On my first day as a copywriter, I had no clue what I was doing. There were no courses for copywriters, nobody gave me any advice what to do. My first important job was writing headlines for a German charter company, marketing their Greek vacation packages. I look at their old advertising and started to write. I was sweating bullets. I had no clue if anything made sense, if they would fire me on the spot. At the end of the day, I dropped at least hundred headlines on the desk of my Creative Director. He was on the phone, nodded and I left for the day. I didn’t sleep all night. I’m sure I was unemployed. Next morning, the headlines waited for me on the desk, crossed out with a large “No”. And I went to work again. 3 days later, one headline was chosen and I slept for the first time. To start with another campaign that robbed me of sleep and instilled fear in me. Fear to be a failure. Fear to be laughed at. Fear not to be good enough.
Being scared is good
When you are scared because you don’t really know what you’re doing, you do your best to make up for it with really hard work. You try learn as much as you can to compensate. And, more often than not, you explore new possibilities that experts don’t consider. Being stupid keeps me alive and curious. Once I know everything, I’m ready to rot. And become obsolete.
That’s one of the reasons why I changed vocations early in my career (Law degree, speech pathology, advertising), moved from Germany to the US with two suitcases and started my own business last year. When I get too comfortable, I get itchy. It doesn’t feel right. I prefer the improvisation part where you rely on expertise and instincts.
That’s why I love digital marketing
Besides search advertising, we’re muddling our way through digital marketing. We’re trying our best to figure it out but what worked yesterday might not work tomorrow. That’s just the way it is. (Oh, and I have my doubts anybody has really figured out traditional advertising. Just saying…) There are too many platforms, too many options, too many new developments each and every day that makes it impossible to know everything. Or even 10%. Behavior changes constantly, people are doing things differently today than they did 6 months ago. We have start from scratch every time we start a new campaign or initiative. ”Trued and tried” has transformed into “Outdated and tired”.
You might not have the title. You might not wear the great suit. You might not have the impressive resume. You might not have worked with the legends of the industry. But you have all the right in the world to question everything the guy with the title, suit, resume and work experience tells you. It can go two ways: You’ll recognize the suit is empty and the resume is just a bunch of titles on one sheet of paper. Or you learn something from each other. People that can fill the suit and don’t bank their existence on titles will always be grateful for questions and deeper explorations. They want to learn and move away from the “true and tried” ways of doing business. So, if you get this assignment that blows your mind, work with a legend and have to show everything you got and then some: Appreciate that moment. Your head might explode. You might not sleep. But chances are, you will do your best work.
But, be careful
While you need to embrace the fear of not knowing anything, don’t give in to the lizard brain. Use your fear to your advantage, don’t give in to it. Don’t try to fit in, keep your head down and ignore the pull of the lizard brain. Be fueled by your fear and do your work under Hugh McLeod’s motto: Ignore everybody.