Life is sweet for freelance writer Max Kitchen, but in a feature that first appeared in Encore, he admits his struggle against returning to the agency fold.
I’ve never taken heroin. But I suspect if I had, the temptation to try it again would not be too dissimilar to the lure of returning to agency life.
Let me explain.
After 15 years of abusing my body, mind and the odd suit along the way, I‘ve finally left adland (for now) and decided to go it alone.
And I’m happy to say I’ve been ‘clean’ for nearly three months.
Of course, going ‘cold turkey’ comes with its own challenges. There’s the sweats brought on by a late-paying client, the general feeling of nausea induced by the thought of tax returns, not to mention the sleepless nights that come with the unpredictability of irregular work.
But here’s the thing.
I feel more liberated than I ever have, I love being answerable to only myself, and I’m positively buzzing at the thought of what the next 24 hours will bring.
Despite all this, there’s something that keeps bothering me.
It’s a monkey on my back, whispering in my ear, most often when I’m chasing an invoice, writing my own client brief (again) or reacquainting myself with the dark arts of expense management.
It goes something like this: “C’mon Max… what have you got to lose… guaranteed salary every month… super thrown in… good social life… free post-it notes… no chasing clients… no finances to manage… just one more hit… you know you want to man.”
Believe me, the temptation to ‘chase the dragon’ one more time is immense. But, much like falling off the wagon, I know it’s the easy option.
If I’m going to have any chance of beating this ‘thing’, my first step to recovery is recognising I have an agency dependency; and that for the last 15 years, what got me out of bed was searching for that next creative ‘fix’. In those early days as a junior writer in London I was driven by a desire to surpass the rush I experienced when my first ever idea got up.
Truth is, the industry is changing at a million miles an hour, and based on today’s commercial realities, the search for creative euphoria has become ever more elusive.
I believe it’s been made all the more difficult with the emergence of ‘low-grade’ briefs made from a cocktail of bad propositions and poor research, mixed in with creatives that just aren’t up to the task. Don’t get me wrong, there are some very talented creatives out there.
But as we all know, once the quality of our creative product starts to diminish, so does demand – particularly from clients who continue to expect more bang for their buck.
As the saying goes, “once an addict, always an addict”, and I have no doubt that the pull to return to the life of an ‘agencyholic’ will always be there.
But for now, -the time feels right to flush out the toxins of agency past and focus on the launch of agency me. I reckon it’s the only way I’ll last the course without ‘relapsing’.
Sure, my day plays to a different rhythm now. No longer the regularity of nine to six.
I have to react when my clients need me, which means I’m often up way past midnight, tweaking a TV script or polishing an SEO report. But hey, I don’t have to do timesheets anymore AND I get to write in my underpants.
Now the rush doesn’t get much better than that.
Max Kitchen is a freelance copywriter, aka The Sydney Copywriter.
This story first appeared in the weekly edition of Encore available for iPad and Android tablets. Visit encore.com.au for a preview of the app or click below to download.