I’ve been absent lately. I apologize, but this freelance dance is more than just your average hustle these days. The field is crowded with seasoned professionals, hardened consultants, brands slashing spending left and right… Damn.
To all those out in the cold with me, welcome to Hustler University. Here’s some realities of hustling your shit in the ad biz these days. While some of these are simple science (check #1) and others are just nasty truths (check #3), perhaps some of these notes you haven’t thought of (check #7). If you have any suggestions of your own, let it rip in the comments section. Good luck!
1. Drink Up Camper – Drinks, drinks, drinks. It’s the oldest networking trick in the book and for good reason. As much as you loathed your first boss or you even, your last ECD, it’s time to man up. Heading out post working hours, allows a feeling of camaraderie to bloom in this less formal environment. Ex-coworkers will know you that you are looking. You’ll pick up on some hot gossip (account wins, new agencies starting up, departing employees).
2. There Are No Such Things As Miracles – When you go for that breakfast meeting with a contact, don’t expect a miracle. Even if the person says, “Yes! We are looking for someone and you’d be a perfect fit,” know that what people say in the vacuum of face to face meeting, may mean nothing at all in the face of their managing director’s red face and budget crisis.
3. Contact Severed – Get used to people not emailing you back. It’s not because your work sucks or you have halitosis. Yes, they may have led you to believe you might get work, but guess what? They may be too embarrassed to admit the power is not in their hands or even, that they spoke way too fast and loose. They don’t need anyone at all. It’s horrid, but it’s the reality of human behavior. No one wants to write that email that says “Sorry. What I said? It’s not going to happen.” Bully to those with the balls to do it. The rest of you? You’re cowards. Cowards, I say!
4. Oh, Those Ad Journals – If you started a blog in the hopes of highlighting your strategic ability, realize that blogs don’t become huge successes over night. Nope. Wish that was the case. Beyond performing the basics of marketing for your blog, try pitching pieces to Adweek and Adage. You know how badly they need content that is you know, actually applicable to the business. I know a few people who have gotten into the ad journos and landed some real work directly from a brand or gotten picked up by an agency. The ad papers never pay, but it’s worth a shot.
6.Get Digital – Speaking of the web, you’re going to need a website. Just face it. If you’re not so web savvy, try using the site Other People’s Pixels as a template for highlighting your work. Cheap. Easy. Beautiful.
7. Take The Pitch – In a most cases, the agency already has a brand under its roster with employees assigned to every role on the account. However, many agencies are pitching or are trying to pitch on business for which they do not have an expertise (social media, mobile, gaming, internet, various ethnicities, etc.). If you have experience in a niche, let creative directors, CEOs, new business heads, know that you are willing to help the agency pitch on a new account. While you don’t get paid for helping out on the pitch, if they get the business, you get the gig under a freelance contract. Trust me. This one works.
8. The Headhunter Dilemma – I’ve had some success using my headhunter as of late, but lots of headhunters? Yes. Yes. They are craptastic. Unless you’re as big as Alex Bogusky, they often can’t help you. Cut through the BS and straight up ask the headhunter if they perform searches for mid-level staffers; if they do placements for folks other than creatives. If they hedge, give them your resume, but don’t expect them to call you anytime soon. Still, I recommend staying on their butts. If you let them forget about you, they will. Keep in mind, the odds are you will get your gig on your own steam, not theirs.