Andy Pearson to Creative Circus students: “You’re not going to get fired”
McKinney LA GCD Andy Pearson is a Creative Circus grad and he sits on their Advisory Board. Recently, he took part in one of the Circus’ “Friday Forum” panels, talking to students about what it was like for him starting out, how he managed to achieve work/life balance (it was a struggle at first), and his “other life” as a trail runner and ultramarathoner. And, of course, he offered a little portfolio advice, too.
What do you think is the best advice for aspiring copywriters?
Andy Pearson: Write as much as you can. I remember being in school and when asked to write a headline, I would have to write 100, knowing I would only get three good ones in the end. By repeating, it’ll eventually come naturally. Now, I can sit down and write headlines I love in the first few tries. So it’s funny to think about how hard it used to be. It’s just a muscle you have to exercise. Do more than you think you should.
Q: What advice would you give to creatives in their first job?
Pearson: You’re not going to get fired. You’ll spend the first half of your first year on the job thinking, “Shit. Today’s the day I am going to get fired.” It’s not going to happen. You’re not going to get fired. You just won’t. Just remember what I said when you’re sitting there thinking that same thought and hopefully that’ll make it a little better.
What’s the best way to think about work/life balance? What drove you to seek it out?
Pearson: This is probably bad advice. But I remember during my first five years, I didn’t find work/life balance at all. Intentionally. I remember working really, really hard and getting work in early and leaving after everyone else. I realized that I wasn’t more talented than everyone else, but I could work harder than everyone else. And it paid dividends. You do need to find balance at a certain point, but you also need to put in the hours at the beginning of your career. So good work advice, but bad life advice.
The flip side of that is if you do find what you love — for me it was trail running — it can help you balance. I found this hobby with ultrarunning that was just as insane as my job but in a totally opposite way. So, I think they canceled each other out, weirdly. And people around me saw it was a thing I loved, so they respected it and gave me the space to pursue it.
And the stamina running gave me actually ended up helping me put in the long hours. I’d be pulling all-nighters a couple times a month at work, but I’d be like, “Well, it’s just training for my running.” And then when I’d be running a 50-miler or 100-miler for a day straight, I’d be like, “Well, it’s good training for my job!” Finding where interests and careers can intersect and enhance one another is something that really works. At least for me it does.
Q: What was it that made the last portfolio you looked at awesome? Should a portfolio URL be a first and last name, or should you be creative?
Pearson: Do whatever you want. For me, when I was coming up with a URL as a student, andypearson.com was taken for like $20,000. I was like, “Screw it. I’ll come up with something better.” And I looked at it and realized a URL is just letters and words, so I used it as an opportunity to prove I was a good writer. I ended up with ievenwrotethissickurl.com. Think of it this way: We’re in the business of creative communications. So, everything we do should be a creative communication. There’s no reason you have to do something the way it’s always been done. People will remember you if you take something ordinary and make them rethink it, or even just think about it for the first time.