In mid-May of 2017, I was laid off from my job at Crispin Porter+Bogusky. It's the second time I've been laid off in the volatile advertising industry, but the first time I've decided to go without a net and become a freelance creative. For my own therapy as much as your edification, here's what I've gone through. I call it the Five Steps of Getting Laid Off and Going Freelance. Catchy title, huh?
STEP ONE: Why???
CP+B was my dream job. I got there in 2009 and felt like I had been called up from the minor leagues to the Yankees. I actually carved out a place for myself there. Built a department. Was named Soul of the Agency a couple years ago. Then I was called in for "the conversation." You can tell it's coming. The air is still, and no one is smiling. I've been on the other side of these conversations, and I know they're not easy. I also know it never gets easier when you're the one being let go. I had done nothing wrong. Just business. But what put me on the bottom of the list where it made sense to pick me off? Nothing. Just business. I could obsess on this for the rest of my life, and to some extent, I probably will. But I have to take what I was told at face value, because what I kept coming back to is that I know I gave everything of myself, and everything was pretty damn good. Whatever they needed to do, it happened. No turning back. No changing a thing. I can be proud of what I did. Maybe it would've been easier if I could look back and say I'd do something differently. Time to move on. Why will never have a satisfactory answer.
STEP TWO: What the hell am I going to do?
(Inner dialogue transcript) What am I going to do? I've got three kids. A wife. A mortgage. A cable bill. Holycowholycrapholyshit. First step, start breathing. Everyone I know who's been laid off has gotten through it. But they're not me. Yeah, but you're you. You've made it through a lot of stuff like this before. Like you said, you have three kids. That's not easy, and you're making it up as you go every day. True, but... One thing at a time. What's really important to you? When you put it that way, it's family. Happy family, happy life. OK, cool. So what's going to keep them happy? I've got to make money somehow. Now. Burger King is hiring. Can't take that long to rise to manager, right? Why don't you do what you do already? You're good at it. At least people say you are. Start somewhere. Maybe I'm scared, OK? What if I fail? What choice do you have? Let's do this.
STEP THREE: Wait, you can do this.
I knew I could do. it somehow. Life even made it easier by making sure my partner was laid off too. We both want to stay in Colorado. We both have kids to worry about. We've both been making ads for a long time. And we don't approach things any way but at full speed. I couldn't have a better friend to face this with, and my hope is he feels the same way. We've solved a lot of problems together. This is just another one, and we have the tools to do it. Like every other problem, it's just about faking it until people believe you have the solution. Then you do.
STEP FOUR: Hey, life's pretty good.
It took about a week. Contacting everyone on the planet. Putting together a site (daveandpeter.com, btw). Meeting with people, mostly for coffee. Staying up late not because of worrying about jobs, but because of so many meetings over coffee. And it started to pay off. We got people coming to us. I got to see my family again. The kids have grown in the last seven-and-a-half years. Seeing daylight. Then working. On our time. On our terms. With a friend who's very good at his craft. All of a sudden, advertising's fun. Wait, no. Life's fun. This is going to work. And if not, you can get hired. You know you can.
STEP FIVE: Thank you.
Never thought I'd say this. I might still take it back. Well, probably not. Because I've learned a ton about how to make myself into a business. About facing challenges. About myself. I even learned I might not to do work in advertising at all one day, and I'm actually cool with that. I have no idea what I'd want to do, but if I come up with it, I'm ready. Thanks for pushing me out of the nest. Thanks for giving me my life back. Thanks for giving me better relationships with my family and friends. Thanks for helping me remember a smile and laugh I'd forgotten. Not that I didn't smile and laugh before. Every day was amazing. This is just different. Maybe it's because I know it's all going to work out.