Making It For Reals in 2010

Two years ago my friend Todd Davidson told me it took him two years to build up his freelance copywriting practice and that it would probably take me that long, as well. When you are on the far end of that continuum two years seems like a long time to withstand the vagaries of the market, especially when that market is softer than melting frogurt. Yet, here I am, two years from my last bi-monthly paycheck. My wonderful wife Darby has been a huge help to me during this period, and the state of Oregon also provided some much needed financial relief until the checks from clients started coming in on a regular basis.

As I look back on 2010 and the rise of Bonehook from a dream to reality, the thing I have to be incredibly grateful for is my friendship with Bill Woolston, CEO of Danville Services Corporation in Salt Lake City. Bill believed in me and in what we could do togteher even though historically he didn’t have much use for marketing in his predominantly referral-based business. The game changer for Bill, and consequently for me, came with the launch of Danville Children’s Medical Center, a new long term care facility in Tucson, which helps kids transition from acute care back to their home environment.

As soon as Bill gave the green light on the hospital, I knew right away who we needed to put on the project–design superstar Cathy Solarana. It was the right call, as Cathy brought everything she’s got to this one. We started in January with the creation of an identity for Danville Children’s. From there we developed all the necessary collateral materials like a brochure, a welcome packet for families, plus an event banner and merchandise like pens and notepads to give away to interested health care professionals in southern Arizona. Naturally, we’re also building out the hospital’s Web site. But the biggest challenge came when Bill and his team in Tucson saw that the hospital itself needed a top-to-bottom interior design overhaul–that the look and feel we developed had to be present in the hospital for the brand to be fully realized and understood.

Again we turned to Cathy because she’s an interior designer and a graphic designer. Cathy flew to Tucson and got to work reconfiguring the hospital space. Previously, the space had been used as and old persons’ home, so you can imagine the pressing need for a massive overhaul, one that would make sick kids and their families feel better and give them hope for the future.

Danville is actually a family of four companies. There’s Danville Children’s Medical Center, Danville Support Services (provider of in-home care), Danville Development Corporation (provider of HUD-subsidized housing for low income elderly people) and Danville Services Corporation (provider of a wide range of residential and day programs for people with disabilities). Thanks to Bill’s introductions and recommendations, Bonehook is working for all four companies. In combination with Corporate 3 Design, where my friend Shawn Hartley works, all Danville companies now have much improved Web sites and two of the companies are now active on Facebook.

As you can no doubt tell, it’s been all Danville all the time this year. But there have been a few other notable developments on the work front. I worked with Portland designer Aaron Draplin on Bonehook’s identity package. I love where Draplin went with our design brief and just about every person who receives a business card from me makes mention of our name and our look. In fact, our identity was recently recognized by The Rosey Awards, Portland’s annual ad industry show. With the help of ElectroArt, Bonehook also brought our particular brand of re-branding magic to Portland-based software-as-a-service firm, ProtoShare. Additionally, I wrote a cloud computing script for Cisco (care of their agency, Ascentium) and I provided social media marketing consulting to Home Infatuation, an online retailer of lawn and garden equipment.

I’ve also been working hard to bring in new business and while I can’t report any big wins just yet, I’ve got some proposals out that I’m excited about. Look for more details on these developments in the new year.

Lastly, I spent a good deal of time searching for the right work environment this year and finally found it in October when ID Branding offered to sublet office space to me. ID Branding is one of my favorite agencies in Portland and we spend our days in an inspired Pacific Building space with impressive views of the city and Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens. On top of the awesome space they’re providing, ID Branding is also feeding me work. I’m now helping them develop an energy efficiency campaign for their client Bonneville Power Administration.

When I read back through this account, it sounds good and it is good, but I’d like to share with you some of the stupefying self-doubt that accompanied this route to being in business for one’s self. Someone very close to me told me a few years ago that I’m not a salesman. I certainly understand his challenging comment and the line of thinking that led to it. But it’s necessary for me to modify the sentiment to “I’m not a natural born salesman.”

One thing I am sure of is the ability to sell is central to everything I do professionally. To get to this point I have had to sell scores of people on my ideas. That’s what it takes to be any good in advertising whether you are a writer, strategist or account executive. Bottom line, I am developing as a salesman and I believe I always will be. While I’m farther along as a writer, the same holds true for this path too. You never really arrive in business or as a writer, you just keep going, steady up and up the mountain. The journey is the destination.

1 Comment

  1. MsDarby says:

    Dear David,

    It has been my pleasure helping to support your vision. It’s so easy to believe in you and your talents, as both are exceptional and vast.

    All my love,
    Darby (the wifey)

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