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8765 days (excluding weekends) in advertising and design

Jonathan Wilcock freelance copywriter – 8765 days in advertising and design

Philosophical types might say that there’s nothing we need to learn. We are born with a thousand lifetimes-worth of knowledge already within us.

If that’s the case, then it’s not what you know, it’s knowing what you know that counts.

At the start of last year I had the golden opportunity to step off the creative treadmill for a couple of months. Even though I didn’t realise it at the time, this gave me the chance to reflect on where I was, how I’d got there and what was really important to me.

Some of these discoveries are probably unique to my set of circumstances. I have, however, collated some thoughts here that I think will apply to any creative person at some stage of their career. For anyone in advertising and design, if you’re in the creative department, you probably know all of this already, but perhaps you don’t know that you know it.

Work attitude:

Jonathan Wilcock freelance copywriter – 8765 days in advertising and design1

• If you’re not having fun at work, there’s something wrong (and it may be you).

• Love what you do, it will show in your work. Have a look at Paul Belford, Mark Denton or Chris Haughton – for me, the love for what they’re doing shines through.

• Grow in creativity, diplomacy, humility and playfulness, but not necessarily in that order.

• Your client is NOT the enemy. They pay the bills and they have outside pressures that you don’t know about. If they’re not buying the work they ought to, talk it through, defend your ideas – but if they say “No” for the third or fourth time, it’s probably time to put forward some new ideas.

• A lot of creatives are easily distracted and inherently lazy. If you fall into this category, make a list to prioritise your working day. Do the really important jobs first, break up the mundane tasks with the fun stuff and tick things off as you go. Try online tools like toodledo, evernote, toggl or scoro – personally I prefer an oldschool written list.

• Stay curious.

Getting over yourself:

Jonathan Wilcock freelance copywriter – 8765 days in advertising and design2

• Remember, you don’t know it all yet – and you never will.

• There’s an art to it, but it’s not art.

• It really is tomorrow’s bin fodder, let go.

• Wingeing won’t make you a better creative.

• Most creative people have an overinflated opinion of themselves, that includes me.

• You make plans, they fail. You do great work, it gets rejected. You think you’re alone, you’re not. Welcome to the creative department.

Doing great advertising and design work:

Jonathan Wilcock freelance copywriter – 8765 days in advertising and design3

• When it comes to the brief, the wise man sometimes has to ask stupid questions.

• Concentrate on ideas, not trends.

• Your portfolio is your best friend, feed it regularly. If you’re not getting the briefs you need, then make up your own side projects.

• Think of a sector or brand you’d love to work on. Now imagine working on it 5 days a week for the next 10 years. Pigeonholes are for pigeons, not creatives.

• Sleep with a pad by the bed, but conversely…

• Find ways to switch your brain off, it’s good for the soul as well as for your creativity.

• Listen to other people’s opinions, they can see things you can’t.

• The worst place for coming up with creative ideas is usually sat at a computer.

• When you get stuck on a brief, have a break. Bashing your head against a brick wall will only give you a bigger headache.

Life in general:

Jonathan Wilcock freelance copywriter – 8765 days in advertising and design4

• Don’t put work before health.

• You probably aren’t going to get rich, but even if you do, you’ll only go and spend it.

• If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it / publish it / eat it.

• Treat people with respect.

• Say “please”, “thank you” and “sorry” when the moment calls for it.

• Everyone will have a different opinion (especially about this sort of stuff). Ultimately, you will have to make your own decision on which path to take.

If you’ve learnt something in your advertising and design career that you’d like to share, please tweet me using the hashtag #creativewisdom

Here’s some other stuff I learnt in 2017.

Jonathan Wilcock (that’s me) is a Senior Freelance Copywriter.
You can drop me a line here, or email