Day 291

Just when I thought I had finally grown accustomed to 97 Degrees West, I rediscovered an age-old struggle—local clients. While there’s always a learning curve when it comes to working within different industries, local clients pose their own unique set of challenges—from dialect and slang to local references and regional specialties. Is it frustrating? Absolutely. Is it hard to understand at times? Certainly. But that’s not to say it isn’t fun. Learning new things is one of the best perks of being a Copywriter. It’s also how we manage to stay fresh and relevant in our craft. At least, that’s how I look at it anyway. Besides, you never know when this new information may be of service down the road. It just might come in handy again one day.

Another thing I realized is that you should always consider how many people you can connect with before taking a position. In a larger office, you have a much better chance of finding a close-knit group of friends you can relate to on a personal level. At a smaller agency, you have less people to turn to and that could spell trouble for your work life. But, it also means that each of those relationships carry more weight. That’s why, on my first day at each new stop, I always try to pinpoint at least one person I can lean on—someone to help me learn the ropes, navigate the 'office waters' and of course, find the best bars and restaurants. I would say that of the 10 agencies I’ve visited thus far, only about 3 of them lacked a person like this. I consider myself rather lucky, but I know this is not always the case. 

Office friendships can make all the difference, because when you have someone to talk to—who can actually relate to what your talking about—it’s a wonderful thing. So, if you’re ever interviewing for a new position, always ask for a look around and try to meet some of the team you’d be working with. It’ll give you a sense of how well you fit into the environment and how much you’d enjoy working there. After all, the best work comes from happy creatives.

Lastly, I want to thank Kristen Humphrey from The Creative Group for grabbing lunch with me the other day. We had a great chat about Austin's future and she was even kind enough to connect me with some of her colleagues in Seattle, San Francisco and LA. It's just one more reason to get excited for the west coast! I can't wait.

-Steve-

Day 288

It's pretty great to have a friend who happens to work for a local event-marketing firm. Thanks to her, I’m getting a true crash course in the city’s culture—from seeing the incredibly diverse acts of Austin’s music scene to experiencing, first hand, the joy that is the local comedy community. This month is shaping up much differently than I had expected, that's for sure. 

As I mentioned last week, musically, Austin reminds me a lot of Memphis. From small bands playing in corner bars to national acts taking the stage at venues such as Austin City Limits Live, you can’t walk two feet without hearing a melody of some kind. The only difference it that Memphis is about keeping the past alive and celebrating the sounds that helped shape blues, jazz and rock n’ roll. Here in Austin, they want to push the envelope and create new sounds that no one has ever heard. I guess that’s why people flock from all over to attend festivals like ACL, Fun Fun Fun Fest and SXSW.

As for the rest of the city’s culture, I couldn’t think of a way to accurately explain it. Then, over the weekend, I was invited to a screening of Travel Channel‘s, “Underground BBQ Challenge”. It was an Austin-centric episode that pitted David Rodriguez—local chef and punk rocker—against a team of more traditional “Texas cowboys”. I thought it was a great display that really summarized Austin’s personality, compared to that of the rest of state. Take for instance that David cooked his briskets on a bunch of borrowed grills and smokers, while the other team utilized a range of expensive cabinets, ovens and electronics. That alone says a lot, but in the end, David’s team won because of their passion, drive and creativity.

That’s the kind of place Austin is. They do more with less. They find ways to re-use, reinvent and revitalize things that most people would either toss aside or simply forget about. Honestly, there’s just something really inspiring about being around artisans, who are pushing the envelope of what they can accomplish on tight deadlines and tighter budgets. I’m not sure if it’s something in the water, but everyone I’ve met here is of a similar ilk. I guess that’s why they say about 70 people are moving here every single day.

Oh and for those wondering—yes—David’s brisket was out of this world and was hands down the best BBQ I’ve ever had.

-Steve-

Day 284

As I mentioned before, 97 Degrees West is the smallest agency I’ll be visiting on #TGAA. While it took me a few days to acclimate to the vastly different environment, I have to admit that things are going rather well here. Honestly, I almost forgot just how nimble and accommodating a small agency could be. For instance, there’s a lot less red tape to wade through when it comes to filling out paperwork and getting paid on time. After 10 months on the road, I can’t tell you how boring it is to fill out page after page, each and every month. I’ll certainly be glad when that part is over and done with.

Another distinct advantage smaller agencies have is their ability to hire contractors with extremely specific skill sets. While 97 Degrees West maintains a great in-house team, they also have a vetted list of niche creatives on-call, which makes them highly flexible and competitive with just about any project. If, for instance, they needed someone highly qualified in After Effects, they always have a trustworthy candidate at the ready. In fact, that’s how I first came across 97 Degrees West—or as they were known at the time, Blue Shoe Spoon Bend. I found myself on their shortlist of Copywriters and from time to time, they’d shoot me over some rather fun freelance work. That’s why I always encourage younger creatives to reach out to smaller shops. It’s easier to get in touch with an actual person and they tend to be more open to giving people a try.

This week, I also had the opportunity to take part in two great Q&A sessions. The first was with a company my friend works at, Appspire.me. They invited me in to chat about my travels and field a couple questions from the team. It was a great time from beginning to end. Then, for the second time on my journey, I was a featured guest in Professor Jay Newell’s Wednesday Wake Up Call series at the Iowa State University. I had a great time talking about #TGAA and thankfully, my webcam decided to work this time. In the Spring, students were forced to stare at my weird selfie for half an hour, because Skype wasn't being cooperative. I truly want to thank everyone involved, but most of all, I’d like to thank Postano for sponsoring both of these events, as well as all of my Q&A sessions going forward. It’s absolutely amazing to have them onboard for the project.

-Steve-