Should You Be a Consultant?
But when I didn’t get it, I wasn’t unhappy, because if the boss found out, I would’ve been fired from my $6,000-a-year job.
Instead of moonlighting, I wrote novels for two hours in the morning before going to work.
In 1976, I was working for a direct mail advertising agency, which had as its biggest accounts Richard Nixon’s Committee to Reelect the President (CREEP) and the Republican National Committee. No fan of Nixon, I was hired to write copy for all the other clients while the boss (who had told me that if he caught me moonlighting, he would fire me) and his son took care of the Republicans.
In the aftermath of the Watergate break-in, people stopped giving money to the Republicans, and the agency lost its biggest account. I had bought a car on Tuesday, a piano on Wednesday and then was fired on Thursday.
My father had just died and left me a little money and my wife, Peggy, was working. The agency guy gave me a month’s severance, so no matter what happened, the bills would be paid for a while. That night, we decided that I should try freelancing.
On the next day, I had resumes in the mail offering my services as a freelance copywriter. The following Monday, I had my first client—a newsletter for corporate directors. I fired the guy the following week.
My life as a freelancer was off to an inauspicious start.
Two things triggered this column—The Wall Street Journal special report and finding myself at a Phillies game last Tuesday night with Bob Teufel, former president of Rodale Press, and one of the smartest, most elegant men I’ve ever known. Seeing Teufel again after many years was another bite of the madeleine cake.
At the time I was fired, Teufel was circulation director of Rodale and a client of the agency. Since Rodale also depended heavily on freelancers to write and design circulation packages, I called Teufel and asked him what his opinion was of my going freelance.