You, the Brand

It’s a paradox, being a freelancer. You need to stand out, but you also need to fit into the cultures of the companies that hire you.

How can you create a brand for yourself that does both? During my five years as a freelancer, I wrote down a mercenary code of conduct. As the economy craters further, more and more people are playing the freelance game. Maybe this will help.

Make every job great. You never know where it will take you.

In addition to making ads, make yourself welcome and valuable.

Think of today as a test-drive for a full-time job, whether you want one or not.

Charge what it’s worth, not what you wish it was worth.

Give it away, on occasion.

Create something good enough to be dismembered and passed around for others to claim as their own.

Wear their war paint.

Lose with dignity.

Win with dignity.

Make it clear that you have no ambitions except the success of the thing you were hired to work on.


Remember the secretaries and coordinators and assistant producers.

Don’t care who solves it, just help get it solved.

Write a note of thanks whenever you finish a job, and whenever you turn one down.

Remember that there are a lot of things you don’t know about the agency or its clients.

Dress like someone who deserves his or her day rate.

Get over the fact that your work, no matter how good, will sometimes serve as fodder.

Burn no bridges.

Get over the fact that whenever 10 people get together to do anything, things get screwed up.

Sense when to disappear.

Deduce what needs to be done.

When emotions are running high, make sure yours are running low.

Prepare for your idea to be bought in crisis and abandoned in peace.

Remember that the game will change as you go.

Bring a candy bar.

She could be the boss’s wife. He could be the boss’s brother.

Remember that creative people talk to other creative people.

Not signing anything doesn’t mean you can talk.

Never take an idea you had for one shop across the street to another.

Be prepared to work on a strange computer in a bare office with very little input.

Know a few headhunters, and be nice to them.

Return every call quickly.

Never refer a job to anyone you’re not sure about.

Tell no one how much you make.

Show up on time, even if it means you’re the only one there.

When you’re out of town on a job, stay in decent, safe hotels.

Turn down work you don’t have time to do.

Have an accountant.

Open an SEP account, and contribute the maximum.

Have joy; staffers expect it of you because they mistakenly think you’re free and they’re not.

Feel lucky every day that you’re working.