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The Soprano School of Creative Excellence

Posted on April 17, 2012 and read 3,310 times

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Genevieve Hoey BSUR The Soprano School of Creative ExcellenceGenevieve Hoey
Creative Director

I’ve been watching marathon sessions of The Sopranos recently. Maybe a little much according to my nervous workmates, as I’ve taking to carrying a cigar pen everywhere with me and making veiled threats of sleeping with fishes.  But I’m learning and growing, so I’m not switching it off. You see, I think there are things every creative can learn from Tony Soprano.

And I don’t mean learning how to whack a client that refuses to buy your ideas. As tempting as that would be to many of us. No, as a creative, I think Tony has much to teach us about the importance of having something going on the side. Being entrepreneurial. After all, this is an industry peppered with self-made men and women. So it’s interesting that many creatives surrender that side of themselves once we make it into the cozy confines of the creative.

Why? Well you land your first agency gig, start working on briefs and it’s glorious. Problems to solve, ideas to wrangle. And it’s all-consuming.  You work 30 hours a day. Your folio grows with all the work you’ve done. Then it’s time for your next gig.  You get your folio together and it’s great. Really nice ideas. All on brief, all on your client’s C.I. But that’s just it – it’s made to someone else’s brief. What in your book shows how great YOU really are? The creative side projects that show your unique point of difference.

I get to see a lot of creative books. And whatever their level, for me what separates the good from the great are the books packed with creative side projects. People who start magazines, invent gadgets, run clothes labels, hold club nights, invent post it notes. The people who put time and energy into passion projects outside of their 9-to-9 advertising job. Sure it’s with varying degrees of success, but what the hell. It’s these things on the side that makes these people so damn attractive.

Like Tony, I think you have to keep a little something extra going on the side after hours. Here’s three reasons particularly relevant to us creatives.

First, it keeps your mind whirring. You’re not creatively bonsai-ed by your everyday client list. By day you might be working on an epic project that has turned into a bloodbath, the death by a thousand paper cuts. But by night you are your own boss. You write the brief, you do the work and you make the calls. It’s empowering, satisfying and restorative. And the old chestnut of being too busy at your day job doesn’t wash. Some of the busiest creatives I know have the most incredible array of side projects. It’s just a matter of managing your time in order to make time for you. And remember – your mind is a muscle. The more you do, the more you find you can do.

Secondly, doing your own projects teaches you valuable business skills. Whether you’re designing an app, kick-starting a DJ career, or moonlighting as a comedian – you’re the CEO of your own business. And being business minded is an invaluable skill for anyone looking to get ahead in the creative world. After all, our job is to creatively solve business problems. Don’t forget that. Some creatives feign a lack of interest in math, spreadsheets, stats and budgets, without realizing that attitude holds them back professionally. But as an entrepreneurial creative working to get your own business idea off the ground, you learn all these skills. And the result? You’re more enterprising at work. You don’t stifle your creative edge, you bolster it with real business savvy – thereby doubling your firepower. Tony Soprano would be proud.

Thirdly, and probably the best reason to have creative side projects is it makes you more attractive and more interesting to employers, because they themselves are also entrepreneurs. And when they look through your book, they’ll recognise a kindred spirit – putting you streets ahead of the competition. They’ll see you’re not afraid to back your own ideas to the hilt and that you have the energy to make them happen. Which means you’re going to bring your own special Bada Bing enthusiasm to their clients and their work. You’re hired.

So, a book full of great ads plus some concept work, or a book full of great ads plus entrepreneurial ideas?

Fuhgeeddaoboudit, Tony and I both know which one we’d choose.

  • catrabbit

    Sorry for commenting a year late–I don’t necessarily expect a response–but I’m wondering about what was said about finding books packed with creative side projects. Are you saying that portfolios can (and sometimes should) include other creative projects unrelated to advertising?




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