Growing Old Disgracefully

The majority of people reading this article – especially LinkedIn readers – will surely be in employment, working for a firm. It’s still the dominant employment mode.

And like younger readers, I was once wedded to my office job, living its day-to-day requirements and being implicitly signed up to the idea that somehow it mattered. If I had been gainfully employed in certain vocations, like medicine or the police, then maybe it would be clearer to see the point of it, and to judge that one was making a small but useful contribution to the quality of society.

There is a justification for private sector jobs, those that have to do with making things and supplying services. They add to the sum of wealth of the firm, which makes profits, pays taxes and makes your country more successful in the world, which in turn pays for the police and health service. Yet at the micro level, it can be hard to see the point. Where’s the lasting value?

For example, I have worked for big British firms – the Woolwich Building Society, Brooke Bond Oxo, Dalgety Spillers and BET plc – and they have one thing in common. They no longer exist. All have been taken over by other firms whose management think that they too have an imperative to succeed and beat the other guy. It’s a playground game for grown-ups; and it’s often a zero sum game.

Unemployability

In my 40s, I came to the conclusion that I was more or less unemployable. I didn’t enjoy the challenge of having staff under my control, and I was told by a headhunter that I didn’t get a new senior position because I didn’t seem to be hungry enough. And she was right – I didn’t want it any more. I think more and more of us feel that way.

By my 50s, I was ready for a change of scene to Spain, and a late-flowering burst of self-employment under the banner of Bojingles. But there wasn’t a grand plan – it developed organically, starting with making radio jingles (which was fun but not nearly enough radio advertisers would pay for a proper song). That developed into scriptwriting and making many thousands of regular radio ads, becoming a voiceover, writing web copy and video scripts for all sorts of companies, and being a sales and marketing manager for hire.

It’s not just me – looking around at old school and university friends, many of them have latterly adopted a similarly ‘portfolio’ approach to business and are consulting, mentoring, working on specific projects for firms and then getting out again.

Men (and women) Dressing Badly

What does that mean to the outlook on life that I, and people like me, have? I think we are freer thinking, we can dress as badly as we did in the 70s, and we are outrageous or iconoclastic when the mood takes us – because we can be. We are growing old disgracefully: and we don’t care.

Alternative models of work such as freelancing have always existed, but they always tended to require a structure involving agencies and consulting firms who promoted the individuals’ skills. The big explosion of home working and true work freedom has of course been sparked by the internet, and latterly the availability of broadband. Without a good connection, we would not be as free in terms of geography or working time: neither of course would we be as free to air our (frequently disgraceful) views on social networks in between our work-related activity.

We hear a lot about the thrusting young things who are busy beavering away in Tech Cities, and it’s great to see them being entrepreneurial and creative. But I would remind you that we are an ageing population and (to quote the clothing retailer) ‘Old Guys Rule’. We’re not ready for carpet slippers and the Daily Mail – we are creating too. “We’re the old generation – and we’ve got something to say” as the Monkees* would now sing.

So when I co-write my first pop hit, and my mate Ian finishes his epic poem, and Richard gets his play put on at the National, we’ll be thumbing our noses at the idea of retirement or that it’s a young peoples’ world. Look out youngsters – we’re coming and we’ve got sharp elbows…

(*Monkees: note to younger readers – like One Direction but with better tunes)

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Designers can’t spel, KO?

In the dim and distant past when I was an impressionable Brand Manager learning how to do Marketing, I would be mightily impressed by the expertise of our advertising agencies and their creative teams, who expensively concocted carefully-honed TV ad storyboards, or press visuals, and would come up with the mot juste to sell our product or service.

In those lavish days they would always wheel out two Creative Directors – seemingly the theory was that like John Lennon and Paul McCartney, they needed to tell each other when their ideas were rubbish, and act as a Quality Control mechanism and a spur to the other to buck their ideas up. For like the Beatles, when apart they were never as good as together.

The other reason for the arrangement is that in the human brain, the visual sense is divorced from the cortex that controls speech and writing skills. How many great artists have also been first-class writers, or vice versa?

So it was that when I used smaller design agencies, there would only be one Art Director/Copywriter, and I soon coined a new Rule of Advertising – Designers Can’t Spell.  One could be more unkind and say that they can’t write good copy at all; but that would be going too far. Sometimes one word will say it all, and it’s hard to get that wrong…

But if it wasn’t the spelling, it would be the grammatical construction or the punctuation that would be at fault. Long before Lynn Truss lambasted the world’s sloppy writers in Eats Shoots and Leaves (required reading for any aspiring communicator), I found myself either inserting or removing errant apostrophes before the agency’s copy reached and aggravated my customers.

This is why, when I receive a request at Bojingles Towers for a creative solution to a marketing problem, I am always careful to establish whether the client wants a wordsmith or an artist. If he or she wants both skills in one body, for one low fee, I politely decline.  I will be delighted to paint a word picture and express it correctly (and for the most part free of errors): while for the visuals, I will call in my designer colleagues who can draw and manipulate Illustrator in ways that I can barely comprehend.

They of course have a different perspective (and they can draw in perspective, unlike me). Their rejoinder to my Rule would be – Writers Can’t Draw. And my answer would be, “guilty as charged”.

Do As I Say, not as I Blog…

If you are going to blog, blog regularly. That is the mantra that we at Bojingles preach to our clients, and they often listen – we have a regular gig writing weekly or monthly SEO articles for several companies, including a health & safety consultancy, a window & carpet cleaning firm, an online bathroom sales operation and others.

So when we suddenly realised that we hadn’t updated the Bojingles Blog Biog for over a year, we recalled how busy we’d been in 2013, writing for others and doing their Google rankings no end of good.

Like the builder who never finishes his own house, we’ve been guilty at Team Bojingles of ‘do as I say, not as I do’.

Moral for 2014: Must Do Better. Because when it comes to blogging, More is More…