SMALL AGENCY, BIG STUFF

“Hey Heather, can I look at your feet?”

I blink, wondering if I just heard that sentence right. One of our creative directors Phil stares at me, expectantly.

“It’s for the shoot, the morgue scene.”

I nod, and remove my socks. 45 minutes later, I’m on top of a stainless steel work table with a sheet over my face and my bare feet being powdered blue to look lifeless. This is just another day of work at a small agency.

That morning, I was the resident wardrobe stylist for our commercial, responsible for styling, buying, and prepping each outfit for the production. Later that afternoon, I’d be wielding a Canon 5D capturing behind-the-scenes footage.

Fresh out of college almost two years prior, I don’t know if I could’ve predicted my life turning out this way—certainly not laying (very much alive) on a freezing morgue table. I wanted a career that challenged me, that remained exciting and satisfying. And I thought that would remain in my copywriter comfort zone, but that changed as soon as I signed on to work at GumCo.

I’ll say my “normal” job usually includes creating content and managing social media accounts, proofreading, and writing copy for websites, print, commercial and radio scripts. But in my time here, I’ve designed graphics and gifs, edited photos and videos. I’ve scouted music, compiled analytics reports, played around with our WordPress-based site. I’ve been a sound technician and production assistant on commercial shoots—and one time this entailed frying up over 60 eggs on five rotating cast irons with my coworker (an account manager.)

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There are no surprises in this kind of work. On our busiest days, there are seven of us in the office, so we each pull our weight and then some. But it also means I’m learning something new every single week. In a place like this, you don’t wait to be told to do something; you find somewhere you can help, something you can create. There’s no “That’s not my job.” You’re always busy, but always growing and discovering new things. I was fortunate to study at a school that specialized in creating multi-skilled professionals. This was a real-world application.

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A group of young ad students came in the other day and sat with a couple of us to answer their questions. A big one was what about working at a small agency we liked and what advice would we give. My coworker and I looked at each other and agreed: Working here, you’ll never get bored. But it’s sink or swim. Be open and ready for anything, and you’ll have the most productive years of your life.

Often clients will seek a small agency because they’re looking for something a little different, sometimes a little weird—albeit, also at an affordable price, but our structure allows us a certain level of mobility and creativity that many bigger agencies lack. Walking in here, seeing my desk just 10 feet away from the president of the company, it’s hard to discern any kind of corporate ladder, because it’s not a ladder at all. It’s more of a circle if anything, running on a continuous circle of creativity from many walks of life. We all work together on projects. No matter how much experience you have, we’re all involved in the brainstorming process, all looking for fresh ideas which can come from anyone in the office.

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