“I’m not seeing very many marketers anymore,” says Cole Schafer, the Founder of Honey Copy, a creative copywriting agency that works with technology startups. “I’m seeing a lot of data scientists and growth hackers obsessing over metrics. And very few marketers who are coming up with big, hairy, audacious, creative marketing ideas and finding the courage to execute on those ideas."
Schafer is one of the most passionate and outspoken advocates of creativity in marketing today — and for good reason. At just 26 years old, he runs Honey Copy, which has generated over $300,000 in revenue in only two years and boasts a newsletter with over 6,000 subscribers.
Living the professional life of someone who could list “VP of Marketing” on his resume, Schafer can surprisingly only tout numerous freelance copywriting gigs and a 2016 undergraduate marketing degree. So how did he pull it off? According to him, his reliance on creativity and intuition has helped him reach success.
“I’m using the word art here over ‘content’ because art is something that’s pretty, adds value to someone’s life, and is unconditional. Content isn’t,” Schafer says in his article about running a successful copywriting agency. “Honey Copy has seventy 2,000+ word articles on its blog and countless newsletters to its name. They’re pretty, they’re valuable, and they’re unconditional.”
In other words, crafting a truly original, emotionally resonant piece of art can impact your audience and, in turn, your bottom line much more than churning out cookie-cutter content can. And this prioritization of creativity over optimization can make all the difference between building a fulfilling, creative career and simply coasting through a lackluster one.
“Crafting a truly original, emotionally resonant piece of art can impact your audience much more than churning out cookie-cutter content can.”
“Creative marketers can start building careers they are proud of when they can turn around and point to something they’ve proudly created,” Schafer says. “Keyword: created. Not optimized. But, created.”
To build a successful creative career, though, you need better advice than just “be creative.” That’s why we asked four other marketers who have built thriving creative careers — Jay Acunzo, Eddie Shleyner, Jimmy Daly, and Ben Goldman — how they’ve managed to find success.
People often forget that creativity is a skill. Just like a professional athlete, building a thriving creative career requires constant refinement of your skills. And the only way to get better is through practice.
“Our jobs are NOT to ‘be creative.’ Our jobs are to create,” says Jay Acunzo, the Founder of Marketing Showrunners. “We spend too much time debating, researching, hopping between processes and tools, and coffee meetings to ‘pick your brain.’ As a result, the most important thing goes missing: creating stuff all the time."
However, if you’re not experiencing the gains or results you expect, sharpening your creativity can take its toll on you. Eddie Shleyner, the Founder of VeryGoodCopy and Senior Copywriting Manager at G2, knows this all too well. “Creative work is incredibly taxing, physically, mentally, emotionally,” he says. “It can drain you, especially if you’re not finding outward success.” His advice? Keep creating. “Just know that this frustration is normal, that all creative professionals feel tired and discouraged from time to time, especially in the beginning,” he says. “The only way to find success is to continuously study your craft and never quit.”
Honing your creativity might be one of the hardest endeavors you’ll ever embark on. But trust Acunzo and Shleyner — the benefits are definitely worth it. They might just help you launch your own creative agency one day!
One of the most frustrating challenges marketers face is not having total creative freedom at their jobs. How can you truly unleash your creativity if you work in a super-strict industry or if you have a miniscule budget? Fortunately, creativity is often born out of constraints.
Committing to creativity forces you to use your resources in more inventive and novel ways. In other words, getting creative with limited resources can actually produce a more creative result. On the flip side, having access to a stockpile of resources doesn’t force you to make the best of what you have. As a result, you tend to use your resources in conventional ways, which can lead to cliche work.
“A long, happy career in marketing is one where creativity can blossom in a world of constraints,” he says. “All of us face constraints in our work: budgets, deadlines, dependencies, KPIs, etc. I personally find that the creative work — writing in particular — is what keeps me energized and excited about work. Still, it has to be done alongside spreadsheets and in between meetings.”
Constraints might limit your resources, but the very fact that they exist can help us generate better ideas.
Another crucial step to building a fulfilling creative career is developing a network of creative professionals. Not only can they give you honest feedback about your work, but you can also collaborate with them to create something that could only be accomplished together.
“In the world of creativity, nothing is as effective or as important as working with collaborators,” says Ben Goldman, the Director of Films at InVision. “Whether you’re making a movie, writing a book, or doing any serious work of creativity, having people you trust and collaborate deeply with is indispensable. Collaboration strengthens ideas, pushes you through hard times, and allows you to achieve more than you would be able to flying solo.”
As an employee, developing relationships with your creative colleagues is even more crucial. But the main benefit here isn’t to improve your work — it’s to help you make a case for your creative projects.
“In marketing organizations, working with collaborators is especially important because it’s much more difficult to push major projects through on your own,” Goldman says. “And building alliances and relationships with others is the best way to gain buy-in on a creative project.”
Constantly raising the bar for yourself, innovating on your company’s brand, and truly impacting your audience will lead to a successful and fulfilling career — not sticking to the status quo. So, network with your fellow creatives. You never know how far a simple LinkedIn connection could take you!
We all have the potential to look back on our careers and be truly proud of what we’ve accomplished. As creative marketers, keep these tips in mind from the folks who have forged the path already and remember to practice your creativity regularly, embrace constraints, and keep your relationships with other creatives strong. Happy creating!