Logo Hustle and grind.jpg

In absence of full time employment, I’ve been working my tail off. If this sounds contradictory it is not. As any freelance writer will tell you, the hustle is as crucial as the creation. Unlike fat and maybe-happy FTE’s the freelancer must work to get work before he can work.

Ah, the hustle. It’s like the fisherman who has to both catch fish and sell them. Two jobs. Both with distinct roles and responsibilities. He rises early to fish. Stays up late to sell.

Same for me. Work the phones in the AM. Write into the wee hours. Get up and do it again. Call it hustle and flow. I’m not complaining. Just saying.

Though I am also primed for full time work, I do find rogue satisfaction in being a grinder. The hustle keeps one alert. My sonar is on. Even the glimpse of silver beneath the waves and I turn to it. Lowering my bait. Jigging for a nibble.

The writing part I know well. Am good at it. Adore it. But after composing a manifesto for this client and writing content for that website, I’m just too fatigued to tend to my blog.

I trust you understand. And if you’re so inclined, hit me up. I will most certainly deliver. Spoken like a true hustler, right?

My portfolio: https://steffanwork.wordpress.com/

ghost_writert9odetail

The “Ghost Writer” at your service…

No secret I’ve been looking for a creative leadership position in the advertising industry. But securing full time employment has proven to be daunting, even for a lesser title and reduced pay.

No secret either that Adland has a fixation on youth, especially when it comes to creative. Too bad since most under-thirties are best at creating “ideas” that amuse and delight their peers but sell nothing to no one. However, rather than piss and moan about it (Plenty of that being done already), I have a plan…

I’ll need an accomplice. Perhaps as many as three. Specifically: You’re a Creative Director or an Associate CD. Maybe they dropped the VP title on you as well. Congratulations! Still, it’s been a while since you’ve sold anything. Your stuff is no longer on the agency site. There are junior writers nipping at your heels. They work for you…for now.

Frankly, your team is bereft. Their silly social and gamification ideas raise eyebrows but you can’t sell them through. Why? Because they’re strategically incoherent and the account supervisor vetoed showing them to her client. You’ve already fallen on a couple swords and your reputation for being “difficult” is growing. You’ve also heard rumors about holiday layoffs. You go home at night to try and crack the strategy but you invariably find yourself distracted. After three PBR’s and the West World finale you’re just too tired to write. And why do you have to write anyway? Everything’s video now. Nobody reads copy. Advertising sucks.

Here’s where I come in. You forward me the brief. I’ll come up with a legit organizing principle (aka Big Selling Idea) and write copy for all the necessary touch points, curate it for your presentation and voila! Tomorrow when you wake up it’ll be in your inbox. All yours. It’ll be just like that time in college. Wink, Wink. This I will do for a modest bit of your paycheck, which I dare say will only get bigger after you begin demonstrating your remarkable turnaround. You can call me “The Ghost Writer.” Badass, right?

So, let’s collude on some copy! I know how to do this job better than most and you have better things to do. Ski season, brah! You think I’m joking? Try me:
https://steffanwork.wordpress.com/

Author’s note: This post was originally intended as satire but the more I think about it the more I’m willing to break bad. Anyone have the stones to hit me up?


I maintain a 180-gallon reef aquarium in my home. Try to anyway. That’s it up there. The coral reef is the most complex, delicate and beautiful ecosystem in the world. Lighting. Filtration. Water parameters. Flow. Everything has to be calibrated and monitored in order to even passably mimic a real reef. One or two miscalculations and your reef crashes. Suffice it to say, this is not your father’s guppy tank.

Still, or maybe because, I am an addicted reefer. I can easily spend two hours in twenty-four with my hands in the tank and even more online doing research. Nothing tweaks my nerd DNA more than scouring websites, gaping at corals, bidding on equipment, or contributing to a forum. Reef porn is real.

An ad agency has a lot in common with my reef. Though typically more polluted (joke), the hallways and cubes of this ecosystem are populated by equally diverse and complicated organisms. Some species, like the showy creative, can in fact be very sensitive. While others, the account director for example, can be very aggressive. Given the two must live together the experience can be challenging. Certain aggressive species torment smaller creatures, nipping at their work, crushing them. Biting criticism takes its toll. The wounded creative hides in his cave, camouflaged by ear phones, avoiding the persistent predator. If the biggest fish in the tank is a bully, everyone suffers. When the tank becomes mired in territorial disputes, the whole thing crashes. Sound familiar?

It doesn’t have to.

Last night I observed my cleaner shrimp nibbling parasites off a troubled yellow tang and I realized that there is wonder here. When all these myriad creatures work together, giving and taking in harmony, the results are truly breathtaking. The solitary superstar flashes brilliance. A school of darting Anthias show the awesome power of collaboration. If the tank masters accept the occasional skirmish, providing nourishment to all, then the ecosystem will flourish.


“Do not disturb. I’m making Advertising!”

It’s 4 PM on Friday. I’m in my office immersed in a project for one of our clients. I was about to write it’s an important assignment but aren’t they all? What’s cool about this particular brief –for me anyway- is how much of a pure-play creative assignment it is: new line, new mantra, TV, print, web, experiential. And it’s for a well-known and beloved product.

No, I can’t tell you what it is. Sorry… you know it’s not my M.O. to be a tease. But you probably also know that non-disclosure agreements permeate our industry.

Besides, the subject of the brief is not the topic I want to write about. Hell, I’ve been doing that all week! It’s the sheer joy of writing and creating that I want to discuss. Working on this brief has given me some of the highest highs I’ve had in some time. That’s because, in addition to being creative director, I chose to put on my copywriter’s hat.

Boys and girls, nothing feels as good as coming up with ideas and fleshing them out. Fumbling in the dark for the light switch in the middle of the night so I can write down a headline. Holing up in my office to odd hours writing and rewriting and writing some more. Building a wall of scrap art, copy nuggets and ad-like objects. These things and more have all been my life the last week. I didn’t know how much I missed it. Gods of Advertising, Sweet by Design and The Rogue’s Gallery regularly feed my writing jones but there’s something unique to blank page copy writing. It’s exhilarating…

And, obviously, it’s also what I’ve been doing in lieu of writing a post!

Blake Ebel and me at the World Series in 2005


He gone…

As some of you may now know, my creative partner and co-chief creative officer of our agency, Blake Ebel has taken a new job at Factory Design Labs in Denver. He will be their chief creative officer. Out of respect for him, my company and clients that won’t be the subject of this post. Suffice it to say, Blake and I had almost six years of history together, some of it hard, all of it rewarding. During that period we became good friends. Personally and professionally, he will be missed. I wish him great success and have little doubt he will achieve it.

Obviously, his departure created a distraction. Yet, I will be back with a new blog post. And soon. In it, I plan on introducing a personal project, which I fully hope some of you participate in. Until then, may the Gods of Advertising shine upon you and God Himself remain by your side. In the end, He’s all you’ve got.

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