Monday, September 08, 2008

Suits with a pair.

I often meet with people that have various positions and titles.
Usually, we end up speaking over breakfast at the mid-town restaurant of my choice while the waitress pours endless cups of coffee.
The majority (that aren’t potential clients) are various industry people.
Freelancing copywriters wanting to team up on projects. A print broker pushing his company. a web company looking to merge with a creative specializing in print etc.

In all my years of full-time freelancing (going on 8 now), I have met with dozens and dozens of creatives that have recently left the security of an office environment.
But the other day, I got an unusual call. I say unusual because these phonecalls are few and far between.

A suit has left to strike out on his own.

For a freelancing creative, this is the call you wait for.
The Holy Grail of opportunity.

Creative people get into this business to do creative work. Period. We love working in an agency environment where scores of people with MBAs are working their tails off to bring in more projects. We are not business people by nature. We simply want to create.
Someone doing this part of the business is worth it’s weight in gold.

When a creative strikes out on their own, either by choice or because their agency swan song has finally played, they have no choice but to become a business person or they will fail miserably.
Because of this, suits have an incredible advantage over us.
They are already business people. They have the knowledge (and usually the contacts) to make gobs of money on their own. Yet, by my observations and experiences, they are also the last to try such a thing.

Why is it that some can bring in millions of dollars a year in projects while working in a cubicle for an agency, yet believe they can’t bring in $150,000 on their own from the comfort of their living room couch?
Besides the fact that they have much longer careers in an agency environment than creative people, maybe it’s that they just don’t want to.

Maybe us creatives take this chance more often because we are more laid-back types. We don’t care for the rat race in the same way. A sunny afternoon with a sketchbook in the park, conceptualizing for a client, is a fantastic way to make a living. Martini lunches, golden handshakes and power suits (although nice) are not part of our make-up.
We need creative freedom. And what better way to have creative freedom than to have complete freedom? Therefore, eventually going out on your own in many ways makes sense.

Back to my phone call.
A suit (I freelanced for in an agency a million years ago) has left the agency world to strike out on his own. He has left with some clients in tow and is going after some more. He will need creative work done on an ongoing basis. On each project, he will give me the budget for the creative. I don’t need to give him an estimate and lose to the lowest bidder, I don’t need to do anything but wait for the briefs and do the work. For a creative person, what could be a better working arrangement? I now have a runner bringing me empty white canvasses and some subject matter, while offering me money to do whatever I want (that’s of course, on strategy).

Account people have stress, they have the higher-ups watching their every move, the office politics, the creative teams stuck on 12 other projects, and even their dry cleaning bills because they can’t come in wearing jeans and a T-shirt.
For simply going out to breakfast with a client, or by making some calls from the location of your choice, you can make some serious money by outsourcing the work to a freelance creative. Once your client appreciates the work, they will continue calling you. You pass along the project information to your creative person, and wait for the concept JPGs to arrive while you book a round of golf for the next day…or make some more phone calls.

I have known many creatives that went on their own and had to give up.
I have never known a suit that did the same and didn’t succeed.
Thankfully, my business thrives because of some of these gutsy individuals.

As the saying goes…”Fortune favours the bold”.

So ask yourselves…how many companies (worldwide) needing creativity are out there?
How many qualified and talented creative freelancers (with the same agency experience and background as you) would bend over backwards to have you working with them?

How many suits willing to take a chance?

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