I think you judge people’s advertising ability by how well they advertise themselves.

Like every other creative director, I get emails from people looking for freelance work.

Usually they say, “I’m looking for freelance work. Here is some of my work. I look forward to hearing from you.”

Then a month or so later, they write again.

They say, “A little while ago I sent you some work. Have you had a chance to look at it? I look forward to hearing from you.”

If this was an advertising campaign it would be the equivalent of a headline saying, “We’d like you to buy our product, here’s a picture of it. Please go to the shops.”

Then a week or so later, “Remember we showed you a picture of our product. Why haven’t you bought it yet?”

Be honest.

Would you put an advertising campaign like that in your portfolio?

Would you expect anyone to give you a job on the strength of it?

Then why are so many people doing it?

How come they’re not advertising themselves?

For once in their lives they have complete control.

They are the client.

They are the product.

They are the brand.

They are the agency.

There is no one to stop them doing whatever they want.

So what do they do?

They write an email asking for a job.

I think what they demonstrate is they don’t believe in advertising.

Here’s a tip.

Asking for freelance IS advertising.

It’s not a polite job application to the civil service.

Contrast this with the way Nick Wray gets freelance.

Nick is a very funny guy, and every week or so he sends me (and a couple of dozen other creative directors) a joke.

Or it could be a video clip, could be a newspaper article.

Just the sort of thing you circulate amongst your friends.

It’s usually about football.

It’s usually topical.

It’s always funny.

So I always look forwards to opening Nick’s emails.

Now the truth is, Nick’s emails are actually about freelance.

But it’s never mentioned.

Nick knows the people he sends the emails to give out freelance.

Being normal human beings, they give them out to people they like.

Not to people who nag.

So the brief is to stay top of mind, and be well-liked.

Just like advertising.

What we’d call ‘salience’ and ‘propensity to purchase’.

And when you look at the top of the email and see the list of people Nick has sent it to, you’re proud to be included on that list.

And that list also says, without saying it, look at the impressive people this blokes worked for.

This is someone with a good understanding of how advertising works.

Someone who is actually using advertising to sell himself.

He doesn’t look at email as just an electronic version of old-fashioned letters.

He looks at it as an advertising medium.

Another channel like TV, press, radio, etc.

Except this channel’s free.

And better targeted.

Nick tells me he’s never been without work since he started freelancing, ages ago.

But he’s never had to ask for work.

He knows all he’s got to do is be top of mind when a creative director’s got some work coming up.

He doesn’t have to keep nagging them.

Just make sure they think of him.

So there’s never any embarrassment with what Nick does.

Because he never asks for work, he never gets rejected.

And fear of rejection that makes people hate writing letters asking for work.

It’s no fun to write them.

Here’s a newsflash.

If something is no fun to write, it’s probably no fun to read.

So don’t do it.

Think creatively about advertising instead.

Nick has fun writing his emails and circulating jokes.

So people have fun opening them.

Isn’t that how advertising works?

The more fun an ad is, the more likely you are to read it.

The more likely you are to read it, the more likely you are to buy.