to go do it. I’ve always loved putting together events-and I know I’m pretty good at THAT-so I’m going to do that more. Hell, I’ve always wanted to learn how to DJ-so I’m going to go do it.
I’m 35 years young. Lord willing, I’ve got maybe another 50 years on this planet, and I don’t want to spend another day doing stuff I don’t want to do. I’m going to forge my own path. I’m going to let my career come to me. There are a few people who I respect who are doing just that-Jessica Hagy and Steve Gordon just to mention two-and they’ve been wildly successful doing it. I’m lucky to have Jessica as a friend, and I hope to one day meet Steve and tell him how much of an inspiration he is to me daily. My friend Melanie Jankun helped to start a movement to get her hometown running-that’s pretty fucking awesome. I’m gonna go do THAT.
To awkwardly quote Jay-Z (and I wouldn’t be the first freelancer to do so), “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man!” In fact, I’m not calling myself a freelancer anymore-too often these days, that’s just designer code for “unemployed creative”. I’m an Independent Creative. I’m an Art Director. I’m a writer. I’m a filmmaker. I’m an event planner. I’m whatever my path needs me to be, and for the first time in over a decade, I’m actually excited about it.