Thursday, December 22, 2005


It’s rough out there. A weak economy, layoffs and stiff competition are making it harder for a creative to find work. Based on my experiences over the years, here are 20 things that I have learned while peddling my portfolio.

1) Your book will always suck to some Creative Director, unless you have an award for each ad.

2) Pharmaceutical advertising in your book, no matter how great the creative may be, is only good if you want a position doing pharmaceutical advertising (this goes for food accounts, retail etc.).

3) If you make a cold call, chances are they aren’t hiring and will only see you because you could be the next David Ogilvy.

4) Leave messages but don’t expect a return call. Creative Directors have meetings to go to, people to see, and hundreds of people just like you calling them looking for a job.

5) Use call display-block when making a call. *67 works in Ontario. It hides the number of times you have called and usually gets Creative Directors on the phone if they are at their desks because you could be a client for all they know.

6) Don’t come across as a jack of all trades. If you want to do print ads, show a book full of your best print ads. Don’t go to an agency that does outdoor with a book full of direct mail.

7) If you think it’s great, put spec work in your book because it shows how you think.

8) When they say keep in touch, call them every month to remind them who you are. It’s all timing and for all you know, their creative team just jumped ship.

9) Stand up for your work. If you can’t sell yourself, why would they hire you to sell creative for a million dollar account?

10) Just because someone didn’t like your book doesn’t mean the next person you see won’t love it. It’s art. Everyone has an opinion.

11) Put what YOU think is your best work in your portfolio. You will get conflicting suggestions from every Creative Director on what you should and shouldn’t have in your book (see #10).

12) If you drop off your book, it will probably take forever to get it back (see #4).

13) Creative staff, working at an agency, who don’t know you, usually fear that you will take their job and will not help you.

14) Make sure you have two copies of your portfolio (see # 12).

15) Because you are creative, make sure you have a creative resume.

16) Make nice to everyone you encounter. It really is a small industry and chances are you’ll meet again or even be working together someday.

17) Buy tickets to award shows. You can corner and network with everyone who didn’t return any of your calls and they usually feel guilty about it (see #4).

18) If you score an interview, call the day before to confirm the appointment. There’s a very good chance they will have to cancel (once again see #4).

19) Leave your ego at the door. You’re unemployed for heaven’s sake.

20) You have nothing to lose. Be persistent. Be a go-getter. Keep calling. Keep doing new ads. Keep thinking. Keep a folder full of ideas. Keep on their asses because in this industry it’s as the old saying goes…It’s not what you know but who you know.

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