Sold Out to the Man - Plan me a Plan
February 22, 2006 11:42 AM   Subscribe

Creative type slowly losing soul in my job - please help me decide what to do!

So, basically, I came out of university here in the UK (I did English Lit), spent about a year in miserable amounts of debt working temp jobs while looking for a graduate job (like every other fuzzy-headed arts grad in the UK, I thought working in publishing might be nice, then discovered there were 100 applicants for every job and starting wages were less than I was making serving coffee and pints). After a while I started looking at other areas, and being the reasonably geeky and computery person that I am, I looked at IT work. I got through the selection process of one of the big IT consultancies and started off as a fresh-faced 22 year old business analyst.

Cut to two years later. I'm still working for the big guy, but much of my fresh-faced enthusiasm is gone. Basically, for the last two years I've been working on writing internal communications and training materials for people undergoing large-scale technology change (stuff like - the super jazzy whizzy new computer will improve the way you work - and make your toast.) Don't get me wrong - I like my job, most of the time. The hours are long, the work is sometimes tedious to the extreme, but the people I work with are great, the work can also be very interesting at times and it's paid very well.

I've found while I've been doing this that it's writing and designing that I enjoy the most. I love working out the best way to put across a message, brainstorming and producing sparkly copy for clients. Unfortunately, that's a pretty small part of what I actually do, which largely revolves around brain-deadening project tracking work and endless review meetings. Guh.

Basically, the question I have is this - how do I, as a reasonably tech-savvy English lit grad with a couple of years worth of client facing communications consultancy work under my belt, find my way into more creative and rewarding (personally, not financially) work? I'd like to continue working in and around technology, (specifically consumer technology, web services and new media stuff) and I want to really belt out copy. What's the route into this kind of work? Is it freelancing, building up portfolios of work and finding companies that need small bits of creative work done(things like company promotional material, ad copy, internal communications)? Is it finding a PR/advertising firm specialising in working for tech companies? Is it trying my hand at tech journalism? Is it developing a more rounded set of creative skills, stuff like photoshop, Quark and so on?

As you can probably tell, I've been thinking about this one for a while, but I really have no idea where to start.

Posted anonymously as some folk I work with read my blog, which links to MeFi.

Thanks MeFiites!
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Since you already have a blog, why not focus it more on what you really want to do? Discuss those issues and become the #1 blogger on those topics. I think that good things will flow from that, and have seen it happen before. Since you're unsure, it's a great place to make connections and showcase what you can do.
posted by chaz at 12:01 PM on February 22, 2006

I am going through a similar situation. I started working in a laid back bar at night, which actuallys earns as much money as my "real" job. The plan is to save that money till I feel comfortable and then quit my day job for a while so that I have all my daylight to spend focusing my creative energy.

If you are an extrovert, this is ideal because even though the hours are long I feel energized because of all the amazing, cool people I meet. You could translate this into working on more short term consultant type positions, which perhaps you wouldn't get so burnt out on.
posted by stormygrey at 12:09 PM on February 22, 2006

Speaking as a reasonably tech-savvy English Lit grad who has been in the computer/consultancy industry for about twenty (!) years now, just about all of the things you suggested...

freelancing, building up portfolios of work and finding companies that need small bits of creative work done(things like company promotional material, ad copy, internal communications)? Is it finding a PR/advertising firm specialising in working for tech companies? Is it trying my hand at tech journalism

could in fact work. If what you want to do is write interesting copy while getting paid reasonably well, you might find yourself quite happy working on things like white papers, marketing communications and the like. Also, believe it or not, I really enjoy developing and delivering training classes on complex processes and tools, but most people look at me like I'm crazy when I say that.

Anyway, as a creative type who's managed to stay in the tech world without going nuts for a fairly long time, I just wanted to reassure you that it can be done. If you can build up a solid stable of freelance clients and deal with all of the issues involved in running your own business, that may be the way to go long-term.

Feel free to write me directly - my e-mail is in my profile.

P.S. You might want to grab a copy of a book called "Guerilla Marketing for Consultants," if you decide to go it alone as a freelancer. Good stuff in there.
posted by enrevanche at 12:13 PM on February 22, 2006

I don't think you'd make it as a freelancer honestly. That's fine though, it's a route that most people don't like and so most people don't take.

I'd suggest focusing on the the latter two:

(1) Is it finding a PR/advertising firm specialising in working for tech companies?

There is a lot of money in advertising/PR for tech companies. Tech companies, by their very nature in working with easily commodified/copied technology, have to dump a lot of cash into marketing. Definitely start hunting for firms that do this and figure out which of these you might like to work for.

