Here’s a riddle for you: What is a writer with no ad agency experience doing in a mesh-backed rolly chair at Designsensory? And typing away on her laptop in the open-concept office, no less. Is she lost? A professional stowaway? Too hyped up on caffeine from the Keurig in the office kitchen to notice she’s not actually freelancing in a coffee shop downtown? Given the eccentric nature of writers, that’s a possibility.

But, no, this writer actually works here. Although I have only a few months’ worth of agency experience now tucked under my belt, I came into the job of copywriting for Designsensory with ten years of freelancing experience. I’ve written everything from whitewater rafting adventure blogs to personal essays ruminating on superstition and salvation in Appalachia. I’ve even published two novellas (the third is forthcoming!) on mermaids in rural Florida.

Although agency work might seem like a departure from my normal activities, there is much in my bag of experience that translates well into what I do at Designsensory. For example: 


The ability to publish comes with a strong respect for deadlines and teamwork. Out on my own, tethered to my professional world with nothing more than a wireless modem, I had to cooperate with editors and publishers, all with different requirements, to turn out the best work possible.


You can’t beat real-world experience. Personalities of employers and readers, tone of each commissioned piece, the ins and outs of different content management systems, specific requirements for each submission … sometimes just not bothering to pay attention to one detail, such as what to type in the email subject line, can cost a writer the whole gig. There isn’t a set of rules for dealing with all the quirky things that pop up out there. Which brings me to another point, possibly the most important point of all, the reason an author like me is brought on board to a successful, creative ad agency:


You can’t teach voice. Voice actually comes from fine-tuning one’s ears, paying attention to each interviewee or eavesdropping (sometimes even unintentionally) to pick up inspiration for a character. Or, listening to the wants and needs of a client. Writing to a carefully-curated image, writing to a mood. Branding is, at its core, mood provocation. Finally, voice is aged with a fine patina of years, earned from one thing only—putting down one word after another, over and over again.

People make major career changes all the time, and quite successfully. Maybe this post will inspire you to hire outside the box for your own company. Granted, you shouldn’t interview airline pilots in search of a brain surgeon, but, for example, a past champion skier might turn out to be a successful movie producer-turned-graphic-novel-author. The takeaway here is this: If your company could use a creative boost, take a look outside the boundaries of what you already have.