I'm a bookish introvert stuck in the advertising industry! Help!
February 14, 2008 11:01 AM   Subscribe

After several miserable years in the ad industry, I'm quitting, because I was never cut out for this to begin with. Suggest some gigs more suited to a right-brained, literature-loving introvert who values kindness far more than the bottom line.

When I graduated with a B.A. in film (all the professional training I have), I headed straight for the entertainment industry, and that soon bled into advertising (which is a bit easier to get into). Unfortunately for both me and my employers, I never found much success at any position above mailroom, because I am--to put it very mildly--not a people person. I've struggled with depression and social anxiety all my life. This handicap is something I'm working through on my own time, but it's not helping that I'm on the phone with cranky strangers for most of an average day. I won't even go into what I perceive as a rampant shallowness and hypocrisy in the industry and many of the people in it. If this world is your thing, great; but it's not mine.

What I want to do with my life is be paid to write and/or edit novels, and I'm honing those skills in my spare time. Until that begins to generate some income, though, I need some means of support that won't play to my weaknesses. I'm a reader and a writer, and I do my best work when left alone. Something like night watchman might be ideal, but my girlfriend (who lives with me) works a day job, and I'd like to see her every evening.

I'd also love to become involved with a cause supporting, say, promoting fair trade, ending the drug war, preventing animal cruelty, and various others. I'm willing to push my comfort boundaries, but I still need to finish some personal growth before I start another job that forces me to interface with strangers all day.

That's about the long and the short of it. I do have a bit saved up, but not enough for more than a few months. I'd love to pour all my effort into writing, and I'd love to go back to school for a masters, but I'd prefer to have something to feed and shelter me until then.

So, in brief, I need a job that doesn't promote an industry I loathe, lets me work mostly alone, and has normal (or flexible) hours. Any ideas?
posted by Chaotician to Work & Money (12 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
copy editor, for sure.
posted by bonaldi at 11:05 AM on February 14, 2008

I'd look into freelance copywriter or editor. Depending where you are, these gigs can be relatively easy to come by if you have solid, relevant experience, which it sounds like you do, coming from the ad industry. If you're not worried about getting absolute top dollar for your work, creative temp agencies like Aquent and Creative Group can provide a steady stream of offsite freelance work where you don't have to interact extensively with other people. this may be a good stopgap until you find something more altruistic that's in line with your examples. Good luck!
posted by slogger at 11:24 AM on February 14, 2008

Well, that leaves out TV news...

Write press releases for a charity like Care or Amnesty Int'l. or Oxfam?
posted by Jay Reimenschneider at 11:27 AM on February 14, 2008

How about public health? Health promotion is hugely important, and frankly, the field has a lack of talent with your type of experience and chops. I don't know where you're located, but you can find a list of accredited MPH programs at the ASPH web site.
posted by j-dawg at 11:38 AM on February 14, 2008

You could be a script reader.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:56 AM on February 14, 2008

Email me about a career as a newspaper copy editor. I spent about five years doing it at a large newspaper, made good money, and had many, many extremely wonderful colleagues who fit your general personality description.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 12:14 PM on February 14, 2008

I've been in school for the past (uh... many) years, and have been making a fair bit of money dealing in old books on ebay. I've never figured out how to make a TON of money, but the trickle is certainly helpful. I go to local auctions, pick up books by the box, and sell 'em online. You work when you want, you never talk to anybody unless you count waving at the auctioneer, and once in a while you get lucky and make a killing. You have to know what you're doing to some extent, but it's quite interesting if you're bookish like me.
Just don't sell the same books I'm selling!!
posted by arcadia at 12:42 PM on February 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

PS - To give you an idea of income possibilities: in 2007, working at it part time (I didn't keep track of the hours, but average probably less than 10 hours a week) I netted around £5,000, about US$10,000. If you're in the USA I don't know about the availability of good saleable books there, they seem to be quite easy to come by here in the UK. Good luck!
posted by arcadia at 12:45 PM on February 14, 2008

Response by poster: @arcadia

Thanks; I like your idea a lot. I'm already an avid book collector, and I sell on eBay pretty regularly. If I'd known I could be making as much as a part-time job doing that, I would've started taking it a lot more seriously!

Any other sources you can recommend besides library sales, garage sales, and estate sales?
posted by Chaotician at 1:30 PM on February 14, 2008

As a fellow worker in the ad trade, I feel your pain. I question what I'm doing for a living every day, but I'm fortunate to be working at a place where my co-workers are very interesting, warm, open and all-around decent people, which eases the torment. A bit.

That being said, there may be ways to try to recuperate your current experience; at our office, I've actually pushed to get us involved in several charity gigs to help causes we collectively can get behind, and worked towards cultivating a client list of people that produce things that are environmentally sound. I still spend more time than I'd like working for pharma, but at least there are steady projects that either benefit an org that does real good in the world, or a company that does minimal harm.

If you live in a major urban centre, you'll probably have a lot of large-charity headquarters about, and they have their own marketing and PR people in-house, so you might want to look into that, a lateral shift into copywriting for the Red Cross or similar. There are also (in VERY big urban centres) such a thing as ad agencies that work EXCLUSIVELY for non-profits, but I'm not sure how they get funded.

You may want to look into advertisers-for-change type organizations near where you are; while you might be able to convince your office to get behind some decent causes, there are also loads of morally conflicted admen that volunteer their time to putting together pro bono campaigns for the worthies of the world; this would net you some of the contacts that might help you move into something that's a better fit.

Good luck! You're really not alone -- I know tons of people in advertising that feel they're treading water and would rather be doing something "more real" with their lives. It's like we're trapped in Billy Joel's "Piano Man" when we get a few drinks in us.
posted by Shepherd at 1:56 PM on February 14, 2008

Hi again -
With the odd exception, I've never had much luck buying books at the kind of sales you mention. Books that are actually valuable are very rare at sales like this, also when you're buying books one at a time you end up spending more. Auctions are the place to go. Like I said in my previous post, you need to have some idea what you're doing, but it's a fun thing to learn.
My advice:
1 - Don't bother with common or cheap books. They're easy to get but they don't sell for enough to make it worth your time.
2 - Research ebay before listing a book. If there are already copies listed, and especially if they're not selling, it's probably not worth it.
3 - Always remember that the way to make money is to think about the difference between buying and selling price, not just buying price. In other words, you can buy a book for a buck and sell it for ten, but you're way better off buying a book for 50 bucks and selling it for 100.
Hope that helps -
posted by arcadia at 8:50 AM on February 16, 2008

PS - I was thinking about my "less than 10 hours a week" comment; it was probably more than that actually. But the more expensive the books you're dealing with, the higher your profit to time ratio.
Obviously I think about this stuff too much...
posted by arcadia at 8:51 AM on February 16, 2008

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