Sunday, May 31, 2009

When life hands you lemons, go for the jugular.

The last few months have been an interesting ride. A scary ride. You know when you receive an email from a known working creative director asking if you need any help, that things can’t be too good. I have many friends in this industry and many of them are not working at the moment. I have spent the last 3 months creating and executing a game plan. If you read my last blog post about my website going down and the email blasts I created to follow it, this paid off well and resulted in several projects that I am currently working on. I believe that when this economic slump is finally on the upwards swing again, those that have prepared and put all the correct pieces in place will reap the rewards. Many of you that read my blog (or know me) have figured out that my biggest passion in life is Poker (I’m heading to Las Vegas to play in a World Series of Poker event in a few weeks… fully sponsored). Many of the lessons you learn in that game carry forward to real life. I have won a lot of big tournaments because I understand that when the big stacks are showing weakness, that is the perfect time to go after their chips. Right now, big agencies are hurting. REALLY hurting. This has been the perfect time to meet with their clients and show them some much cheaper alternatives for their creative needs. This game plan has been taking up the majority of my time. I have not only received some projects from one or two of them, I have also been referred to others in their rolodex and have 6 meetings next week with the heads of different companies. I also figured out that during bad economic times, some of those recently laid-off will skip looking for a new job and instead take a shot at starting up a new business. I have been targeting these people as well. I am currently working on two large corporate identity projects and have several more waiting to sign. I also had a serious idea for a promotion, brought two other people on board, and we will be launching this week. If all goes according to plan, you will hopefully read about it in the industry press. My point to all this is that you should keep your chin up. All is not hopeless. Nothing is easy. Nothing happens overnight. It’s all up to you and the steps you take now. You can’t give up. You can’t take no for an answer. You knock on one door, it slams in your face, you move on and knock on the next one. Eventually, one should open. If I told you it has been an easy ride, I would be lying. It has been the hardest grind of my career so far. 16 hour work days with nothing to show for it but alot of talk and promises. Thankfully, some of them are starting to come through. I could be back to square one tomorrow. But I don’t believe in giving up. As we say in the game of Poker, you have to constantly be mixing up your game to win. And right now, there are many opportunities to come out of this thing a winner. Fortune favours the bold. Go get them Tiger. Until next time, keep dreaming.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Shop Closed.

The last week has been one of the worst in my freelance life. For the first time in my career, I felt an unbearable feeling of dread. That sick, queazy, stomach turning stress that almost made me physically ill. Last Monday, I lost my website. The Friday before went extremely well. I had some new work I created (for Nestle Canada) launch nationwide. To a freelancer, the day something goes live is the equivalent of Christmas morning. The main way to gain new business is to always be promoting yourself. When you create the majority of work months before you are allowed to show it to anyone, you look forward to the day you can finally announce it. I sent an email blast showcasing the new work on Friday to my contact lists... agencies, clients, potential clients, friends and family etc. Friday afternoon was spent deleting the emails that bounced back (and it seems there are many during this economic downfall) and writing thank-you follow-ups to those that responded with compliments. I also sent off a few proposals for some potential business. The weekend came and went. Monday, I had to run a few errands and at roughly 11:00 am, I was standing in a Home Depot aisle with a full cart when my phone rang. A close friend and colleague called me to deliver the news. “Buddy, I hate to tell you this but I was just about to forward your email to somebody when I noticed it’s completely blank. I checked the internet and your site is gone. It also says your domain is no longer registered in your name, and it expired today.” I left my full cart right where it was and bolted from the store. I also believe I would have beaten Mario Andretti on the road back to my house. Now, I’ve been in a lot of emergency situations in my life (where I had to remain level-headed) but my adrenaline was pumping so hard that I had to slow down for the operator at the hosting company to understand what I was talking about. It turns out, years ago, I had a web-savvy friend offer to register my domain name and do all the dirty work involved with the process. He had several email accounts and for some reason, he registered it under one of them that he no longer uses (instead of mine). This combined with an expired Visa card number means that my site didn’t automatically renew itself and went into what is called “Redemption”. Redemption is the equivalent of internet purgatory. Getting your site out of redemption (once my friend uploaded forms transferring emails/rights complete with government issued identification) takes 5 business days. That and hours (upon hours, upon hours...) on the phone making your way through different people, managers, and departments. The good news, I eventually got my site back. The bad, everybody opening my promo email on Monday got a dog’s breakfast. Anybody I sent a proposal to with the invitation to check out my website, would have seen nothing. I equate this to advertising a big weekend sale in my store, only to get there in the morning when a large crowd starts to gather and realizing that I have lost the keys. For one week, I was completely shut down. Imagine how you would feel if you had several big creative directors scheduled to see you and you just lost the only copy of your portfolio. THAT was the feeling. There is however, a positive spin to all of this. For every yin, there is always a yang. Thanks to the mess-up, I was able to send out my promo twice. Double exposure. My first basically became a teaser (a really lousy one). My second was an apology for the blank email followed by the promo once again. It did its job rather well and I was more than pleased with the response. There are several lessons to be learned from all of this. The most obvious is that I will ALWAYS make sure everything related to me is in my name and my contact information is up-to-date. The other is just a reminder that without a website in today’s world (or any form of internet exposure), a business is nothing. It has no clout. My door is now open. It will remain that way. Feel free to browse.