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From Steamboat to Speedboat: 3 Reasons I’m Glad I Jumped Ship From a “Big Four” Agency

By Andrew M., Group Copy Supervisor

Accepting an offer from SFC Group was a no-brainer. I was impressed by their work and excited to spend my days with the talented creatives I interviewed with. But one thing had me a little nervous: I was leaving a team of at least 500 to join a team of 26, and I knew the jump would require some real cultural adjustment.

Of course, every new job has a transitional period, but I’d never worked for an agency as small as SFC before. After reading a dozen blog posts about “small agency life,” I realized no amount of research could prepare me for the real thing. I’d just have to dive in, swim for a few months, and see what happened.

Three months later, I’m happy to say I made the right decision. SFC is streamlined in ways I could only dream of, and it’s already offering me creative opportunities that only came along once or twice a year at my previous agencies.

I could keep going, but I always complain about listicles with long intros and I’m at serious risk of contributing to the problem. So, without further ado, here are three reasons I’m glad I jumped ship from an advertising steamboat to an advertising speedboat.

Some writers loathe process while others embrace it. I’m somewhere in the middle. Process is great for staying transparent, minding deadlines, and working in sync with designers, but too much process can weigh you down. When I had to straddle four teams at my last agency, I often spent more time crossing T’s and dotting I’s than writing. I used to call those my “Kafka days.”

Because SFC is small, I learned their process in a day. Without sharing any NDA-breaking details, I’ll sum up their system as intuitive and “just enough.” I know where files are located, where things should be saved, and when my copy is due without having to bug my PM. Most importantly, I can jump between clients without any procedural hurdles, saving my time for what SFC hired me for: writing.

The less our jobs as writers feel like “jobs,” the more copywriters love what we do. The irony of joining a big, established agency is that you discover they’ve built their fortune on work that’s effective but safe. That’s not to say they aren’t doing groundbreaking work (they absolutely are). It’s just that it’s easy for talented creatives to get stuck on the “bread and butter” stuff that keeps the agency afloat.

At SFC, my very first assignment was coming up with puns about safe rat sex. (I kid you not and I swear this was for an actual client.) I was so used to reining in my playful side that when I was encouraged to actually have more fun with it, you can bet I did. I have no idea if we’ll use most of my rat sex puns (“deflowered in the attic”?), but that’s not the point. At a small agency like SFC, I regularly get to write stuff that makes me think “I can’t believe I’m getting paid for this.” In other words, I get to do the type of work that made me become a copywriter in the first place.

I hope this isn’t too controversial a statement, but big agencies can attract big egos. Nine out of ten of my colleagues were delightful, but when you’re forced to work under that dreaded one-out-of-ten, it’s not fun. A great CD can tear your work apart while making you feel encouraged and hopeful, but when it feels arbitrary and vindictive, you start asking yourself some existential questions. That’s not to say this happened frequently, just that it was an occasional fact of life at bigger agencies. And when it happens, you remember it.

Because the team at SFC is so small, I work with the same creatives every day. Everyone has something to teach me, especially in these early days, and my experience has been one of pleasant, steady growth. Taking on new clients and learning complex industries has been easier than I expected because everyone happily shares information without feeling the need to “protect their turf.” And when we collaborate creatively, we all know that no single person’s vision is more important than our combined efforts.

As an outsider looking in, you might think, “One team, one dream? Yeah, I’ve heard that one before.” As a member of SFC’s ONE team, I can attest to the agency’s commitment to this mantra, which I’m happy to say, is mine now too.

If you’re considering switching to a small agency, check out SFC’s work and our career page. And if you’re wondering what a streamlined creative shop can do for your brand, contact us.

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