Mine the world of advertising on the Web for freelance gold: an interview with Stefan Pinto of Parallax I.D.
ONLINE COLUMN: Web Savvy
Published: March 18, 2008
Work long enough as a freelancer and you'll learn opportunity extends beyond the pages of glossy magazines. For many years when I first started freelancing, I wrote marketing and advertising materials in addition to my articles for newspapers and magazines. Now the Web makes it easier for a freelancer to tap into what can be a very lucrative market. A search using the term "advertising agency" yielded more than 14 million results.
Photo by (Photo courtesy of David Vance)
Before you contact the big agencies, though, you'll need to do some self-marketing. I put together a portfolio, in a big binder, of the direct mail and print advertising pieces I wrote for different organizations and businesses. This was a solid sales tool for pitching my work. You'll need some experience, and the best way to start is by pitching your services to local firms. If you can blog, write jingles or come up with 30 seconds of riveting copy for a product, you have marketable skills.
I read an article recently at Talent Zoo by marketing guru Stefan Pinto. Pinto gave some great advice in 'Building a Successful Business as a Freelancer.' Two tips really stood out from the other great advice. One thing that never occurred to me was sending a pitch as an HTML document-in effect, you'd send a Web page. It's a way of showing a special skill you may have rather than telling someone about it. "With all of the mail recruiters and prospects receive in response to a bid or a posting, why not make yours applicable to the job?" Pinto asked the reader. "If you claim to know CSS, Photoshop and HTML, then how clever would it be to prove it right there, in the email?" He also suggests asking satisfied clients for a testimonial. You can easily work one or more of these into your pitch or add them to your Web page.
Pinto works with Parallax I.D., designing and building interactive websites for
Fortune 500 and small business companies. His experience list includes Merck, Merrill Lynch, AT&T and Topps. He has been written up in The New York Times, PC Week, WebWeek and other trade publications. Pinto received the Photoshop Professionals prestigious 'Guru' award for outstanding Website design.
As I read about Pinto, it occurred to me I rarely come across someone who can write, design, act in episodes of shows like "CSI Miami" and can also speak three languages. In his spare time, he scuba dives. Pinto, just returned from Mexico on assignment for National Geographic, agreed to a Q&A for Web Savvy.
What mix of services do you provide clients and did you arrive at that mix by trial and error or by circumstance?
Really good work -- effective design -- seldom is a "flash-in-the-pan" but comes from lots of trial and error. Asking good, thoughtful questions of the client, taking a lot of notes and being prepared -- for anything. Change is a fact of life. Don't get too tied to any one version or draft, you will only get disappointed. Of course, I firmly believe that if the client gives a good brief and we take good direction, the end result is usually close to what they want anyway.
How important are the words in campaign materials/marketing?
Essential. It is the core of any campaign. Words are the blueprints, the foundation.
How effective are marketing materials without well written copy?
Do you write anything like fiction, poetry, etc. in your spare time? Also, tell us briefly about your work as an actor.
I have a combined bachelor's/master's degree in English literature. I also studied journalism. Although I do enjoy writing and contributing articles, my true passion is photography. I don't think there was anything in my life that I instantly excelled at except photography. From the age of 12, when I picked up an old 110 film camera and took just one photo. I do enjoy acting however. It allows me to "forget" myself and become someone else without shame or regret. It also leads to a tremendous amount of self-discovery.
What particular skills should a writer have in order to do some work in advertising and marketing?
Well, being unique will help you to stand out. Being truthful to oneself plays a crucial role in any creative expression, be it acting, painting or writing. Truthful self expression helps creativity... projects just fall into place -- beautifully.
What is the greatest creative challenge you face in your work?
I am too hard on myself. I am sure a lot of my work--designs, photos, articles-has been good enough but never ends up being shown simply because I don't consider them perfect. I read somewhere a quote from filmmaker Robert Rodriguez that "perfection is a crapshoot. The more projects you finish, the better your odds." I'm not sure. Maybe.
Tell us about your dream assignment (past or present or future).
I think I am pretty content with my graphic design assignments. As I am relatively new to acting, there are several "dream" assignments. One in particular would be to land the role of Hal Jordan. I am a super hero fanatic... I suppose there lies my suspension of disbelief? Anyway, Hal Jordan is the Green Lantern. His power is in his ring and his imagination. With it, he can create practically anything.
Photo of Stefan Pinto courtesy of David Vance.
Parallax I.D., the firm Pinto works with.
Site featuring Pinto's acting career.
Site for advertising & marketing pros; includes job board.
--March 18, 2008
In our next Web Savvy, we visit with Catherine Morgan, a blogger whose presence is increasingly noted by political and health sites. Tune in and see how Morgan handles her role as an editor at BlogHer and how and why she built the site Politics Anew.