I’ve done a few Career Days at my old high school and college and the main question I get is “How did you get started?” I usually send students to this page.
Way back when, I decided seven years working in a steel mill was enough (steel? yes steel). I had always wanted to write, I mean, professionally, but it seemed like an unattainable pipe dream, because steel tubes were my reality.
By chance, at a Chicago street fest of all places, I met a friend of a friend. We were cracking each other up all day, and almost off-handedly, he asked if I ever thought of being a writer.
“Whaaaat?” I’m pretty sure I spit some beer out of my nose.
“Yeah dude, you’re pretty funny. Ever thought of being a copywriter?” I had never even heard the word copywriter, but I was intrigued. He was a Creative Director (I had no clue what that was either, only he made a ton of money). He invited me to his office.
He explained what a book was, showed me his, and set me on the path to make my own.
I picked a bunch of products across different categories, wrote some ads, printed them, stuck ’em in a fake leather binder and started looking for a job. Most CDs who saw it probably laughed to themselves, “Are you kidding me, dude? Go back to steel.”
Lots of interest. More unsuccessful interviews. Growing self-doubt. Maybe this was a mistake.
Then came the call from Razorfish, they’d like to see my book.
Fast forward several years to the occasion of my promotion. The ECD who hired me sent an email to the creative group telling them the news.
“When Dan came to Razorfish he had the worst book I had ever seen.” Really, the worst? Ouch.
Her follow-up: “I hired him on the spot. While not much to look at, each page spilled over with raw talent and passion. In less then six months, he was winning awards.”
You want to be a copywriter? It doesn’t take much.
Just trust your talent, practice your passion and carry a crappy book.