About the author: JP LeRoux is a Marketing Communications Manager (Writer) at Microsoft currently residing in the Pacific Northwest. Before his corporate role, he worked in different ad agencies in San Francisco and Seattle on several different local and national accounts. When he’s not writing copy for brands, you can find him writing for funsies. He also builds furniture, mixes drinks, and makes ice cream. You can see a showcase of his work or get in contact with him at WordsbyJP.com.
My name is JP LeRoux. I’m a Marketing Communications Manager at Microsoft. I write copy and create content for a living. I’ve worked in advertising for the better part of a decade, starting in ad agencies and eventually finding my client-side. I’ve written broadcast commercials, radio spots, print ads, websites, event materials, digital experiences, billboards, and I believe I’m one of the only people in the world who’s had to write an obituary for a sea otter.
So I was a total art nerd in high school. I filled all of my electives with painting, sculpting, and creative writing, but I really fell in love with film and photography. I learned that many of my favorite photographers and directors at some point worked in advertising, so I thought that it sounded like a really good way to get paid to be creative. When I started working, my dream burst a little. There are many frustrations about the industry, but there are moments where you think of something silly, and there’s an energy in the air where everyone says, “Yeah, let’s do that.” Then you actually start to turn your idea into a reality, and you find yourself in a conference room with several lawyers debating something as absurd as the Tooth Fairy. It’s such a surreal experience that I can’t get enough of.
How was university?
While I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in advertising, I went about it in the wrong way. I got a bachelor’s degree in marketing, thinking that I could use that to get a foot in the door to the creative department. After graduating in 2008, when the economy really took a turn, I couldn’t even get my old job back at Blockbuster, so I decided to continue my education and got an MFA in advertising. While my education got me to where I’m at, I think there are far cheaper ways to break into the industry. I’d highly encourage people to try creating a portfolio on their own or go to a portfolio school. The industry doesn’t value degrees as highly as a solid portfolio and social clout. You can save a lot of time and money if you get creative.
How did you break in?
As I was finishing my MFA, I teamed up with an incredibly talented designer, and together, we landed an internship with a local agency. It didn’t hurt that I had just won my first advertising award in the D&AD student competition. I parlayed my internship into freelance work that lasted until I graduated. Once I was done with school and had a completed book, I took on another freelance position to partner with an Art Director at another agency. Over a few months, it became clear that the agency wasn’t happy with the AD I was hired to work with, so I thought it was for me. But I have pulled aside and told them that while they were going to part ways with the AD, they had been happy with the work that I was doing and were going to offer me a full-time contract.
This experience taught me that there’s something to learn in every situation. Even though I wasn’t paid much for my first freelance role, I learned a ton which made it extremely valuable. Then, when I thought that my time at the second agency would come to a close, I started to meet with people above me and learn what I could from them. I think that the interest and engagement that I showed is what caused them to keep me on.
How did you prepare for the interview?
I was ready for the interview at Microsoft by totally shattering so many interviews that came before it. I’d been interviewing for a while, and it really was starting to seem like I wasn’t going to find anything. As a writer, I depend on the delete key, which unfortunately doesn’t exist when talking to someone. My mouth is very used to having my foot in it. But I started keeping a list of questions that would give me pause and prepared answers if those questions came up again. I even made a video about it F***ing up your interview – YouTube.
Thankfully, one day I saw an opportunity at Microsoft on LinkedIn. That’s also a good reminder not to forget to check job boards. You’re told so often how important your network is. You start to feel like that’s the only way to get a job. But every job I’ve had has actually come from seeing an opening; listed and applying for it. It can feel like you’re just putting your resume into a bottle and throwing it into the ocean, but big companies like Microsoft do review all the applications that come in.
I applied. I had a solid portfolio. I didn’t say anything too embarrassing. I got hired.
What’s your advice for people interested in becoming a copywriter?
Don’t be a dick. This really can’t be said enough.
Treat every job like it’s a freelance job. Even when it seems like you’re in a safe spot, make sure that you’re growing your network, keep building your portfolio, and leave people happy to work with you again.
Find somewhere that wants to work with you. I’ve tried to conform to some job descriptions to better my chances, and I can’t count how much sleep I’ve lost worried about something I said in an interview. But I’ve come to realize that you don’t want to work at a place that doesn’t let you be you. Find somewhere that appreciates your authenticity so you can just be yourself and focus on the work.
Plant many seeds. The more seeds you plant, the more irons you have in the fire, the more opportunities you’re going to have. The projects I thought were going to make a difference rarely did, but the silly thing I wrote on the side of the project that I helped someone out with can really take off.
I’ve had a tremendous amount of help from people along the way, and I very much want to pay that forward. If you have questions, you can find me on Twitter @wordsbyjp, linkedIn.com/in/jpleroux, or at my website WordsbyJP.com
Also read How I Became an Affiliate Marketer & Freelance Writer