(2) Is it trying my hand at tech journalism?

Yes, get your name out there. Of course, 'Tech journalism' is neither 'journalism' nor really that 'tech' but there are tons of magazines/websites/email newsletters who are always hungry for new writers.
posted by nixerman at 1:07 PM on February 22, 2006

A friend of mine was in the same position, and he went into advertising. At first, he found it incredibly fun and creative, but got burned out because just often enough the work was "immoral". He was happier in Marketing, even though it wasn't quite as creative.

(The lines between advertising/marketing can be fuzzy,and in his case, advertising was working directly with a client to create a campaign aimed directly at end consumers. With marketing, he worked for a marketing dept of a consulting firm and it was his job to get the firm into the top three contenders for an advertised project, at which point the company's bigwigs would take over and "sell" the company's services to the consumer (client). But he still prepared lots of copy and promotional materials for trade shows, etc.)
posted by luneray at 1:18 PM on February 22, 2006

Writing a book. It will be personally VERY rewarding and -- as a published author I can assure you (unless you're Stephen King) -- financially UNrewarding.

Do some research at a book store. Find out what tech books HAVEN'T been published and pitch some ideas to various publishing companies.

I've written a couple of tech books, and I've worked with publishers. (The books lead to speaking deals and magazine columns.) My email is in my profile if you have any questions.
posted by grumblebee at 1:22 PM on February 22, 2006

I am a freelance writer who does a lot of marketing work (often for the Web), as well as some technical writing (I write instructional text on how to use certain Web applications, for example).

I can't recommend going out and trying to freelance. I sort of fell into it--I was laid off from a consulting company during the bust, and got enough in severance to be able to have a go at freelancing for a while. The thing is that all of my initial clients came from people who had worked at the consulting company. It's very difficult to get started without a network and without having previous work (that has actually been used by a real client) to show.

What might work is for you to look for a company that does the sort of thing you want to do, and try to get hired there. Here's a sample of things to figure out what you want to do:
  • Would I feel that writing advertising was a fun game, boring or sleazy? Keep in mind you will spend lots of time on many drafts of the same short thing.
  • Same question, only about marketing: fun, boring, sleazy?
  • Do I enjoy telling people how to complete technical tasks, even at great length and in great detail?

  • By the way, I generally like doing all of these things.

    I don't think you should round out your talents with the goal of using them professionally. I personally enjoy designing and building Web stuff, but I don't think I can do it at a professional level, and I have never known serious clients to hire a jack of all trades. I have made a couple of sites for friends, though.
    posted by lackutrol at 2:02 PM on February 22, 2006

    Just a heads up: don't fall into the trap of believing your job has to be the one-stop shopping spot for the meaningful work in your life.

    In fact, nothing can kill the enjoyment of a lifelong passion quite like doing it on someone else's schedule and with their priorities ahead of your own.

    Which isn't to say you can't work at what you love, it's just to say that doing it for a living isn't the only alternative.
    posted by tkolar at 3:14 PM on February 22, 2006

    Don't be so quick to disregard the financial rewards of your work. A comfortable lifestyle is expensive, and providing comfortably for a whole family is a lot more expensive than that, and getting more so over time. Many of the economies and privations which are easily borne in your 20s can become sources of misery when you're not that much older, or you see them borne not by you but by your children.

    This is not an argument to do work which unsuited to your talents and interests -- indeed, it's very hard to succeed when you're doing something which is very hard or unpleasant for you to do -- but to think about how your talents and interests can be employed in a fashion for which the market can reward you.

    One thing, in particular, to abjure is the idea that you should take, or are entitled to take, an extended holiday from ambition, planning and prudent risk taking. The vast majority of people who are very successful -- regardless of the field of endevor, or the money they make -- never took it easy on themselves, and a lot of people who never achieve their potential can blame the slack they gave themselves in (what turned out to have been) a critical juncture.
    posted by MattD at 3:42 PM on February 22, 2006

    I started off in journalism, first in production, then as a staff editor. Then I was writing training materials. I ended up writing stuff for a video game company. That was diverting. In between there was a lot of enterprise software documentation. Just run with it. If you are doing production writing or docs management then a lot of what you do will involve "brain-deadening project tracking work and endless review meetings". That's just how it works, how you get people to meet deadlines in any sort of manageable fashion in something so fungible as creation-on-demand. Maybe it's different in media/advertising, but I have my doubts.
    posted by meehawl at 7:51 PM on February 22, 2006

    « Older Un-Partitioned disk   |   voices of colors? Newer »
    This thread is closed to new comments.